The Foreigner (2003)

Steven Seagal is one the great treasures of the cinema because no matter how terrible, low rent, dull and inept one of his films may be, he can be counted on to be completely nonplussed by it and to deliver at least a few classic moments you’ll never see anywhere else.

For instance, in The Foreigner, a muddled nonthriller as dreary as all the perpetually overcast Polish locations featured in the film, Steve somehow blows up a train station while pretending to take a whiz at a urinal while the bad guy is just standing around gawking. Damn Bad Guy, just be glad Big Steve didn’t have to go number two!

Of course that villain got off relatively easy by only having his blown up remains drenched in a gallon of Steve piss compared to the dude that Steve doused in gas, set on fire and then kicked as he walked by the blazing stuntman! One can only assume that this gratuitous bit of kung fu was laid down on this guy because Steve was so outraged at how horrible The Foreigner was turning out to be.

Perhaps Steve was just as tired as the audience of driving from dingy farmhouse to run down hotel to cold mansion all while having to act like he knew what was going on whenever he and the other characters starting blathering about a package, or some rich guy’s wife who might or might not be a bad guy or Steve’s old boss who is a bad guy or why another bad guy Steve killed like two times before is still cackling gleefully and waving a gun in Steve’s completely disinterested face.

Once again Steve is the best there is at whatever it is he’s supposed to be in this movie. He takes one last job on his way to a well-deserved vacation. All he has to do is deliver a package. It’s really quite simple. Showing that he didn’t just start making atrocious straight to home video action movies on a regular basis yesterday, Steve asks if it is so simple how come the dudes with the package just don’t bring it instead of Steve having to go get it and make the delivery himself? The answer is quite naturally utterly moronic (because the guys with the package are scared) and so in the next scene Steve is quite naturally en route to a remote farm house to pick up the package.

What follows for the rest of the film is Steve going here and there, meeting up with people trying to kill him, apparently sent by a variety of different bad guys who I guess want the package for their own purposes. The package contained evidence of who was responsible for having an airplane blown out of the sky which was a bit of a let down considering all the hype surrounding the package.

Newspaper clippings, pictures and the cockpit voice recorder related to a plane crash where we don’t even care who was killed in it isn’t exactly a MacGuffin worth staying awake for. As mundane as it was, it did give the movie the opportunity to go arty on us and superimpose poorly executed footage of a plane being blown up over Steve’s mammoth head which unsurprisingly was affixed with his trademark vacant stare.

By the time it just sort of aimlessly ends with Seagal majestically riding on a boat and reading a letter from a woman he was helping telling him she didn’t need his services any more, most everyone was dead, nothing was resolved about who was responsible for the plane being shot down and no one seemed to give a crap what happened to the package and its contents.

The Foreigner marks the beginning of Steve’s post-theatrical career of churning out interchangeably terrible action movies for the home video market with increasing frequency, the only way to tell them apart is by whichever cheap foreign locale they were shot in (Poland, Romania, Canada, South Africa, New Mexico) and whether Steve was playing a cop, CIA agent or an ex cop or ex CIA agent.

What’s amazing about The Foreigner is that all the things that we’ve come to love about Seagal 2.0 are here right from the beginning. Ineffective action scenes that despeartely try to disguise how little action Steve can do, but actually only emphasize it with cheesy slow motion shots of him slapping people compete with scenes where Seagal is shown listening to other characters explain some moronic plot point by cocking his head at various angles and staring with vacuous boredom as if that’s what he learned at a workshop put on by his acting coach/caterer.

And when he’s forced to talk, every so often Steve will utter bits of dialogue that surely only made sense to him and say things that only a blissfully unaware craftsman like him could spew without laughing his ass off. (Watching him explain to his brother how he was a deep cover agent known as the Foreigner who was left to rot in a Soviet prison by his bad guy boss makes you wonder if his brother isn’t wondering what the laws are in whatever Eurotrash country they were in for having Steve declared mentally incompetent.)

This film also marks the beginning of the supporting casts of anonymous faces you will likely never see again and will even more likely never remember. But let’s be honest, they’re less important to Steve’s movie than his trusty black trench coat and frankly only exist in the Seagalverse to either be beaten down and killed or for Seagal to torture them with his trademark stilted sentences.

Technically, The Foreigner, like all his films that follow, never really attempts to be anything other than indifferently substandard at best, always looking like the five bucks it cost to make with ill-advised attempts at stylized editing, occasionally silly dubbing, poorly choreographed fight scenes, and a shooting style that sometimes seems like it’s actually trying to look third rate. Obviously, a sequel – Black Dawn, followed.

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