Friday, 5 August 2011

On Deadly Ground (1994)

A film with a cast that includes Michael Caine, John C. McGinley, Billy Bob Thornton, Joan Chen, R. Lee Ermey and Mike Starr may sound like something well worth watching. But then just let me add that Steven Seagal also stars in this one. In fact, he’s the lead. And let me also add that nobody involved in this film is putting forward their best work.

Seagal plays an environmentally-minded hardass who is working for Michael Caine, and his massive oil company, at the start of the movie but quickly realises that something is amiss and goes out of his way to right some wrongs, earn the respect of the Eskimo people and punch people in the face. Everything you would expect from a Seagal movie.

I was expecting something awful from On Deadly Ground but I have to admit that . . . . . . . . . . it’s okay. The environmental message sits uncomfortably beside the action sequences (especially in an overly preachy final monologue from Seagal) but the action sequences themselves are pretty bloody good.

Which is a big relief, considering what we have to endure from Michael Caine in his many scenes. Caine starts off attempting an American accent and either soon gives up on it or is simply so awful that he sounds just like . . . . . . . . . Michael Caine. And the black hair-dye is also another big distraction.

John C. McGinley as is good as he so often is, R. Lee Ermey isn’t too bad and Billy Bob Thornton is in the kind of role you could easily label “number two henchman” but gets a couple of good lines despite his very limited screentime. Joan Chen will probably want to forget this one, it’s far from her best role.

Written by Ed Horowitz and Robin U. Russin, and directed by Seagal himself, this is a rare action movie with a social conscious. Which is why it falters. Does anyone really want to watch an action movie that takes time out to remind you of how to make the world a cleaner place?

The mysticism and nobility of Seagal makes for some unintentional laughs but that can all be forgotten during a final half hour that replaces the battleship of Under Siege with an oil refinery. Which is why the movie still manages to get a score that just lifts it above average. 

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