To paraphrase Blade Runner‘s Roy Batty, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe – a generic Michael Dudikoff movie remade as an even more generic Steven Seagal movie. Unlike Roy Batty though, my replicant ass didn’t drop dead all dramatically in the pouring rain after realizing this. And as a continuously relapsing Seagaloholic, my thankfulness for that hit Mach 5 as I watched Steve show the Dude how it is freaking done!
Take the action scenes for instance. During the opening jailbreak when Steve leverages his apparent popularity at the prison into having both a con and a sexy nurse assist his scheme to avoid having his memory wiped (see – he’s already way cooler than the Dude!), we see Steve’s character stab a doctor, brutalize guards and finally roll under a moving truck and grab the undercarriage to ride to sweat freaking freedom!
Sure, there’s no chance that was really Steve (if you think there’s the remotest possibility he could do what amounts to a pull up under a moving truck means you haven’t watched a Seagal movie since Marked For Death), but it was not only completely gratuitous to the story, but also lead to Steve foiling a gas station hold up! (In classic Steve fashion, he kills all the robbers, but all the civilians get killed, too! Hey – it’s Steve’s world and we’re all just so much collateral damage, right?)
Since Flight of Fury‘s story of Steve having to recover a stolen Stealth Fighter is for some reason a remake of the Dude’s Black Thunder, it’s easy to compare how big Steve improved on what amounts to the American Ninja’s first draft of a project perfect for a man of Steve’s talents (throwing knives, slapping people, and sitting in a cockpit indifferently saying “Roger that” every few minutes). While the Dude was just a pilot who had to get the super duper Stealth Fighter back from terrorists, Steve is not only the best Stealth Fighter pilot ever, he apparently just does that in his spare time because the memory wipe was due to the regular old CIA job he has in all his movies!
And remember how the Dude didn’t like the partner he was saddled with because he takes too many risks? (“He’s a skydiver!” the Dude famously said.) Steve is also partnered up with guy Steve thinks is a douche, but mainly because he doesn’t have any combat experience! Even better is that when he’s planning the raid on the terrorist stronghold, he tells his crew he’s going to rescue his partner and when it is suggested that it’s because he’s friends with the guy, Steve says “yeah, but he’s an asshole” like he was almost apologizing for having something approximating a human emotion!
You know what else Steve did better than the Dude in this version? The lesbian scene! Because there wasn’t one in the Dude’s movie! Steve’s contact, the sexy American agent/whore in a village in the no fly zone of Afghanistan (her presence in town was definitely not suspicious) goes a little lez on the sexy local terrorist in an effort to get the drop on her. The sexy terrorist was there looking for Steve and though she didn’t see him, you can damn sure bet that Steve was watching in the shadows! (If this sort of thing offends you, don’t worry – this simply sets up a later fight between the two where one knees the other right in her lady parts!)
But Steve knows what we’re really here to see: lots of scenes of Air Force guys watching radar and Navy guys wringing their hands over whether to help the Air Force by sending in a strike force to carpet bomb the place if Steve fails in recovering the plane. And repeated establishing shots of the aircraft carrier with the time on the screen! And especially Steve’s general buddy sweating over Steve not being in radio contact? (Come on dude! The radio waves can’t get through to the hiding place Steve used to watch the lesbians go at it! Check your manual!)
Steve also smartly simplifies the almost already non-existent story. When the evil pilot stole the plane in Black Thunder, he faked his death and used a fancy mask to pull of his scheme. The evil pilot in the Seagalverse version of the story just flies it away while on a training mission. And while he was played by legendary Australian kickboxing action movie star Richard Norton in Black Thunder, in Flight of Fury, he’s played by some guy we never heard of who wasn’t in Deathfight or Equalizer 2000! So unlike Black Thunder, you aren’t getting your hopes up that there will be any kind of karate showdown between the two and are totally fine with Steve just blowing him up in his plane.
Since around the mid 2000s, Steve has slowly turned into the moai of straight-to-video action heroes, his impassive and gargantuan appearance, just as mysterious as the Easter Island statues. And just like those statues, Steve treats himself like a world treasure in these films, never straining too hard, as if he is concerned that moving here and there might cause him to burst like some sort of overstuffed kung fu Kielbasa.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of standing and sitting by Steve, but there’s plenty of action he leaves to the two people he’s teamed up with. There’s even a sequence of pure padding involving a Navy SEAL team that was sent to help Steve, but they just get gunned down in a warehouse before Steve shows up, leaving Steve to come up with the classically Steve plan of “we’ll just go to the terrorists hideout, cut through the fence, kill everyone and take the plane back.”
Steve’s dialogue is the usual combination of lazy smart ass comments (Steve tells a cop who arrested him for killing everyone at the gas station that he’s just a country boy and that he travels for a living) and socially awkward statements that make you think he has some sort of disorder. (When the general welcomes him back from his successful mission Steve smugly announces “now that I’m not in the miliary anymore, I don’t have to salute you.” Steve – he’s a friend just trying to congratulate you!)
Steve does suprise us in this one though when he gives his black leather trenchcoat a break and models a weird-looking green and brown vest/coat combo with lots of pouches (probably for the Pure Force Energy Bars Steven Seagal Enterprises was selling at the time). What’s most impressive about Flight of Fury though is how effortlessly it turned a humdrum action movie into a humdrum Steven Seagal movie.
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