Tuesday, 19 May 2015

MERCENARY - ABSOLUTION (2015) Steven Seagal

After nearly a two year absence (on my own blog) what better way to return...than with a review for the 'Stout Sensei's' latest (which despite a limited '10 screen' run in the U.S.) went straight to nearest supermarket shelf in the UK.......I've been away for 2 years....Seagal has been away from cinematic lead roles since Half Past Dead (The parallels are there, however flimsy)
Ladies and (the few) Gentleman (out there) I bring you
(Don't call it a comeback for either one of us...)

The Plot

John Alexander (Steven Seagal) is an off-the-grid government hitman ('The Best') who takes out the garbage that the shadowy organization no longer need. Tired of the endless killing (of which he's 'The Best' at) he seeks redemption for all his sanctioned killings. He needs to readdress the balance of the bloodshed, and perform a good dead to counterbalance the carnage.
Basically, if you haven't fucking figured it out yet.....He's the Mercenary seeking Absolution (He's previously been a Mercenary for plain old JUSTICE in the past) I dare say that his answer-phone message is probably "Hi this is Steven Seagal....I'm not in right now, I'm OUT...either FOR JUSTICE...or A KILL....But the bottom line is I'm OUT OF REACH, right now"

(A Good Man meets a good Mann)

Anyhow, Alexander's sidekick Chi (Byron Mann) accompanies him on 'jobs' (their latest assignment being in 'DTV-Budget-Friendly' Romania) After wiping out some scummy Afghan Terrorist motherfucker, our heroes hold out in a bar, and await a safe exit, through their shadowy 'Handlers' 
Alexanders 'Absolution' comes in the shapely form of Nadia (Adina Stetcu ....who is a step up from the usual generic eye-candy of the DTV genre) Terrified and screaming, it transpires that Nadia (and her sister) have run afoul of sadistic mob Boss (Vinnie Jones) who has a sideline in torturing and murdering women. Nadia has fled his clutches (but her sister has been given the 'Deluxe-Ike-Turner-Workout' by the former footballing thespian)  With his minions in tow, trying to retrieve the girl, Alexander seizes his chance to do the right thing and intervene.
("You put your left arm in...I pull your left arm out...In...Out...In...Out....And shake it all about")

Both Alexander and Chi beat up the gangsters and flee the scene (with girl in tow) Unbeknownst to them, the girl has has stolen a video camera containing footage of her sisters murder (filmed in Vinnie Jones' mini-porn-snuff-dungeon) However, this sadistic mob boss has shady links with the very Handlers that are safeguarding Alexanders safe passage back to the good old U.S....Making escape from Romania for our 2 heroes, near impossible. Cornered (but never scared) Alexander (and Chi) must take the fight to the bad guys.

(Hitting a cinema near you...Maybe? Lionsgate pull out few stops, in returning Seagal to cinemas)


Whilst lacking the big budget spectacle of earlier movies like On Deadly Ground or Under Siege 2, Absolution succeeds over more recent releases by having a clear narrative (and not much 'filler' plot) If the movie had a bigger budget, then this could have easily held it's own against any action blockbuster blocking up the multiplexes. As it stands, the movie is technically proficient enough for a DTV release (hampered only by limited locations and scaled down set-pieces) Compared to the likes of heavily padded affairs like Black Dawn or Flight Of Fury, the movie is a triumph in it's simplicity. Director Keoni Waxman uses the low budget wisely and gives the fans want they want to see.....Seagal in full-on badass mode. The movie goes from A to B to C, in an efficient manner, ticking all the genre boxes where they count. By now, the audience must be in on the joke, as we watch a succession of bad guys foolish enough to incur the wrath of Seagal (and we must laugh, as he returns their once working limbs to the bad guys, either broken, or not at all) Sometimes it's predictability is comforting. Regardless of it's limited cinematic run...I tend to think the big screen has missed Seagal (and vice-versa)

("Anything George Segal can do...I can do better....I can do anything better than him")

Seagal (looking a little older, but wiser) whispers a lot of his dialogue in his usual world-weary manner. However, given his character's motivations (or lack of them) this performance works in his favour. He seems to have slimmed down a little (since Force Of Execution) and remains imposing in his fight scenes. Co-star Byron Mann compliments Seagal admirably (and performs the more acrobatic fight scenes) If Seagal wishes to take a back-seat in future movies, he could do a lot worse than share centre stage with Byron Mann more often. They have good chemistry together. 

("I'm a little teapot, short and stout...Tip me up, and pour me out")

 Whilst Seagal won't be giving the stunt team of The Raid series sleepless nights, he acquits himself well (for a guy in his 60's) the rapid edits in his fight scenes are not to cover any inadequacies in his skills, but sadly an unfortunate bi-product of  keeping up with the Hollywood 'standard' of fast paced (rapid) action (a big 'fuck you' to Matt Damon and Co. for effectively ruining action-cinema as we know it)   Make no mistake (Like for example, mistakingly using sandpaper instead of toilet paper) Seagal is still fast and furious with his hands (and a few limited kicks) However, given his assassin credentials in the movie, he executes a lot of targets utilizing gunplay (shooting/fighting take a 50/50 split of the action on display here) At his age, size and appearance, Seagal still looks more convincing as a badass than (the worn-out cliché that is) Liam Neeson.

("I a-wrist you in the name of the law")

As with A Good Man, I especially liked the rumble between Seagal and Ron Balicki. There is a sense of mutual respect for each other (an almost swordfighting sense of 'parry') lending an intense calm before the storm build-up to their combat (their fights, being the action highlights of both movies) Vinnie Jones in comparison, gets tossed around like a rag doll (hardly a spoiler, at this stage of the game) which is a shame, but  it's enjoyable to hear Seagal refer to Jones as "Bitch" before and throughout their brief rumble. A little more of the final showdown wouldn't have hurt anyone (apart from Vinnie Jones, that is)

(The executive at Lionsgate that green-lit the cinema release...Was suitably rewarded by his bosses)

As previously mentioned, the plot is straightforward enough, and doesn't contain filler scenes, story or actors (unlike say, Out For A Kill or Shadow Man) Seagal seems purposely 'lethargic' (but never bored) the action is spread out evenly across the running time, and there's nary a dull moment. Seagal is on-screen throughout the movie (no long periods of inactivity, unlike stuff like Force Of Execution) Editing is top notch, and the soundtrack sounds semi-orchestral (and cinema worthy in places) Seagal might have been back as an A list star, had he made more films of *this* standard 10 years ago.

(Producers are hoping that Seagal's 'Gone-To-bed' eyes, might bring in the ladies?)

However, before I go on a full-on Fanboy gush-fest, the movie is not without faults, and as usual it's down to the usual culprit of many modern Seagaldom (namely 'Doubles') The 'body doubles' for Seagal are noticable, but not entirely his fault. I know the 'Stout One' is rarely on set these days, but maybe if Waxman didn't feel the need to film inserts that link all of Seagal's filmed scenes, they wouldn't be so apparent? The bottom line is, I can guess that Seagal gets into a car...I don't need to see a badly shot 'double' doing such (I don't need to see ANYONE do such trivial stuff) I'd also like to semi-gripe that however brutal the fight scenes are, Seagal (who surely possesses a huge repertoire of moves and techniques) could do with mixing it up a little from his usual punch, chop, kick combos of his recent movies. I know these kinds of movies have brief shooting periods, but a little more fight coreography wouldn't go amiss.

("If my ponytail has to go......so does yours!")

Purportedly part of a trilogy of 'Mr Alexander' movies (following on from Force Of Execution and A Good Man) Despite the character name staying the same....The traits (or timelines) couldn't be any different (so I don't think it's panned out as the three-part saga that director Keoni Waxman had envisioned?)

(The FX budget for Marvels 'HULK MEETS SHE-HULK' movie had shrunk considerably)

Mercenary - Absolution (whilst not a world beater) is action packed (and coherent) enough to qualify as an above average DTV movie. It might have worked on the big screen, but a lack of big budget CGI spectacle and limited location work, may have left mainstream audiences checking their watches (and maybe even their calendar's, to check it wasn't 1994 again?) As it stands, it's an old school biff em' up, with no pretensions to be anything else. It's not Out For Justice, nor should we expect it to be. Seagal is still the 'Baddest Man On Planet Action'...but would/could benefit from a shift in gear (and a change in directors and crew) Whilst hardly likely (at this stage in the game) to win any new converts....longtime fans (who have endured some really shitty movies in the past) should enjoy the movie on it's own limited terms. I enjoyed it immensely (because I'm a pervert) but would like to see something a little different with (the upcoming) Code Of Honour (hopefuly a change in director might lead to a change in direction?)

(Here's a poster I created in the build-up to this movies release)