Sunday, 5 September 2010

TODAY YOU DIE (2005) Steven Seagal

TODAY YOU DIE was something of an upturn for Steven Seagal. He seemed to be a bit more relaxed and having fun. He started to get back to performing a few fight scenes, and seemed to be having a good rapport with co-star Treach (of 'Naughty By Nature' fame.) He also seemed to be playing a regular guy (as opposed to a special black ops leader) This was also the third of FOUR films he'd made in 2005.
But (and as usual) post production wanted more action (but without the finances to get Seagal back in the studio) TODAY YOU DIE (despite possessing the near perfect Seagal 'Three-Word-Title') became a bit of a cut and paste misfire. But still an interesting misfire none the less.

The movie opens up with a series of haunting images of events to come. This turns out to be a dream/premonition of one, Jada Banks....who (as luck would have it) just happens to be married to modern-day kung -fu-fucking-fighting badass, Harlan Banks. Harlan comforts his sleeping beauty (which is odd, because he's fully dressed, and laid in bed) during this opening scene. She wants her 'hubby' to go straight, but it seems that Harlan has got one 'Last Big Job'(tm) left, before retiring for good.

The scene then cuts to a shot of an unseen cat burglar, setting up an elaborate harpoon winch rope thingy, before sliding down it, and into a swanky building. If you're wondering why this would-be spiderman's face is not because this entire sequence is 'borrowed' (i.e, actual footage) from the Jean Claude Van Damme movie 'THE ORDER'. Once into the building, the identity of the mysterious modern day 'Raffles' is revealed as none other than HARLAN BANKS (who's hardly broke a sweat, despite his spectacular entrance, and also gained height and weight, over the obvious double we just saw shimmying down) Get ready for a lot more 'Doubles' and 'Borrowed' sequences, with this one folks.

Once inside Harlan uses some bizarre electronic gizmo (with a snazzy 1974 LED readout) that reads any security codes on doors and automatically opens them (you'd think that THIS much technology would cost more than his actual swag...but i guess if that's true, then maybe that's why he must continue to steal, to cover his gadget overheads...a movie featuring Seagal getting into financial difficulties with 'LOMBARD DIRECT' would make for a great spin off movie, methinks?)
Just as Banks is leaving with the loot, a couple of gun toting bad(der) guys approach him (making the foolish oft-made mistake of pointing their gun barrels within arms reach of the aikido master) These criminals laugh at Harlan, and it seems they know his M.O. One of them refers to him as a 'Robin Hood' type, who "keeps a little for himself" Harlan laughs, and then kills the shit out of them. Had that scene ended there, it would have been badass enough, but i guess some fucking genius at Millennium Pictures, thought they'd add another Seagal fight scene (without it actually featuring Seagal) What follows is a darkly lit, poorly doubled, shot from behind fight scene (with the occasional flipped shot of Seagal, from his previous fracas) which may fool the casual viewer, but unfortunately not me. Sadly this despicable filmatic 'cheating' device would continue in most of his later movies (2008's KILLSWITCH being the ultimate low-point)

Harlan is driving towards Vegas with Jada. He seems to have turned his back on (righteous) crime, and has a job lined up, working as a sercurity van driver, at a Las Vegas casino. But on his way (and as LAWMAN has proved) Banks uses his legendary spider senses to notice a Children's Hospital...with a sign slapped over it, stating "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" (cue sub-plot)

("I was in ROADHOUSE, you know?")

Of course, his new job, has a few snags. Mainly that his new employer, MAX STEVENS (kevin Tighe) has been the star of a few of Jada's scary premonitions......and the fact that he's also a "I can buy anything I want" rich asshole. Jada tries to warn Harlan. But he doesn't want to listen.

And just if things couldn't get any worse on his first night, driving the money laden security truck, Harlans new driving buddy, is wannabe psychotic asshole, named Bruno. Who wastes little time in gunning down the security guards, once the money is placed into the truck. He forced Harlan (at gunpoint) to drive like fuck, through Vegas, in their getaway. This sequence is quite spectacular, cars crashing everywhere (with automobile explosions frequent enough to give the most ardent PM ENTERTAINMENT fan a boner) And as I watched this non-stop display of automotive car-nage ...I couldn't help feeling I'd seen a scene similar to this. Until it dawned on me, that (cough!) THE ENTIRE VEGAS TRUCK CHASE WAS LIFTED WHOLESALE FROM THE 1997 MOVIE 'TOP OF THE WORLD' (a nifty thriller starring Peter Weller)

(Steven Seagal is HARD TO FAINT)

After all this , Seagal manages to evade the police, just long enough to stash the truck (with all the loot) and get far enough away (leaving an unconscious Bruno, by the roadside) before phoning Jada to tell her, that it's been a set up, before passing out (in true Seagal style) Now, as you know, Steven Seagal is pretty untouchable in the movies. And he's not going to submit to fatigue in a hurry either. His 'fainting' scene, is nothing less but pure genius, as we watch the Stout Sensei, bow (extremely) gracefully in the face of unconsciousness. He tilts his head ever so slowly (and slightly) before a linking shot of Jada, allows the director to edit in, an all out (laid down) stunt double. I guess Seagal didn't want to get his nice jacket TOO dirty, by laying fully out on the ground?

After a brief Q&A by two cops (one ofwhom, is an improbably glamorous policewoman, who i remember from cack soap opera SUNSET BEACH) get nowhere with a resilient Harlan, who claims that he has amnesia, and cannot tell the authorities, where he stashed the money. Harlan mentions Max, but is told that Max has been killed, since the Vegas heist. As a reward for all his sterling helpful co-operation, the state decides to send Harlan to prison for a million years. Decked out in baggy denim, Seagal strolls dawn the prison halls, whilst horny (and let's face it...desperate) inmates threaten him with 'rape'. One guy shouts "Hey man, i wanna lick you" (i shudder at the mental image, this paints in my already damaged brain)

("Take that you ruffian!")

Harlan kicks a few asses in the prison yard, before making friends with a fellow con, named ICE COLD (that's his name, i shit thee not) Ice is played by Treach (from rap group 'Naughty By Nature' and the enjoyable LOVE AND A BULLET) Harlan and Ice plan their escape, with the intention of sharing the loot, on the outside. Harlan also catches up with Bruno, and snaps his arm (after roughing him up a little)


At this point of meeting his 'Brotha-from-anotha-mother', Seagal adopts the worst case of 'Ebonics' ever witnessed on the silver screen (or the plastic disc) as he spouts (in full southern drawl) a series of ludicrous sentences (solely designed, to make him sound 'from the streets') So during (and after) their prison breakout, we are treat to some bizarre Seagal dialogue:

"Well, you don't look too happy....but you look happy"

"Let those who should be liberated, get gone, where they gotta go"

"I's cool Y'all"

"Man, you drive like shit, anyone ever tell you drive like a motherfuckin' old lady"

Once sprung from prison (utilizing 'helicopter' footage from UNDISPUTED) Ice takes Harlan to visit one of his old school buddies, a gunrunner (Big Pun-wannabe) named 'D'. Now despite Harlan looking as out of place in a black ghetto, as one could look. D finds time to deliver the "How good is he" line (that must be said about Seagals badassery credentials in ALL his movies) And although D is no Lee R Emery (or Lance Henrikson) he delivers the following statement upon viewing our Stout Sensei.

(Never a truer word spoken in jest)

Seagal tries to bump hands with D, but the chubby gunrunner doesn't want to know (and i'm not sure weather this scene is meant to be comical, as it's shot in quick takes, which hardly qualifies it as a bonafide piece of humour) but it sure makes Seagal look a thousand times more out of place than before. Anyhow, Ice And Harlan take some guns from D, and (after much bad/lame/hilarious Ebonics by Seagal) they get the drop on some drug deal going down, between a young gang (in flash cars) and some ex cohorts of Max. During the shoot outs, Harlan gets all Nicky Santoro on some wiseguys ass, by popping his head into a vice. Just as we're promised a bit of 'head-popping action....Ice turns up and shoots the poor bastard before Banks can squash his melon.

("Okay, okay...My Giant wasn't that bad")

With only limited information extracted from the goon in the vice, Harlan heads to Max's right hand man (and ironically, breaks his 'left hand'!) and arranges a meeting with Max (who we all knew wasn't dead) and then Harlan even finds time to kick the shit out of the doorman (played by UFC champ Randy Couture) before and after his house call.

(Whilst you're down there, Randy.....?)

At some bizarre Warehouse/cave/loading bay location (probably the best the set designers could muster up) Harlan meets Max. Max (in true assholic manner) waxes lyrical about spiritual mumbo jumbo, whilst playing the piano. Max also shows Harlan a picture of his young daughter (sub-plot two)
Max then sets some (Tony Jaa-wannabe) gymnast monkey-kung-fu fighting motherfucker on Seagal (who, taking a leaf out of Indiana Jones' book) shoots the back flipping bad guy, mid attack.
Max runs off to his chopper, which all good villains (DTV or otherwise) should have waiting, on standby. Harlan shoots it down (featuring explosion footage from Wesley Snipes UNSTOPPABLE)
More shoot outs/double/double crosses are revealed. Explosion footage from the Charlie Sheen no-brainer NO CODE OF CONDUCT are lifted wholesale, and Harlan, Ice and the female cop walk away (admist some ropey green screen)
Harlan uses the stolen money to (guess what?) RE-OPEN the 'Childrens Hospital' and even finds time to give Max's young daughter a hug (Geez, Steven....she's only there because YOU killed her father in the first place)

("I'm the reason, you're here bitch" Steven Seagal orphans more children)

TODAY YOU DIE isn't vintage Seagal, and the fight/stunt/voice doubles don't help matters. Yet it was a slight improvement on some of the stuff he'd done that year. It has a easier-to-follow plot, and Seagal seems to be having fun. Director Don FauntLeroy (great name) improved things with 2006s MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE, before directing my favourite Seagal DTV project URBAN JUSTICE (a near-perfect Seagal biff em' up)


  1. I love that Seagal doesn't wear the same prison clothes like everybody else!

  2. Yep, he's got that 'Prisoner: Cell Block H' denim vibe, going on!

  3. "Walks like a black man, breathes like a killer" is such a hilarious line!

    Also it was really funny to see Randy Couture get beat down by Seagal.