Born To Raise Hell
Like Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal was a slightly different breed of 80's tough guy. Rather than just looking big and hard, these actors came from a martial arts background and therefore knew all the moves. Each had relative success with their own careers albeit with ever dimishing returns and an eventual drop from mainstream theatrical releases. I've not seen anything from Van Damme for a while so I'm not sure what he's up to, but both Lundgren and Seagal are making their mark with a series of direct to dvd releases and expanding their range by either writing, directing or combining the two. Seagal also turned his eye to reality TV this year with the broadcast of Steven Seagal: Lawman whereby Seagal had supposedly been carrying out a secret part time career as a fully commissioned Sheriff's Deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana. Anyway, on to the latest all action film where Seagal kicks ass...
Bobby (Seagal) is a hard ass US police officer seconded to the International Drug Task Force, based in Romania and made up of US cops working alongside Romanian nationals to stem the flow of drugs to the US from Eastern Europe. Bobby's team are not averse to knocking down doors and shooting people in a country where life appears to be cheap, but everything is done by the book, kind of.
One of the cases that Bobby's team takes on is that of a rather nasty gypsy gang led by Costel (Darren Shahlavi). As well as an interest in guns and drugs, Costel has a vicious sideline in home invasions. Basically if he spots a woman he likes, he'll follow her home, work out the routines of the house and then his gang will storm it in masks. Costel will then rape the woman before killing her and then ensuring that there are no survivors to tell the tale.
Bobby's investigation leads him to Russian dealer Dimitri (Dan Badarau), who is ex-Spetsnaz. Dimitri refuses to co-operate with the IDTF initially but later changes his mind when Costel decides to initiate a bloody street war that leaves Dimitri swearing vengeance and looking to Bobby for some help...
Never thought I'd be saying this about a Seagal release, but the picture is fantastic with the Romanian architecture and scenery looking superb in high definition. This film shows me, as we didn't already know from the Bourne series amongst others, that more US productions would benefit from foreigns locales as the local architecture and street layout is more interesting and the diversity of the look and style of European fashion is a more impressive visual focus.
It would appear that both Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren have got themselves a nice little earner going with their own mini market of direct to DVD action films that are not too taxing and will appeal to both their core fanbase and fans of this mini genre of action films that is just guns and fighting without having too taxing a plot. This is not to say that the films are top quality but in truth they do exactly what they say on the tin, nothing too serious and mostly a fun-ish way to while away an hour and a half.
What actually lifts this film away from similar Seagal efforts, and Lundgren also seems to have learned this, is the use of Eastern European locations to add some colour to what would otherwise be a bland production. There is a completely different feel to this film with the use of Romanian architecture and street layouts, adding a slight sophistication to proceedings. It all looks pretty impressive on blu-ray as well, which is always a good thing.
Seagal himself is no different from any other picture I've seen him in, rarely changing expression - even during the gratuitous if covered sex scene where bizarrely Seagal remains fully clothed. His acting style is as low key as ever with the same low drone of his voice but he does at least try his hand at narration with mixed results, straight narration is ok but when he starts throwing in philosophy then it loses its way a little.
Not a bad film overall, at least you know what you getting and you do get it. And at least its not yet another American ghetto...