Review: ‘Above the Law’ With Bonus NICO! Game Card

Review by special guest writer Vytautas Maslesh. Visit his blog, Sardonic Shock Syndrome, to enjoy more of incisive pop culture commentary. 

 above the lawAbove the Law (alternate title:  Nico: Above the Law) was Steven Seagal’s breakout performance and the first of his three-word-title series (Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice before breaking form for Under Siege, but then coming right back to it with On Deadly Ground).  The film did much to set the tone for not only Steven Seagal’s cinematic career, but the real-life crazy show that is Steven Seagal in real life.

Steven Seagal is, time has proven, a Grade-A bullshit artist.  It’s so obvious now that it’s almost tiresome to point it out, but lest it go unsaid, you probably had one friend like Steve back in middle school – the kind of guy who had an uncle that works for NASA and let him play around in the space shuttle when he went to visit, the kind of guy who was attacked by a bear while he and his family were camping over summer vacation and only managed to save his family by shooting the bear with the fully-automatic rifle his grandpa gave him for a birthday present – you know, the kind of guy with a Canadian girlfriend.

In Above the Law, which Steven Seagal not only starred in, but also wrote and co-produced, we get the first taste of Steven Seagal lunacy.  Whether Steven Seagal started modeling his own life on the Nico Toscani character after the movie, or if Nico Toscani is meant to mirror the life that Steven Seagal read about in a comic book once is a matter of speculation and conjecture, and is ultimately trivial.  Above the Law is where it all starts: the crazy conspiracy theories, the earnest self-aggrandizement, and of course, the bullshit.

With just a splash of TJ Hooker.

With just a splash of TJ Hooker.

Let me summarize the plot of Above the Law. Because the writing on this movie is so impossibly lazy, I decided to highlight the clichés and tropes for you.

The character of Nico Toscani is the son of Italian immigrants who goes to Japan to learn Aikido and is recruited by the CIA at a young age.  He leaves the agency, disillusioned with all the torture and gun running and such, and becomes a tough Chicago street cop who of course plays by his OWN RULES.  His partner is Pam Grier in her post-Coffy, pre-Jackie Brown years.  His wife is Sharon Stone, who is terrible.  How bad of an actor are you when you have to admit that you were showed up by Steven Seagal?  The answer is Sharon Stone. Even in this cinematic stink-bomb, Sharon Stone is out of her depth.  Then again, Sharon Stone is out of her depth in a bird bath.

The heavy is played by 1970s-1980s staple bad guy and four-time Tiger Beat cover model Henry Silva, who is doing the best with what he’s given.  He plays a TORTURE HAPPY CIA boss whose preferred tool is chemical interrogation – basically he shoots someone full of smack and then plays 20 questions before killing the dude anyway.  He masterminds a plot to something about Nicaragua and killing a senator and oh who really gives a shit?  Nico meets Henry Silva in the jungles of Cambodia, and the cruelty of the former causes gentle soul Nico to leave the CIA behind, but of course try to get out / pull me back in / etc.

The prequel to "Tropic Thunder."

The prequel to “Tropic Thunder.”

Nico stumbles on what he believes to be A PLOT TO SMUGGLE DRUGS into the country, but the drugs TURN OUT TO BE EXPLOSIVES.  There’s a plot to assassinate a priest and something mumble mumble – the point is that this conspiracy goes ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!

Unsurprisingly, Nico takes THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS because OWN RULES.  Nico goes after the bad guys, but unsurprisingly they decide to GO AFTER HIS FAMILY, leading to the most pointless shootout in history – honestly, Nico and another cop who is not Pam Grier go chasing after Henry Silva, shoot up the hotel room where he’s torturing a priest, and then leave – Pam Grier is shot during the shootout even though it was only 8 DAYS UNTIL RETIREMENT, but it’s okay because SHE WAS WEARING A VEST.

Nico goes after Henry one last time.  There’s a CAR CHASE and a SHOOTOUT CAR CHASE, but Henry Silva wants Nico taken alive.  Pop quiz, Henry Silva – if you wanted him alive, why have your henchmen shoot at him?  Do you not know how bullets work?

seagal choked

Anyway, Henry Silva decides to torture Nico to death with that chemical interrogation stuff he’s been using all movie, but Nico is DRUG PROOF SUPERMAN.  He SNAPS OUT OF IT and then he snaps Henry Silva’s arm and spine.  The SENATOR IS GRATEFUL BUT CLUELESS, and the movie ends with Steven Seagal boring some reporter to death with stories of his CIA exploits which totally happened even though the government denies it so you can’t prove it didn’t happen and you could ask my Canadian girlfriend but we broke up and then she died.

The worst part about Above the Law is that it is B-O-R-I-N-G.  Steven Seagal movies work when they are over-the-top batshit, but it seems that in Above the Law, Steve might not have had 100% free rein to do whatever the hell he wanted, and so there are no Jamaican posses, post-coma montages, or Gary Buseys.  Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers cop action flick with an unnecessarily involved CIA subplot and long sequences of Steven Seagal running like a twelve-year-old girl making fun of a thirty-six-year-old gay man.

Gotta poop gotta poop gotta poop – too late.

Gotta poop gotta poop gotta poop – too late.

The mystery really is that if you’re going to completely bullshit your way through not just a film, but an entire filmic career and media persona, why should it ever be dull?  Why babble on for 30 minutes about the minutiae of CIA spying programs when you could just say that you’re an astronaut who doesn’t need a rocket ship, but rather just jumps to the moon whenever he feels like it?  It worked for Dolemite, and it would sure as hell go a long way to making Above the Law halfway watchable.

STATISTICS:

  • Steven Seagal arm snap count:  2
  • Spine snap:  1
  • Disarms a guy using slappy martial arts:  5 I think
  • Running:  Approximately 4 minutes
  • Running like a man:  0 minutes
  • Bullshit:  CIA history, Italian heritage, speaking multiple languages

TIDBITS:

There’s one kind of decent line of dialogue in the movie – after escaping an ambush, Steven Seagal disarms some assassins.  When one of them advances on him saying something about how Steve can’t shoot them all – Steve shoots the guy in the gut and says “no, but I’ll get an A for effort.”

This movie came out in 1988.  That year, Pam Grier was diagnosed with cancer.  I doubt this is a coincidence.

This is a photo of Chelcie Ross, who plays Nico’s ex-CIA partner Nelson Fox:

chelcie ross

This is a photo of Ben Stiller playing “Simple Jack” in the movie Tropic Thunder

Movie reviews muh-muh-muh make me haahh-peee.

Movie reviews muh-muh-muh make me haahh-peee.

 

Nico the game

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Filed under Bad Movies, Contains Steven Seagal, Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh, Loose Cannon Cop

This Side of Paradise (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

Episode: This Side of Paradise – Season 1, Episode 24 (1967)

Director: Ralph Senenski

this side of paradiseTeleplay: D.C. Fontana

Story: D.C. Fontana and Nathan Butler (Jerry Sohl)

The Enterprise visits a defunct agricultural colony on Omicron Ceti III to retrieve the remains of a bunch of irradiated colonists – but they’re not dead! Not only have Berthold rays failed to liquefy Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton) and the rest of his blissful band, but the colonists are in perfect health. If three-quarters of a season of Star Trek have taught us anything, it’s that a man in perfect health has got to be hiding something.

Spoiler: it’s super-passive-aggressive flowers. A snoot-full of the explosive local bud induces peaceful contentment, a communitarian sensibility, and a kick’n pea-green jumpsuit. The first blast isn’t enough to convince Kirk, but Sulu takes to it like a drunk with his morning Schlitz. McCoy defaults to the “Ol’ Country Doctor” persona, complete with back-holler accent for some reason? With Spock’s latent hippie side on display, he’s too busy climbing trees and rolling in the hay with Leila (Jill Ireland) to follow orders. Pretty soon our Captain is the only one not in carefree mutiny.

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A Taste of Armageddon (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

Derp.

Derp.

Episode: A Taste of Armageddon - Season 1, Episode 23 (1967)

Director: Joseph Pevney

Teleplay: Gene L. Coon and Robert Hamner

Story: Robert Hamner

The Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission to Eminar VII when it “accidentally” becomes embroiled in an interplanetary war. I say “accidentally” because the planet sends them a message to please, please stay away, but dick diplomat Robert Fox (Gene Lyons) makes Kirk go anyway.

Transporting to the planet, Kirk and Spock learn that Eminar VII is at war with its neighbor Vendikar, but hostilities take place entirely inside computer simulations. The casualties are very real: ancient treaty obligations require that “killed” citizens report for voluntary disintegration. It isn’t long before the Enterprise falls victim to a purely figurative Tri-Cobalt Satellite and the whole crew is marked for death! Kirk and the landing party are taken hostage to assure compliance, but with Scotty in charge back on the ship, you can guess how that plays out.

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Space Seed (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

KKKKHHHHHHHHHHAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

KKKKHHHHHHHHHHAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

Episode: Space Seed – Season 1, Episode 22 (1967)

Director: Marc Daniels

Teleplay: Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilbur

Story: Carey Wilbur

Kirk accidentally revives one of the premier war criminals of twentieth century Earth, the fabulous Khan Noonian Singh (national treasure Ricardo Montalban).[1]  Over the course of a record five costume changes, Khan tries to conquer humanity all over again, all while spawning the best Star Trek movie ever shot.

At first, Kirk can be forgiven for thinking he’s only got a defrosted asshole on his hands. Khan deports himself like a Nietzschean Superman, but so does every douchebag in the bars of South Florida. It isn’t until Khan’s Master Class in Straight Pimp’n (re: ship’s historian Lt. Marla McGivers [Madlyn Rhue]) that the truth is revealed: Khan is that Khan, brutal leader of the augmented beings that fomented Earth’s mid-90s Eugenics War. McGivers stops sliding off her chair long enough to help him awaken his super-cronies and hijack the ship.

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The Return of the Archons (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

Spock, you've gotten into a bad habit as of late. Habit? Get it?

Spock, you’ve gotten into a bad habit as of late. Habit? Get it?

Episode: The Return of the Archons – Season 1, Episode 21 (1967)

Director: Joseph Pevney

Teleplay: Boris Sobelman

Story: Gene Roddenberry

The Enterprise drops by Beta III to find out what happened to the Archon, a ship that disappeared in the system almost a century before. Instead, in the tradition of tourists everywhere, Kirk and the gang perpetrate the greatest crime of all: violation of the Prime Directive![1]

The episode opens with Sulu on the surface with Lt. O’Neil (Sean Morgan), running from robed assailants on what looks like an empty Midwestern street. Because that’s what you do in a first contact situation: send your helmsman with some panicky NCO. It doesn’t take Miss Cleo to predict which one makes it back to the ship.

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Report: Florida Teeming with Sleazy Bachelors Harassing Wholesome Housewives, Students

Lesbians Pool Celebrities Naked Sex

Wild Things (1998)       Directed by John McNaughton

Body Heat Movie Poster with Kathleen Turner Standing over William Hurt smoking

Body Heat (1981) Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

FLORIDA –  Miami police grapple with two painfully obvious crime cases labeled by local media outlets as Body Heat (1981) and Wild Things (1998). According to police records, these two cases bring Florida’s neo-noir problem front and center.

A perpetually wet personal injury lawyer, Ned Racine (William Hurt), and a high school counselor that drives a Jeep Wrangler, Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), went virtually undetected as slimeballs despite their disinclination toward wearing shirts and inability to speak to women in respectable tones.

Attorney Ned Racine reportedly told mild-mannered housewife Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) that she “shouldn’t wear that body” and followed her to her marital home in Pine Haven on multiple occasions under the guise of “seeing her wind chimes” which was an obvious cover for stalking and possible murder.  Police refer to the well-known studies that show males under the age of 60 lack the capacity to identify wind chimes, lumping them all in together with “old lady stuff” like scented candles and birdhouses.

In the second case, high school counselor Sam Lombardo was seen driving  his low-tech meets low-brow Jeep Wrangler with student Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) inside, ostensibly taking her home from high school. Especially damning reports label Lombardo as “blasting Third Eye Blind and Smash Mouth.” These offensive reports have not yet been corroborated.

Matt Dillon looks like a douche as he drops Denise Richards off at home in Wild Things

I want something else, to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life, baby, baby.

Detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) went on record to note that Van Ryan was so thankful for Lombardo’s kindness with the transport home that she went so far as to wash the Wrangler for Lombardo – without payment – in the course of her charity work for her cheerleading duties as a Blue Bay Buccaneer. Van Ryan gave Lombardo the “Full Service Plus” wash and even when, at the end, she found herself with no towels to dry off the vehicle, valiantly offered up her already soaking t-shirt and shorts. Sadly, she was later to have this generosity repaid with murder.

Matty Walker’s character has also been roundly lauded, primarily by neighbors in the town of Pine Haven for keeping a “lovely garden with a veritable orchestra of windchimes” as well as donating money on a weekly basis to the Pine Haven Tavern. All regulars at the Pine Haven Tavern will mourn the loss of Mrs. Walker’s presence, just handing out dollar bill after dollar bill once she finished her bourbons. “We really liked Miz Walker,” one swarthy bar patron offers, “she was somethin’ to look at, what with those all-white dresses that went total, like, see-through after an hour in this hot-ass dump. I didn’t even mind that some batshit weird atonal saxophone seemed to follow her around wherever she went.”

According to police investigations, both Lombardo and Racine live just above the poverty line and seem to funnel all of their discretionary income into douchey cars and high-waisted pants. Meanwhile, Walker and Van Ryan enjoyed comfortable upper-class lifestyles and loving relationships with the families that provided them their closets full of white linen garb and gun lockers.

Detective Duquette considers these open-and-shut cases, with both Lombardo and Racine as obvious stalkers that were in no way encouraged by the beautiful yet demure (in that femme fatale way) Walker and Van Ryan. Lombardo is facing murder charges while Racine is looking at arson. Both cases are stalled, however, at the insistent petitioning of  prosecutor Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson) for the Racine case and high school student Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) for Lombardo’s.

“Both Lowenstein and Toller have made exceedingly bad style choices,” Duquette opines, “and that is a sure mark of an untrustworthy source. Lowenstein is tooling around town in Junior Soprano glasses and floods. Toller won’t let go of the Craft multi-layered beaded necklace trend. Don’t even get me started on her mushroom haircut.”

Prosecutor Ted Danson reads book on couch as Peter Lowenstein in Body Heat
Obvious disreputable source.


Neve Campbell as vampy slut in Wild Things

                                                                                   And again.

**********************************************

This reporter was granted access to interview Lombardo and Racine while in their holding cells, the cells sans air-conditioning, because it wouldn’t be a Florida noir if everyone wasn’t sweating their balls off in every scene.

REPORTER: Hello gentlemen. I’ve come to discuss with you some of the more damning aspects of your cases as explained to me by HPI, the Hillbilly Police Investigators.

SAM LOMBARDO: I’m innocent! Goddamit.

REP: Fine, Mr. Lombardo, we’ll address your situation first. I see here that you secured world-famous comedian Bill Murray as your lawyer.

SM: Yes, that’s right.

REP: Can you tell me why you chose him?

SM: Based on his track record as a weatherman, a Ghostbuster, several mentally unhinged characters, his stint in the army, and then a few more repeats of the weatherman job, he seemed like the most seasoned attorney available. Plus, he had great style, what with his – seersucker suits, white fedoras, and pimp cane – which of course would heavily sway Detective Duquette’s professional opinion of the case since Murray comes across basically as a disabled pimp.

Bill Murray as Matt Dillon's lawyer in Wild Things, dressed in white pimp outfit

“You’ll watch me in anything, won’t you?”

REP: Fair enough. Now Mr. Racine, I see here that besides representing serious criminals in court you also fraternize with them in your free time? Teddy Lewis (Mickey Rourke), for example. He is a known arsonist that you kept out of lockup. Interestingly, Ms. Walker reported that her boathouse exploded after she had made it clear she no longer wanted any relations with you.

NED RACINE: The only reason – and I told Duquette this – that I hang out with Teddy is for his mind-bending song and dance performances. He is a struggling artist and has to hold all performances in his garage/apartment/bomb shelter. That is why Peter saw me exiting the premises looking especially soaking wet and sweaty the other day. Not because I had just procured a bomb and was nervous about it but because I had been joyfully grooving with Teddy as he exuberantly bopped around the shop.

REP: I see. And you both – you and Lombardo –maintain that the women in these cases – Walker and Van Ryan – were NOT perfect snowy white angels of virtue?

[Note: When visiting Walker and Van Ryan at their palatial estates this reporter was simply bowled over by the gracious manners and gleaming white teeth and clothing of these women. They were perfect hostesses at the pool parties, steak dinners, and boat rides we enjoyed at their husband’s and father’s expense. In fact, when I had had a little too much to drink, they were both equally kind enough to put me in a car and send me home. Whoops. Looks like I’m still missing my driver’s license and social security card. I’ll have Duquette get on that after the interview. But I digress.]

…and that is how, my friend, the femme fatale always gets her man. Me, in this case.

REP: Yes, yes, [clears throat, shuffles papers]. Mr. Lombardo, I see here that you enjoy driving an air boat in your free time. An air boat? Really? You should have taken a spin in Ms. Van Ryan’s yacht! Woo-baby!  And Ms. Walker really lets it out when we race down the coast in her red Ferrari.

[Both incarcerated men glare and squint contemplatively.]

REP: You know what? I just remembered. I forgot an appointment I need to be at. [Shuffles through messenger bag, finds sunblock, lovingly pats it, finds some Ferrari keys and jingles them. Reporter returns attention to incarcerated men.] “Gentlemen. It isn’t my place to pass any judgment but I have to say, it’s not looking good for you fellows.

NR: Sometimes the shit comes down so heavy I feel like I should wear a hat.

As both cases progressed, Detective Duquette dug up more damning evidence. Both Racine and Lombardo had been seen moodily smoking cigarettes while looking out windows into neon moonlight. The haunting sound of saxophones followed whenever they drove. Both had that squinty way of looking at you and wryly smiling. It was not very long before they were both locked up in the big house for their neo-noir crimes.

 INTERIOR OFFICE, REPORTER, EARLY MORNING

 Reporter stands by the window. His eyes are strangely dreamy and he is uncharacteristically drinking scotch far earlier than 5 pm. He watches Matty Walker breeze into the room.

WALKER

Morning, Angel.

There’s a copy of the Sun-Sentinel on his desk. Walker points to it, grins.

 WALKER

(mockingly)

Some men, once they get a whiff of it, they trail you like a hound.

 REPORTER

(in a queer, tight voice)

Did you lead me astray, Matty? Was I wrong?

WALKER

Your Matty’s been kicked around her whole life. And from now on, I’m kicking back.

REPORTER

(intense worry creeping into his face)

What the fuck does that mean? I printed those articles on the basis of your story. Are you telling me that you misrepresented the story?

WALKER

I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.

 REPORTER

I’m not asking you to swear on the Bible. Just tell me – did you falsify your story? Because, Jesus Matty, this article really swayed public favor. It was a miracle – right? – that the jury wasn’t moved to a new county, or state, even!

WALKER

The lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said. It’s my own fault if you can’t believe me now.

 REPORTER

WTF! Stop talking in riddles and just come clean on your story! Matty, we essentially put two men away on murder charges for a looong time, honey. Wait, what? Where is that saxophone music coming from?

 WALKER

Just come meet me later at my new and improved boathouse set waaay far back from the road. I’ll leave you the key to our new life there. We can go away together, I just need to settle up a few matters first with Racine’s will.

 OVER SCENE the SOUND of the corridor door knob rattling. Walker sashays to the frosted window, squints through a crack in the door. The Reporter stands, leaden-faced, entranced by his writing hand.

 WALKER

(in a flat voice)

Ted Danson is here. He brought Demetri Martin with him.

 WHEEDLY SHOUT through the DOOR

I’m an unlicensed private detective ma’am.

 REPORTER

Matty, get my gun.

Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson in suits in Bored to Death

We are your new noir.

- Written by Kelli

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Filed under "Thriller", Awesome Action, Bad Erotic Thriller, Breaking News, Loose Cannon Cop

Court Martial (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

"You Captain Kirk are guilty -- of stealing my heart."

“You Captain Kirk are guilty — of stealing my heart.”

Episode: Court Martial – Season 1, Episode 20 (1967)

Director: Marc Daniels

Teleplay: Don M. Mankiewicz

Story: Don M. Mankiewicz and Stephen W. Carabatsos

We’re back in the lap of the Star Fleet bureaucracy. The Enterprise retires to Starbase 11 for repairs after sustaining damage during an ion storm, an event that also saw the death of a single crewman: Lt. Commander Ben Finney (Richard Webb). As far as Gene Roddenberry is concerned, nothing spells trouble like an Irishman,[1] and it isn’t long before Captain Kirk is on trial…for Murder!

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