Beyond the Law (2019)

“Y’all want to be a gangster? That’s part of the life, bitch!” the absurdly named Augustino Finn Adair wisely advises four punks who robbed him as he calmly guns them down.

Such a clear-eyed approach to the pitfalls of a life of crime could only be dispensed by that braggadocios behemoth, Steven Seagal, playing a crime lord who not only lectures his son (and complaining in a cringe-worthy moment that having a conversation with him was like talking to a “retarded child”) about treating everyone right, but also the corrupt cop who is trying to avenge the death of his own son, Chance, at the hands of Seagal’s son, Desmond.

Such is the twisted reality of a story taking place in the Steven Seagal universe. What should have been a run of the mill revenge tale of a father doing whatever was necessary to take down the crime empire responsible for his kid’s murder, instead becomes bogged down with scenes of Seagal droning on about how crappy his own son is for killing people for no reason, disowning his son and then taking a big smelly dump all over the grieving father, putting him on blast for giving up on his kid while Seagal gave him a home and a job! How can anyone expect a virtuous criminal mastermind like Seagal to tolerate all the vermin that he inexplicably finds surrounding him?

Despite Seagal believing somehow this is a movie where he is the central character, to the surprise of no one who has watched any of his movies of the last ten years, he is barely in it. Instead we have Johnny Messner (of such unknown and surely terrible action films as Decommissioned, Wepoanized and another Seagal film, the definitely terrible The Perfect Weapon) as Frank, the ex-cop, retired to the country, coughing up blood and learning the news of his son’s death from Munce, who is also a dirty cop. But Munce is even dirtier because he’s getting paid off by Desmond while Messner’s character was just dirty to ensure that justice was done. The only way I would care about any of these foul human beings was if Desmond was paying me off, too.

Desmond secretly steals money from this father and gives it to Chance to hold on to. When he goes to retrieve it from Chance, the money is missing (Chance’s girlfriend, Charlotte, has taken it) so Desmond kills Chance. Chance’s father tracks down Desmond and the two spend most of the movie trying to kill each other in as dull a fashion as possible.

The movie is riddled with extraneous characters and scenes (Frank’s meeting with Charlotte a few times amount to nothing as do scenes with the his lawyer friend) and developments that just make you scratch your head like when Seagal’s new supplier randomly shows up at the end of the movie and kills Charlotte for the money. There’s also Frank stating he was going back home to wait for Desmond and his friends to try and kill him so that it would be “self defense” when he took care of business. Because four mobsters shooting at you anywhere except your house is okay I guess.

Not wanting to be left out of the silliness, Seagal advises that he cannot meet with the new supplier tomorrow because he needs to clean his house first, demonstrating yet again why he is the reigning king of the hilarious non-sequitur.

What passes for the various climaxes in the film (unfortunately the surely suspense-filled Seagal house cleaning sequence is left out) are handled in decidedly anticlimactic ways, culminating in the confrontation that has Seagal (in his only action other than sitting, walking a bit and firing a gun) grabbing Frank’s arm before shooting him. (Only in a world where Seagal is the kingpin of crime is he left untouched by anything that occurs. Frank attempts to implicate him in everything before he dies, but the closest we get to any indication that Seagal is being held accountable is the text alert that Charlotte gets stating that Seagal is being questioned in Frank and Munce’s deaths. Is there anything lazier and thus more Seagalian than resolving the fate of a major character via text?)

Nothing distinguishes Beyond the Law from any number of other action releases cluttering up the new release section of your favorite streaming service except the presence of Seagal. And nothing about his presence distinguishes this movie from the other ten movies he made in the last three years.

Elderly rapper DMX (could he not borrow some of the shoe polish that Seagal uses on his surgically enhance widow’s peak and goatee for his own grey beard?) appears as Munce and the press materials highlighted his reunion with Seagal as they both appeared in Exit Wounds a generation ago. What the press release didn’t highlight is that Seagal and DMX do not share any scenes together and it’s entirely possible that Seagal didn’t even know DMX was in the movie. (DMX does get his moment in the sun, delivering dopey dialogue Seagal would be proud of when he starts talking to Desmond about the movie Gremlins and what a classic it is.)

Indifferently shot in Romania, populated by borderline familiar faces (I know Bill Cobbs from… something and I think I’ve heard of this Messner guy because he was in that one action movie, but maybe I’m thinking of Luke Goss?) and devoid of anything approaching excitement or entertainment beyond the usual Seagal sideshow, Beyond the Law is destined only to be confused with Seagal’s other recent rancid release, The Asia Connection, where he also played a crime boss.

© 2019 MonsterHunter

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