Category Archives: Contains Steven Seagal

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

The Rental Rehab Thanksgiving Throwdown

Thanksgiving throwdown

Like March Madness, but in November and with no basketball.

Happy “Day Before 4-Day Weekend”/Bird Carcass Day! Here’s a fun way to kill 30 seconds of productivity as you prepare for a long weekend away from the office*:

*My original plan for a holiday post involved a screening of Thankskilling, a low-budget horror flick about a foul-mouthed homicidal turkey. Despite a hilariously wanton display of unnecessary female Pilgrim nudity in the very first frame, Thankskilling tanks the moment the malformed turkey puppet lurches into the shot, opens his mouth and lets loose with the eye-roll-inducing Jersey-tinged insults. It simply wasn’t worth the effort, and I’ll watch anything (seriously, Kelli and I watched The Human Centipede; also now available on instant Netflix).

-Rental Rehab post by Tricia

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Filed under Audience Participation, Bad Movies, Contains Steven Seagal

Who Would Win in a Fist Fight? A Rental Rehab reader poll

Gary Busey Tom Selleck Steven Seagal Chuck NorrisIn an effort to keep things fresh and interesting, Rental Rehab will soon be changing its look and adding more interactive features, including polls and the like.

And here, let us save you the trouble – “Wow! Welcome to 2001, ladies of Rental Rehab! What’s next; animated GIFs?”

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Filed under Awesome Action, Bad Movies, Contains Chuck Norris, Contains Gary Busey, Contains Steven Seagal, Jaeger-friendly

Steven Seagal Shows Us His “Bigger” Magic: a Review of Marked for Death

marked for death movie poster steven seagal

James Bond 2.0. Now with a douchey ponytail and paunch.

The tagline for Steven Seagal’s 1990 coption (that’s cop + action) movie Marked for Death is a wealth of specificity, more than hinting at the mediocrity encased in the film’s stunningly slow 93 minutes:

He’s a good cop. In a bad mood.

Screwface Seagal Showdown Marked for death

Go ahead and guess who the bad guy will be. No, go on, guess! It'll be fun.

For heaven’s sakes. What ever could cause a good cop to be in a bad mood?! Please do enlighten us! I am already riveted and we’re all anxiously awaiting to see how this mysterious, but sure-to-be-exciting dynamic of Good and Bad will play out.

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Filed under Awesome Action, Contains Steven Seagal, Crazy Person, Druglord, Loose Cannon Cop, U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!

You Can Take THIS to the Bank: Hard to Kill Review

3 out of 4 stars

Some time in late 2005, I received a mysterious package in the mail. It was addressed to my roommate Troy (a guest reviewer for Rental Rehab) and me, sent to us via our mutual friend Michael T. “What could this be?” we wondered, all-the-while sensing a great spiritual energy emanating from the box.

Inside were 2 cans of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt energy drink; one for each of us. For a number of reasons—primarily owing to my intestinal fortitude and not wishing to test the boundaries thereof—my can of Lightning Bolt has remained unopened all these years, like an untapped vessel of cosmic force that awaits the appropriate hour in which to fill my being with the “untold natural power” of 100% juice.

Steven Seagal Lightning Bolt

A drink that holds "untold natural power...only one equivalent in nature - The Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt." Translation: this will give you the trots.

Lightning Bolt would have been barely a glimmer in Steven Seagal’s often squinted eyes when he starred in the male vengeance fantasy Hard to Kill (1990), a tasty little morsel that is presumably much easier to swallow than the surely toxic swill awaiting me in that can of “Asian-inspired” energy dreck.

Steven Seagal Hard to Kill

Hard to kill? Maybe. Easy on the eyes? Oh yes. God, yes.

The Beauty of Low Expectations

People often ask how I can stand to watch such shitty movies on a routine basis. I say, when I get to watch a film that’s busting at the seams with non-sequitur one-liners, unintentionally hilarious training montages and laughably inept henchmen, how the hell could I resist? Most mainstream movies are a let-down anyhow (The Crappening, anyone?); why not go in knowing something’s going to suck and then enjoy the hell out of it?

And Hard to Kill is incredibly enjoyable. Here we have one of the most famous action adventure stars of all time, at his peak; black ponytail slicked into submission, taut greased-up muscles revealed under billowing tanks and readily-apparent delusions of grandeur.

Steven Seagal is Mason Storm, a cop who…wait for it…plays by his own set of rules. Not so much a loose cannon, but more the lone wolf with a fucking heart of gold.

The film opens in 1983, with Storm in the midst of a hush-hush surveillance operation down at the docks, naturally, where he is videotaping a group of assorted henchmen. These knuckleheads have assembled to very clearly spell out their plans to murder a California senator in very explicit language; “OK, guys, once again, let’s go over all of the pertinent details of this crime in very specific terms. And it would probably be helpful if we called one another by our full names and maybe also mentioned our addresses each time we speak.”

Storm, a bumbling buffoon of a covert ops expert, is easily discovered; a revelation that puts his wife, his son and him at immediate mortal risk.

Steven Seagal and Panda

Sitting on this man's lap makes Thai San a Sad Panda.

After “breaking up” a convenience store robbery, witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a store clerk and killing and maiming several hoodlums, Storm heads home to deliver a bottle of champagne to the wife and a stuffed monkey to his kid (“Don’t mind the brain matter, son. That will wipe right off after it dries”).

While in the throes of making sweet, passionate love to his wife, Storm’s home is attacked by the dock henchmen. His wife is killed in the assault, his kid makes a dashing escape out the second-story window and Storm suffers a near-fatal injury that puts him into a coma.

O’Malley—an Internal Affairs guy and evidently the only other clean cop in L.A.—tells the world that Storm is dead and secrets him away in the L.A. Coma Center. And that’s when the real fun begins.

Steven Seagal Looks Like The Dude

The Dude abides.

We find Storm in a hospital bed, 7 years later, sporting a full-on Jesus beard and long, flowing locks. Storm is safe under the watchful eye of a sexy nurse, Andy, who offers him “a little pussy” (she means a kitten, silly! No seriously, she drops a kitten on his bed.) and who surreptitiously peeks under his sheets, widens her eyes in appreciation and says “You have so much to live for; please wake up!”

I know what you’re thinking, and no; Seagal did not write the script.

Like the Messiah himself, Storm rises from his 7-year deathbed ready to save humanity from itself. After regaining consciousness in the severely under-staffed L.A. Coma Center, Storm is brought up to speed with the local cable news station’s daily segment “So; You’ve Just Woken From a 7-Year Coma!” before a man arrives to tell him; “My name’s Danny. I’m a physical therapist. I’m going to give you a massage, take you down the hall, make you feel alright. OK?” Jesus Christ; someone get Mason Storm a number for an L.A. med mal/harassment attorney.

Getting Strong Now! Did Someone Say…Montage?

Inevitably, Andy and Storm have to go into hiding together. Conveniently, she is house-sitting for a millionaire who lives in the country, with a working dojo on premises, a white horse and a nearby mountain. I smell a Getting-Back-in-Shape-After-My-Coma-With-Heavy-Handed-Symbolism-Montage coming on!

In a matter of hours, Storm is back to full strength, with nary a sign of the muscle atrophy and bed sores that would be inherent with 7 years of bed rest, even if the hospital staff were using your body as a personal playground.

I don't care what Heather says. I can nail this baton routine in time for Friday's big game.

O’Malley and Storm reunite so that Storm can play with his gun and speak/whisper about “We’ll get ‘em, buddy. Every. Fucking. One. Of. Them” while blowing the homeowner’s landscaping to shreds. “Those potted plants and wagon wheel been lookin’ at me crooked.”

Steven Seagal Hard to Kill Shooting

Mason, I think it's time you start to let go of the past. For instance; stop wearing your dead wife's jeans.

While it’s nice that Storm’s friend would visit to supply him with a gun and one hand grenade(?!), it would have been nice had he brought him some men’s pants as well. I never knew until Hard to Kill that it was possible for men to have camel toe. Yowzah!

The piece de resistance arrives as Storm replays events in his head; various conversations, the faces from that fateful night 7 years ago and some news footage of the movie’s villain (Senator Vernon Trent). It is at this point that he finally connects the puzzle pieces; during his stakeout, the bad guy ringleader quipped, “You can take that to the bank,” a phrase so original and singular, that when Storm hears it 7 years later in a different context, he is able to put two and two together and identify Sen. Trent as the mastermind behind the mayhem.

Storm looks at a blank TV screen and utters; “I’m gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent; to the blood bank.”

The blood bank? THAT’S your big throw-down?

“I’m gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent; to the blood bank…Because I hear you’re O-positive and there’s a great need for your blood type at this time.”

“I’m gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent; to the blood bank…because I get a little woozy after I donate a pint and I could really use someone to drive me home afterward.”

About That Dead Wife…

Like most vengeance fantasies, the Dead Wife serves as little more than a motivating factor to lose the spare tire and get back in fighting shape. For someone whose true love was brutally killed in his arms, Storm is able to put his past behind him—and shag the nurse—in less than a week, all the while, throwing around one-liners like so much candy.

Now, I’ve never written an action adventure script, but I know a travesty of a one-liner—let’s call them flat liners—when it passes the lips of an actor who is taking the words way too seriously. This movie is neck deep in ‘em:

  • “I have one more take out order.” (Storm, while in Chinatown with his son, whom he is leaving after having just been reunited after 7 years.)
  • Now you’re a good cop.” (Storm, after killing a henchman/crooked cop)
  • “I missed – I never miss. They must be have been smaller than I thought.” (Storm, after firing a gun at Sen. Trent’s crotch.)
  • “You pea-brained Cub Scout!” (Sen. Trent to a cop as he’s getting the bracelets and being led away.)
  • “Tomorrow’s weather report: Killer Storm Strikes Back.” (A cop, at the clean-up scene at Sen. Trent’s mansion.)

Storm, ever the trooper, is no worse for the wear once he’s done exacting vigilante justice on the seemingly endless array of thugs who tore apart his family with bullets. Dead wife, schmead wife, all he can think about is some much needed R &R and that promised “kitten”: “How ‘bout a vacation?”

You keep it classy, Sensei Seagal.

Rental Rehab review by Tricia

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Filed under Awesome Action, Bad Movies, Contains Steven Seagal, Loose Cannon Cop, So Bad It's Good