Steven Seagal (Out of Reach) stabs a guy in the neck with some chopsticks. He rams a dude’s head into a series of pachinko machines. He throws a guy out of a window. He even chops a guy’s arm off with a sword. With that laundry list of lethalness that Steve lays down in this film, I’m not quite sure where all this hate for Seagal is coming from.
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I see a Seagal movie, I’m looking for him to mete out justice and/or vengeance as often and as flamboyantly as possible. And it’s not like Seagal is just some boring killing machine who can’t be touched. He even got kicked in the head in this one!
After a completely pointless prologue that sees Steve in Thailand on a mission getting his partner, former NFL superstar Eddie George, killed because Steve couldn’t stand by and watch a native girl get raped, we find Steve leading a peaceful life as a simple owner of a Tokyo sword store. When you read that last sentence, which part of it made you think this was surely the best Seagal movie of 2005? Was it the part about him going on a covert op with a Heisman Trophy winner? Or the part that Steve has unlimited access to lots of swords?
Steve’s unassuming life as a dealer in personal cutlery is interrupted when a Japanese politician is assassinated and his old CIA boss calls him up asking Steve to investigate. Just to make sure that things do not progress smoothly, Steve is saddled with a rookie FBI field agent.
This guy manages to embarrass himself at every juncture with his ignorance of the culture and his utter lack of investigative skills. (He searches the bad guys’ office in broad daylight by walking in the front door and keeps on searching until they eventually show up and catch him.)
Needless to say, Steve isn’t really banging on doors looking for the guy when he disappears about half way through the movie after having his neck snapped.
Besides, Steve has an important case to crack. It’s one I like to call, “The Case of Steve Getting Himself Laid.” There’s this gal that he uses to get information from at a local club and it’s during a walk through a fancy Japanese garden that Steve and her sit down on a park bench and he proposes to her! Then they pinky-swear that they will always be together! Until such time as a Yakuza thug disembowels her!
That can’t really qualify as a spoiler because Seagal having a wife in these movies is about like James Bond having a wife. Besides, when your fiancee gets brutally murdered, it just gives you the extra motivation to make sure your showdown with the bad guys is turned up to that next level. And you can only imagine the motivation Seagal has when he finds the killer and that scum is wearing the antique hair clip (Edo Period) that Seagal gave his woman as an engagement present, in his cowboy hat!
When he isn’t out getting engaged and sending his partner off on some cushy surveillance gig to get killed, Seagal is trying to track down who was behind the murder of a prominent Japanese government official. His investigation sees him having talks with various people that involve bowing, referring to them as “sensei”, and sitting through one of those Japanese plays where the women wear all that white face paint and smile a lot.
He also manages to pick up a couple of spare partners to replace the old murdered ones. One is the daughter of an old friend who is an expert with the sword and the other is a tattoo artist. In Japanese culture, the tattoo artist is kind of like one of our Delta Force guys.
While much of the violence committed by Seagal doesn’t occur until the final third of the movie, the scenes of him meeting with various folks and gathering intel are interspersed with scenes of Yakuza thugs wasting other Yakuza thugs. One guy even cuts his own pinkie off to show his sorrow for getting his butt kicked by Seagal earlier and all he gets for his efforts is shot dead!
It turns out that the killing of the Japanese politician was to divert attention from the fact that one of the up and coming Yakuza guys is making a power play against the old guard and is also forging an alliance with the Chinese Tongs to have better access to the heroin trade originating in the Golden Triangle!
If it wasn’t for the fact that Steve’s girlfriend got whacked thus freeing him up from awkward love scenes and giving him plenty of time to mount an assault on the bad guy’s temple hideout, I’d be a little worried!
Everything you love about Seagal is on fire in this movie! His pony tail looks nice and full, his long black trench coat is good and shiny, and most mysterious of all, his Japanese language skills far surpass his English!
I don’t know any Japanese so I’ll have to take the subtitles at face value when it says that Steve is saying stuff like “I’m going to beat your head in” right before he slashes a guy over the top of his head with a sword, but Steve sounded very confident in his diction.
There’s even time for some pathos when Steve makes a sad trip back to the Japanese garden where he proposed to his lady friend. He reenacts the pinky-swearing scene with a vision of his dead gal pal, but she fades out and leaves Steve holding up his pinky in mid air all alone!
By the time Steve started singing the song playing over the end credits, I was wondering if there was anything he couldn’t do! Well, other than doing a love scene without his large, baggy shirt on, but give him credit for knowing his limitations.
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