Friday, 29 July 2016

CODE OF HONOUR (2016) Steven Seagal

Back in 1974, the late, great (and much missed) Michael Winner kickstarted the whole 'Vigilante' genre with the seminal classic 'DEATH WISH'. By the time of the third movie in 1985, Charles Bronson was referred to as 'Mr Vigilante' (presumably for postal reasons) But I guess such labelling would be demed 'Transphobic' nowadays?
In 2016 (the rightful heir to Bronsons stoic tough guy persona) Steven Seagal revives the genre...but up's the ante, by being referred to as (I shit thee not) 'The Super Vigilante' (not entirely sure if this is a dig at the current glut of DC/Marvel franchise pics....or merely just the Stout Sensei's ego running into overtime?) But digression aside, CODE OF HONOR has (after a brief stint in about 4 cinemas in Syria) hit VOD/DVD.

Can Seagal still (literally) kick it?....Have I learnt to string together semi-coherent sentences yet?....Read on to have all your fears and doubts confirmed?

A drug deal with two rival gangs ends in a (CGI) bloodbath, when M.I.A Colonel Robert Sikes picks them off from a great distance with a high powered rifle. Clocks get stopped, heads get put to bed, as our cigar-chomping goateed anti-hero casually guns down a multicultural selection of assorted badguys. It's a pretty cool sequence with explosions and shot up cars (but the CGI blood lets it down a little) After dispatching all but two of the criminals, Sikes parasails down (with back projection worthy of an episode of Adam West's 'BATMAN') before knifing one bad guy, and leaving one survivor (presumably to warn others)

(Goatee in motion......Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)

 The police arrive (surprise, surprise...5 minutes later) and notice mysterious Federal agent William Porter (Craig Sheffer) snooping around the crime scene. After a brief dick-measuring contest, Porter works in liaison with the police, without giving too much away of his actual intentions at this point

 ("I don't care if you are Elton John....FREEZE!")

The director realises too much plot/dialogue/exposition may be off-putting to Seagal's fanbase, so we then skip to the obligatory (if not contractually enforceable) 'Strip Club' sequence. Seagal (requiring no doubles in this location) sits there gazing on as a bunch of surgically enhanced 'Ladies' shake their meat to the disco beat. No doubt, the character of Sikes is meant to be thinking of black Op missions in Angola....However Seagal (the thespian) merely lights another stogie and piehawks in silence (and 30 minutes into the movie, and he still hasn't uttered, mumbled or southern drawled a single word yet.....let alone had words dubbed into his mouth) Seagal talked more in HARD TO KILL (and he portrayed a coma patient in that one)

  (The Horror.....The Horror")

Amidst this naked flesh, we are introduced to the character of  Kerri (Helena Mattsson) a Heather Graham lookalike. In keeping with the order of natural selection/misogyny found in these movies, she doesn't actually strip off, and has a backstory and shit. When her child gets ill at School she leaves the strip club early, after warning her fellow worker to watch out for the scary looking guy sat in the back row (Seagal) as apparently he's a lousy "tipper" (I have it on very good authority that Steven Seagal is very generous with Strippers, Sex-Workers, etc.......but that's for another court case, I guess?)

 ("Nice legs....What time do they open?")

With our unlikely heroine out of the club, Sikes averts his gaze from the dancers long enough to notice a gang of scummy criminals sat ahead of him. With little regard for what few innocent patrons are in the club, Sikes exits the bar, and then gives new meaning to the term 'Blow Job' by bombing the shit out of the establishment (tough shit, if you just called into the 'Snake Eyes Strip Club' asking for directions, or a book of matches?)

 (Seagal regretted eating Chilli-Peppers before a fight scene)

Admittedly, it's a pretty cool sequence to see Seagal walk away (as a building explodes in slow-mo behind him) in what I assume (given how shoddy the actual CGI work is in the movie) a real shot done in one take?

  (Every good Fire Engine needs it's Hoes)

Kerri returns to work (with no further mention of her child's illness) and is met by Porter at the crime scene. Porter notices Sikes looming in the background (like Michael Myers in 'HALLOWEEN' ) But our 'Anti-Hero-Super-Vigilante-Colonel-Commander' vanishes 'Like A Ghost' (tm) These vigilante murders have not gone unnoticed by local crime boss 'Romano' (an underused James Russo, clearly paid in cocaine for his appearence here) who senses a pattern, and is keen to Question Kerri (as the only survivor of the Strip Club massacre) He sends his goons to retrieve her.

  (Craig Sheffer celebrated bagging a role in his first, but probably not last 'Seagal' movie)

 Porter decides to come clean about the vigilante to the police, and introduces Sikes in the customary 'Isn't -He-Just-So-Fucking-Cool' monologue (an unwritten law in all Seagal movies) to his bemused colleagues

"His name is colonel Robert Sikes....He is a Commander of one of the most elite units....His service record is impeccable....His skills at hand-to-hand combat...weapons, firearms, explosives is un-matched. He's trained to blend into any city, any terrain. And he's using those skills and that training to go after gangs or drug dealers, or anyone, who in his mind is threatening the moral fabric....the well being of this country"

 (Nice knife-Rack)

It transpires that whilst Sikes was leading Black Op missions around the globe, his wife and child were accidentally killed in the crossfire of a drive-by-shooting.....Hence his 'Vigilante-ism' The police send out Detective James Peterson (Louis Mandylor) to apprehend Sikes by all means necessary.
Meanwhile, Romano's goons catch up with Kerri at her house, but Porter arrives and goes ape-shit with his knives. Giving chase in an alleyway (one of the many glamorous locations on display, Ladies and Gentlemen) Romano's heavies are just about to get the drop on Porter (who is out of bullets and knives) when up pops Sikes (and at the 45 minute mark) utters his first lines of dialogue. Sikes mumbles some deep mumbo-jumbo about "Saving The World" and "Anonymity" There's a begrudging sense of respect between Master and Pupil, they agree to not kill each other long enough to arrange a second meeting at a nightclub (owned by Romano, no less) later that evening.

(Just say No.......To fake CGI Blood)

With a few hours to kill (not to mention 'Criminals') Sikes takes his brand of justice to a small gathering of scuzzy drug addicts. Oddly enough, he only shoots the male stoners. Leaving one zapped out woman smoking her crack pipe, oblivious to being covered in the brain matter of the dealer that lays dead, alongside her? A bizarre sequence. Vicious, nasty (and even in a movie of this ilk, morally questionable) but lessened slightly by more CGI assisted blood (are squibs so expensive, nowadays?)

 (The lighter side to Steven Seagal)

In an actual act of rare common sense for this kind of movie, Porter actually informs the police about his meeting with Sikes. And goes to meet his ex commander not only wired up, but with a tactical squad nearby to apprehend the 'Super Vigilante'
Sikes, undaunted lights another ciger (giving his erstwhile namesake George Segal a run for his money) and continues to make up for lost dialogue (by not shutting the fuck up about Porters many failings in life)
Namely that Porter had (quote)
"Fucked everything that moved....Drank every drink....Snorted every drug.....Accepted every vice......Foreign And Domestic"
This seems to be the juxtaposition between Sikes and Porter. Sikes had his family cruelly taken away from him....Whereas Porter pissed his family away. For all the mocking of the movie....This is a pretty good sequence, and Seagal actually manages to nail the intensity of the scene.

(Always turn off your flash, whilst taking 'Selfies' in the mirror)

After mucho introspection, Sikes then caasually announces that he's holding not only another detonator, but also a radio scrambler (to prevent the tactical squad from getting the nod) and that Porter is sitting on a timebomb (like quote: "The one we used in Afganistan") which will detonate if Porter leaves the seat. Romano however, is onto the duo in his club, and a gunfight ensues....Requiring Porter to fight off the bad guys whilst remaining seated. Sikes just disappears ("Like-A-Fucking-Ghost" etc)

(Russo surrenders all dignity in his role as Drug Lord Romano)

Romano surrenders and is arrested, and is due to stand trial. However, Sikes blows his head off at a jam-packed (14 person) press conference outside the law courts. Everyone is covered in Further CGI brain matter, and (hopefully) the producers sent Russo packing with his well-earned $20, and directions to the nearest Billy Zane, Albert Pyun, Eric Roberts film-set (whilst that particular afternoon was still young)

(Utah's Parking Laws were getting stricter by the day)

Kerri (and son) move into Porters seedy hotel room (not sure if that's allowed under Utah's 1998 'Hotellier Health & Safety' Regulations?) Regardless, it forces Porter to ditch his bottles of booze, bond with the child, and clean his act up. Meanwhile there's a (frankly pointless) subplot about the Commissioners daughter  getting killed in the nightclub shoot-out. And also a Senator who likes sleeping with girls that are (clearly) 60 years younger than he is?  The police finally manage to locate a file on Sikes (most of it Redacted) which leads them to question if Porter is making the whole thing up, to cover his own vigilante tactics?

(Let's hope they omitted 'MY GIANT' from this dossier?)

And it seems that the Police might actually be onto something, as Porter flees his motel, and finds a trail of dead bodies that Sikes has left in his wake. However, we are now (confusingly) shown all of Sikes previous kills performed by Porter. It seems\ like an interesting concept? Is porter imagination Sikes as a manifestation for his rage? Quite apt, given that Seagal is always referred to as a "Ghost" (or is a dig at the fact that he's never on set enough) For a brief spell it seems as if this eleventh hour 'twist' will result in the first time a Seagal character hasn't actually been in a Seagal movie at all?

(A guy actually older than Seagal get's the love scene in this one?)

However this 'concept' is ditched when Porter gets the drop on Sikes on a rooftop. The two guys shoot the shit, then engage in a pretty cool knife fight. Sikes notices police helicopters closing in, and jumps through a skylight....Leaving the police to think that Porter *IS* the vigilante. Porter evades police fire, and makes down into the building to see if Sikes Survived the fall. Of course Sikes survived the fall.....he's played by Steven Fucking Seagal. Although he does have to remove a shard of glass from his hand (so maybe Seagal is aware of his own omnipotence) But s soon as the glass is removed, both men resume their fight, before Sikes activates another bomb. Porter runs away, but the explosion takes out most of the top floor of the building.....Surely no-one could survive that?

(Never punch a guy with a glass jaw)

The police retrieve one burnt corpse from the wreckage....which is identified as Sikes. Kerri and her son are siting nearby,  and it seems that the youngster has been given a catchers mitt by his mothers "Friend" (which we, the viewer is meant to think was Porter....however the scene is left open ended by not showing either character).....So, who actually survived.....and more importantly....Who actually existed? All in all, it's a pretty enigmatic and ambitious ending to what is an otherwise routine STV action thriller?

("Mommy, shall I wait here, whilst the guy with the goatee shags you in the customary creepy finale?")

CODE OF HONOUR is a really interesting movie. Sure it's low budget, and lacks big set pieces. But all of it's faults (chiefly CGI blood) it manages to spread out it's limited content, thanks to good pacing. It tries to do something different with the Seagal formula. Like 'Bruce' the shark in JAWS, it utilises the inactivity of it's star, by adding a mystery element. It's not a prefect plot-twist, but it's a risk that the likes of (Seagal's usual director) Keoni Waxman rarely take with his star. Apert from the bad CGI, another grumble is the lack of fights. Craig Sheffer (a really underused talent) does the majority of the fight scenes in this one. Seagal seems content to just sit back and pick off his prey with a high powered rifle. He's cool doing it....But had he snapped a few arms, or at very least 'Took-The-Ruckas-To-All-These-Motherfuckas' and bust some aikido on these street punks....this could have a mini-classic?

(Don't ask)

Michael Winnick directs proceedings in a very workmanlike manner. But (after a glut of previous over-complex Seagal flicks) sometimes 'basic' can be a blessing. I love the theme of the Teacher/Student chase. And the fact that they nearly went all 'Twilight-Zone-ish' at the end was a brave attempt to mix it up a little (after the slightly generic 'ABSOLUTION') But good intentions don't always result in good movies, and whilst I enjoyed the movie.....I could see the average punter (clearly expecting UNDER SIEGE 3 with very new release) being a bit bored, or even baffled with this one? For once the plot's the action that underwelms. Maybe if MARVEL were thinking of another Big Screen PUNISHER re-boot, perhaps Seagal could still be nimble enough?

(The polar opposite to FIRE DOWN BELOW)

After waiting what seemed like an eternity in DTV land after ABSOLUTION (2015) Seagal now has FOUR more movies to be released this year. ASIAN CONNECTION has more action, but looks generic. THE PERFECT WEAPON has a sci-fi slant (but looks a little too low budget) KILLING SALAZAR looks decent (but I think Like Goss and Georges St. Pierre will be the main stars of that one....Plus Keoni Waxman is directing) As with END OF A GUN (but the details haven't been verified yet) Another movie CONTRACT TO KILL will probably turn up in 2017 (same with the rumoured Seagal directed 'ATTRITION') So like the proverbial bus....You wait all day for a Seagal....and then four come along at once.

(Even if you had infinity knives....I would punch you up into the air like a kite)

I doubt CODE OF HONOUR will gain Seagal new supporters. But his diehard fanbase should enjoy it, whilst maybe bemoaning the lack of hand-to-broken hand combat. Seagal isn't dubbed in this one, although he is slightly doubled in the long silhouetted shots of the climactic knife fight. Seagal also seems a lot slimmer in this (which is another reason they should have been more action) A few more fight scenes may have lifted it out of the ordinary (or at very least complimented the plot-twist in the final third) The other performances are all ok (no real stinkers) Sheffer is his usual intense (Don Stroud-Looking) self. Russo is good in his few scenes. Mandylor is reassuringly bland and the requisite eye-candy is present and correct.

(More bad CGI blood)

I was chuckling slightly at the end credits at the bizarre 'Special Thanks To' credits, that kick of such plaudits as (quote) "All Those That Rescue Shelter Animals" (which then makes it look s if the subsequent names have all adopted 3 legged cats from their local Pet-Pound) Axeman 'Eddie Van Halen' is one such name on the 'Special Thanks' list....and to be fair, the funky (almost 80's sounding) Guitar track on the closing credits sounds a lot like his handiwork....I wonder if he and Seagal have ever 'jammed' together?

Interesting (ish) Factoid

Seagals character makes a few references to the term 'Foreign And Domestic' throughout the movie.....which was the original title of this movie, back in it's development stage.

Technical Guff

Code Of Honour is brought to you (in the UK) by 'Highfliers Films' on the DVD format only (Bastards....I want it on Blu-Ray) It is rated 18, runs at 106 minutes, and has zero special features (unless you think a choice of listening to the movie in either Dolby Digital Stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 is somehow qualifies as a feature?) It does however contain trailers for the following:

The Runner
D-Day Survivor
Haunting At 1666
Essex Vendetta (which looks really funny and right up my street)
Alien Battlefield
Badge Of Honor

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