Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Deadly Ground (1994)

Exceptionally goofy, action-lite Steven Seagal flick about oil company mercenaries vs. the Alaskan eskimos. Seagal is the situation handler (read: blows shit up) for oil exec Michael Caine who suddenly has a change of heart when he realizes Caine plans on abusing the environment (*gasp*) to secure his latest project. After he's betrayed by Caine and his mercenary John C. McGinley, he takes up with the Eskimos and turns the tables on those dirty money-grubbers. The plot is absolutely absurd, and every scene is packed with ripe falsities and obvious action-movie contrivances. Seagal is himself, complete sincerity and silliness, but Caine, McGinley, and smaller turns by R. Lee Ermey, Mike Starr, and Billy Bob Thornton are absolutely hilarious and larger-than-life. Joan Chen doesn't fare so good as the Eskimo dame, and neither does the rest of the supporting cast, but there is enough going on that the formula doesn't go completely stale. This was Seagal's directorial debut, and it's not the worst thing in the world; it has more life to it than the similar, but inferior, Fire Down Below. The shot compositions are pretty decent, particularly the wides of the Alaskan mountains. However, the key flaw with the film, which I'm sure the ego of Seagal and his self-righteous pandering had something to do with, is the noticeable lack of action. There are only a couple of true action scenes, and they are flat and comletely rote. Had the film not been so completely nonsensical and absurd, it would be an absolute bore; luckily, Seagal's plan backfired, and trying to make the film more serious than usual just makes it a campy delight.

Recommended for fans of Steven Seagal and campy mid-'90s action flicks. The message of this movie is incredibly heavy handed, and it's unfortunate; Seagal's climactic Great Dictator-esque speech about the evils of the environment actually has some decent points lost in the shuffle of his self-righteousness and his ego.

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