Belly of the Beast (2003)

How did I know that Steven Seagal‘s Jake Hopper is the most coolly professional of all ex-CIA kick fu bad asses infesting Thailand? Was it because when he was informed that his daughter was kidnapped that his trademark catatonic squint never even wavered or threatened to slip into an indifferent squint? Was it because when his old friend betrayed him and was about kill him, Seagal’s response was “you’re just a trailer park bitch.”

Or maybe it was that when he was arrested after killing half of Thailand at a shoot out in a train yard, he resisted arrest by beating up the entire police station. But it also certainly could have been when he killed his old buddy after debating whether to kill him with his partner and Seagal practically yawned saying “he sealed his own fate” and then used every ounce of energy in his mountainous torso to almost shrug.

Any run-of-the-mill competently shot action flick outside of the Seagal movie universe would kill to have just one of those “moments”. But any Seagalaholic will tell you though that it is their idol’s ability to encounter a completely silly situation and act even more bored than usual that is the highlight of his films!

In Belly of the Beast it occurred when some evil kung fu woman was fighting Seagal and he hit her so hard her freaking bra came off! And she didn’t have any boobs! Because she was a dude! Seagal takes it all in and in his expected zen-like fashion says “I liked you better as a bitch.” Then he punches this transgender troublemaker clear across the room into a giant lamp. Thai Ladyboy vs. Seagal? What’s next? Seagal battling a karate expert powered by Buddhist black magic? Well, yes!

Strictly speaking, Belly of the Beast is one of those movies where I didn’t really comprehend why Seagal was ever going wherever he went, why he was beating up all the people he beat up or how any of it led him to head up a two man assault force against the compound of the Thai military leader who was holding his daughter and the daughter of a senator hostage for some vague reason. Especially since it was his Trailer Park Bitch friend who supposedly had them kidnapped and Steve decorated the floor with the guy’s brains before he told Steve anything.

I think there was some sort of scheme by elements of the Thai military to make it look like a terrorist group had taken them hostage as a ploy to get American special forces to launch an operation against the group and wipe them out, thereby allowing the evil general to sell drugs or arms to someone.  Of course I had the benefit of watching the whole movie while Seagal was too busy picking up a love interest in a strip club, riding around in tiny little dingy to have a pointless meeting with the terrorist leader and hang out at a Buddhist temple to get a pre-showdown pep talk from the head monk to have time to puzzle any of this out.

While the majority of Belly of the Beast is the pleasingly expected conglomeration of Seagal cliches (overprotective bad ass dad, haunted by dead ex-wife, stands around waving his arms spastically during fight scenes while stuntmen who are actually in shape do the jumping and kicking in shots that don’t show Seagal’s face), Seagal goes after the final scenes like it was a chocolate waterfall at a buffet as he first shoots arrows out of the air with his gun before finally splitting them in half with a big sword that was conveniently hanging on the wall behind him!

And if you dismissed Buddhism because it was just little bald dudes in bathrobes being all calm and stuff, you’ve obviously never seen Buddhism in action in a Seagal movie! The witch doctor monk powering the bad guy lives in a temple with a giant demon statue with big spiders crawling on it! And he uses part of one of Seagal’s sweatshirts to dress up a voodoo doll (though with its cut off sleeves, the grey hoodie makes the doll look more like New England Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick than Seagal) and poke it causing Seagal so much pain he couldn’t move!

If only there was some counter to the ancient art of Buddhist Voodoo! And there is as Seagal rises at the last second, newly empowered by the praying of all the monks at his old temple! Result? Bad guy sent flying clear across the room with a Buddhist white magic chest punch! As Gautama himself might have said, sometimes karma can leave you crumpled in a heap with a busted up spine like some wimpy trailer park bitch!

Filled with annoying slow motion, lame rock background music, bad looking fight scenes that jarringly jump back and forth between close ups of Seagal standing around flailing and long shots of stunt men trying to do actual martial arts, and the usual routine Seagal film story that still manages to somehow be confusing, Belly of the Beast is exactly what every post-major studio release Seagal movie is. Those Seagal disciples following the Noble Eight Chin Path will easily achieve an inner peace with every bullet fired, every karate chop landed, and every line Steve mumbles while showcasing the acting and emotional emptiness he’s perfected, a pony-tailed corpulent low budget action movie Buddha for folks too lazy to go to a movie theater for their regular dose of mindless violence.

© 2018 MonsterHunter

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