Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mr. Seagal? Ed Wood Called, He Wants His Directorial Flourish Back: "On Deadly Ground" (1994)

Al Gore, take note. Sure, you could try to save the environment with your little slide show and your Oscar (and your multiple houses and private jet travel...but I digress), but would you be willing to kill for it? No, I don't mean kill actual people, but could you kill your career over it? Steven Seagal bravely killed his with this.

Seagal scowls his way through the film as Forrest Taft (prompting many a "run, Forrest, run" joke from this viewer), an oil rig fire fighter in the employ of evil oil company owner Jennings (a stunned Michael Caine). Jennings and his henchmen are trying to bring a gargantuan oil rig and refinery in Alaska online mere hours before the oil rights revert back to the sympathetic Eskimo people, led by that great Native American First Nation actress Joan Chen.

After Jennings' umpteenth attempt to kill Taft fails, our injured hero has one of those American Indian sponsored spiritual quests one only finds in the movies, and Taft wakes up reborn and ready to blow up and kill everyone in sight to save Mother Earth from big business.

Filmed in Alaska, Seagal picked the right technical team and cast with which to make his directorial debut. Aside from the miscast Chen and the slumming Caine, you'll catch John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, an uncredited Louise Fletcher (in an obviously trimmed role), and even a puffy Billy Bob Thornton (in an obviously padded role). The special effects suck, but the Alaskan scenery is breathtaking, leading me to understand why Homer escaped to there in "The Simpsons Movie," which ironically has just as many laughs as this thing. Just one of many random thoughts I had while watching this wreck.

Seagal had better stop blaming the FBI for his professional failings and find himself a role that makes fun of his D-list action hero status toot-sweet. I mean, the man cannot even nod convincingly onscreen. Saving the environment by blowing things up is more than a little wrong, and watching Seagal blaming big business for the planet's problems (in his infamous final speech) would be more believable if the film was not overwhelmed with bloody violence, profanity, a weird gay bashing subtext, racism, and some boobies to keep the teenage boys awake. "Save the planet, kill everyone" is not a rousing call to arms. Good thing that Mom and Pop operation known as Time Warner released the movie, thereby immunizing its status as "evil corporation".

Every character does or says something so unbelievably stupid, and yet this is done with such seriousness, you will be shocked into silence. I'm not sure the hard drive on your computer could handle all the questions I had during this thing, it's that poorly written.

Seagal is now a joke, releasing unwatchable straight to video fare, making me wonder where the iffy promise of "Above the Law" disappeared to. Steven, when you have your own segment on E!'s "The Soup" mocking your latest video release, it might be time to hang it up. "On Deadly Ground"...what an appropriate title. (*) out of five stars.