Saturday, January 9, 2010

One of Seagal's best in years is still weak

Urban Justice (aka "Renegade Justice") (2007)

Starring: Steven Seagal, Eddie Griffin, Carmen Serano, and Kirk B.R. Woller
Director: Don E. FauntLeroy
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A violent man with a mysterious past, Simon Ballester (Seagal), moves into the worst area of Los Angeles' gang dominated neighborhoods so he can locate and kill the gangbangers who gunned down his police officer son. As he investigates (kicking copious ass as he goes), he discovers the truth about his son's death was far more than just another random gang shooting.

"Urban Justice" is one of the Steven Seagal's better movies in recent years. He's playing a character whose background and style is suitable to his age and bulk; he's working with a director, fight choreographer, and cinematographer who understand how to set up a scene so it looks like Seagal is actually doing some martial arts-so we avoid the embarrasingly obvious stunt doubles who have made him seem to laughable in recent years; and the script gives him some fairly decent lines to deliver... the way Simon Ballester so calmly and good-humoredly discusses death and violence is both funny and chilling.

However, Seagal's lines and the way fight scenes are filmed are just about the only decent thing about the flickhow to shoot a scene. Everything else is Standard Issue Direct-to-DVD Low-Budget Action Film Cliches, with the villains being of a kind we've so many times before they are uninteresting even after the scope of their evil ways has been revealed. The film also suffers from a problem all-too-common in one written by writers who are lazy or of limited talent--every character sounds like every other character, a grave sin in film-writing where characters are defined to a degree by what they say and how they say it. To make matters worse, the writers here also seemed to be shooting for some sort of record for how many times the word "fuck" was used in a single screenplay. I've no doubt that many people are so inarticulate that they say things like "I'm gonna fuck that fuckin' fuck the fuck up!", but to have an entire city full of them gets tiresome. And it dragged the movie down from a rating of 4 to a rating of 5.

If a little more effort had been put into developing the script's story and giving the actors better lines to say, this film could have risen to the level of the projects Seagal did in his glory days--the director and photgrapher certainly did great jobs, and Segal was better here than he's been in a while.

Maybe, just maybe, he's done embarrassing himself, and we can start enjoying his movies again

1 comment:

  1. This is one of his better efforts of late. When Seagal started talking like a gangsta from the streets, you can't help but laugh.