Against the Dark (2009)

As R.E.M. might have sung if they were actually cool, it’s the end of the world as we know it, and Steven Seagal feels fine! And if it was a disappointment that big Steve didn’t take the opportunity to sing such a song for the movie’s soundtrack as he’s done in past efforts (most notably the haunting for all the wrong reasons end credit song for Into the Sun), all of us Seagal-loving doomsday preppers can take solace that Steve’s sword and shotgun feel fine as well. As does his trusty 3XL size leather trench coat!

That’s right, Seagal’s most frequent co-star, Leather Trenchcoat, turns in yet another spectacular performance cloaking the behemoth bad ass in such a manner that to the average movie viewer, Steve’s immobility might just be caused by the constraining coat instead of too many trips to the Romanian all you can eat buffets in between shooting the 15 minutes of footage that features him in the film. In Steve’s defense, he did probably burn about 400 or so calories in all those scenes of him walking down hallways in the abandoned hospital the film took place in.

Steve’s no nonsense (and nonsensical) attitude is just what is called for in a horrifying future that we could hardly imagine if we hadn’t already seen it in movies like I Am Legend and 28 Days Later…. A virus has swept the land turning most folks into bloodthirsty mutants who try to eat every non-infected human they can find. (I thought it was handy of the filmmakers to put up an onscreen graphic at the beginning defining for me what the word “infected” meant. Obviously as a Seagal movie fan, I don’t have time to keep up on all these newfangled scientific mumbjo jumbo words since there’s a new Seagal movie being released to DVD about every other month.)

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Steve is the leader of an almost mythical group of ex-military experts called hunters. They’re a highly trained force who use all their talents to walk around and run into mutants and then slice, stab, and decapitate them after which Steve usually dispenses some banal remark that makes virtually no sense in the context of what just occurred. For instance after rescuing a boy from a group of mutants, Steve opines “our job isn’t to decide who’s right or wrong, but who lives or dies” leaving the rest of the team to no doubt wonder just who Seagal thought he was debating whether the mutants were right or wrong with.

Another time, a character who was rescued from a guy trying to saw him up so that his infected daughter would have something to eat babbles about it to the rest of the survivors, prompting Seagal to sagely note “man, I seen that. People do what they have to do to survive.” But as if to show he’s isn’t some liberal mutant apologist, he tells the crazy guy with the mutant kid, “I’m the motherfucker that’s gonna do you, what you been doing to everybody else.” Then he blasts a hole in him with a shotgun and gestures to a teammate to stab the mutant little girl to death! It’s all very ying and yang. I’d expect nothing less since Seagal’s name in the movie is Tao!

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Unfortunately though, outside of Steve’s pitch perfect minimalist post-modern portrayal of a competent, but vastly disinterested low budget action hero, Against the Dark is routinely terrible in every way you imagine a movie starring no one else of any note (other than familiar face Keith David as a military guy in charge of the movie’s lone, running time padding subplot) and taking place in single dingy locale would be.

The survivors Steve tries to help act like they’ve been dosed with a high cocentration of stupid as they wander through hospital hallways and rooms, bickering, foolishly getting split up and even more foolishly being tricked into not suspecting every bad guy they run into. When the movie periodically cuts away to the military planning to bomb the area to eliminate the mutants, you don’t feel the sense of urgency that director Richard Crudo probably thought you would so much as breathe a sigh of relief that there’s a chance none of these morons, humans or mutants, might procreate.

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With the standard issue headache inducing editing tricks that are common place for these sorts of no name films designed to be rented solely on the basis of the washed up action star prominently featured on the packaging, story that makes no sense (would you really send four people with swords into a city full of cannibals on the off chance there might be a couple of survivors? Why are some of the mutants evolving into intelligent creatures that can suddenly talk smack to our heroes? How does Tao ever find a dry cleaner in a world gone mad that can get all that mutant blood out of Leather Trenchcoat?) and deadly dull scene after scene of people just walking around waiting to get attacked, you understand why that by the end of things Steve doesn’t even care enough to utter any dialogue during the climax and simply half-heartedly nods his head at a character as a way of telling him to shoot one of the survivors who became infected. Or Steve was just pacing himself because he knew he was also going to make Driven to Kill, The Keeper, and A Dangerous Man during the remainder of 2009.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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