"Don't be a bad guy. Be a nice guy."
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 06/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nowadays, in looking back at Steven Seagal in his earlier films, when he was at his remorseless aikido-smiting best, I tend to shake my head and mutter half-hearted curses at the waste of the guy (and now the waist of the guy). Seagal really should have had more crunching big screen action flicks under his belt. His first five films (Above the Law/Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, OUT FOR JUSTICE, Under Siege) were grab-you-by-the-sack thrillers. But then I guess his stiff non-acting, the habitual sameness of his roles, and his indulging in groan-inducing environmental movies finally caught up with him, and so his film career went crapcakes. Still, I remember how entertaining his early years in Hollywood were - how, in movies like 1991's OUT FOR JUSTICE, Steven Seagal showed real promise as an action star.
Keep in mind that, when popping in a Seagal opus, elements such as professional acting and multi-layered plotting are kind of discreetly swept under the rug. Seagal never was, is, or ever will be a good actor (but he makes up for it by being a good eater). We tune in to his stuff to check out the down and dirty fight scenes, to see just how brutal the guy can administer his smackdowns. Except that that was back then, when Seagal looked much more impressive, years younger, shed of a boatload of pounds, and not yet inclined to substitute his action-unfriendly elephant girth for stunt body doubles.
In OUT FOR JUSTICE Seagal plays Italian-American Detective Gino Felino of NYPD Narcotics. Gino is one of those loose cannon cats who in real life would probably be a head ache and a half to their supervisors. Of course, in this one, when Gino finds out that his partner and best pal had just been gunned down in broad daylight, he offhandedly asks his chief for an unmarked car and a shotgun - and promptly gets it. So off Gino goes on a vendetta-soaked seek and destroy hunt for crazed killer Richie Madano ("Anybody seen Richie?"). And that's pretty much the movie. There's some piddling asides thrown in, such as the local mob lord getting antsy because the crazed killer is being associated with his wise guys and, also, Gino adopts a puppy he liberates from a tied-up bag (although he then ends up leaving the dog in the car for much of the movie). In an attempt to add some color and background to his character, Seagal has Gino occasionally waxing nostalgic about his neighborhood but, sucks to say, these moments merely serve to slow the film down to an agonizing crawl.
No, there's not much in the way of redeeming values in OUT FOR JUSTICE. The acting is B-movie worthy, even if there's a smattering of recognizable names (Jerry Orbach, Gina Gershon and a pre-ER Julianna Margulies). As mentioned, the plot is shallow. A caution to the gentler souls, that eff-bombs are dropped with reckless abandon. And, if you're an Italian-American, Seagal's performance sets you guys further back than The West Side Story, in terms of stereotype. As expected, the film's rewards lie in its action sequences. There are four action set pieces - five, if you count an early pimp thrashing. Steven Seagal does his patented scowl, clenched jaw and steely glare schtick as he takes out assorted thugs and hoods in, let's see, a butcher shop, a pool hall, in his soon-to-be divorced wife's apartment, and in the murderous wackjob Richie Madano's temporary hideout. The better beatdowns take place in the butcher shop and, especially, in the pool hall (think Eddie Murphy in that bar scene in 48 HOURS, only more intimidating), and this is because Seagal makes full use of his aikido skills. Let's face it, there's just more satisfaction drawn from applying a hands-on approach when pummeling a goon. But, after those first two venues, Seagal opts to go more with his firearms, which isn't as electrifying.
In the So Shameful It's Fun Department, check out OUT FOR JUSTICE also for Seagal's spouting dialogue in Italian, for Seagal again running in that sissy style of his, and for Gino's dubious wardrobe (a beret? Dude, really?). Ending on a good note now, it's cool to hear one of my favorite Beastie Boys cuts ever "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." And, for some reason, Seagal's advice to one assailant in the butcher shop made me laugh: "Don't be a bad guy. Be a nice guy." See, occasionally, Seagal's movies do dispense words of wisdom. Steven Seagal and Aesop, it's like they're twins.
I know I've kind of bagged on this film, but I actually like it a lot. Let's say, to the tune of 3.5 out of 5 stars. This was when Steven Seagal actually looked believable as a smiter of men, and in OUT FOR JUSTICE, I really liked his cocky Brooklyn attitude (complete with the cheesy Brooklyn accent) and he even has some solid one-liners. But, unfortunately, there are reasons why he's been consigned to straight-to-video hell."