Street Wars, 2011.
Directed by Keoni Waxman.
Starring Steven Seagal, Kyle Cassie & Peter Graham-Gaudreau.
Elijah Kane (Steven Seagal), the head of a crack undercover police unit, leads his team in a race against time to bring to justice the cold blooded gang flooding the Seattle streets with a lethal drug.
Steven Seagal has ventured from movies into the world of TV with varying success. Of late, big Papa has looked a little weary in his film outings. When once he snapped many a neck with aplomb and gusto, he now doesn’t seem to have much heart for the job in hand. Obliterating evil doers just doesn’t seem to fill Steve-o with the sense of pride and fulfilment that it used to. Seagal’s first foray into TV, was the reasonably successful fly on the wall docu, Lawman. The show, kind of like Cops, with Steven Seagal, followed the ponytailed Adonis (well, if you believe Seagal himself!) around during his shifts as a genuine member of the Sherrif’s department. It was a little put on, a little stagey, but then again, most reality shows these days are. But on a side note, would you want to get arrested by Steven Seagal? Certainly, if Out For Justice was anything to go by, resisting arrest would be a bad idea. Following Lawman, Seagal opted to portray a fictional detective as well in True Justice.
True Justice is pretty much your middle of the road cop show. It aspires to be something better than what it is, but sadly, is just a pale imitation of far, far better shows. Not a patch on high end shows such as 24, this delivers little more than perfunctory entertainment. Much like Seagal’s movie career has descended into low-rent his TV career, at least fictional, has started that way. It’s hardly a step up. Despite Seagal’s creative input as show creator and writer, his performance in the central role, is lacking in much enthusiasm. Or perhaps anything noticeable, but then again… this is Steven Seagal we’re talking about. The man has three facial expressions, all of which register some degree of quiet, seething contempt.
Street Wars, a feature length episode from the first series, sees Seagal on the trail of drug dealers and rogue DEA agents in part one of this paint by numbers thriller. At 90 minutes, and half a story, Street Wars drags and meanders its way through a lot of muddled plotting. The storytelling is dire, with little cohesion to speak of, nor intelligence or logic. As a film of its own Street Wars doesn’t really work, nor does it actually go anywhere before its abrupt end, which for a Seagal action film, is sorely lacking in a finale. This is a problem sometimes in releasing feature length TV episodes as stand-alone features, if they require a previous or subsequent instalment to make sense. In this regard especially, fans of Seagal, picking this up expecting a complete film, may be disappointed. Though in actuality, fans should be more disappointed with the lack of action.
The cast are all cardboard cut outs. A veritable collection of clichéd personalities, be it on Seagal’s unit, or the bad guys. Indeed, we never get properly introduced to the bad guy in Street Wars (who I believe is known as “Bald guy in car”). And as it transpires, he may in fact be working for a big boss above him, who we only hear by voice towards the end. It’s all very ambiguous. In part intentional, as of course it’s only half way into the story (though the cover art and DVD menu don’t actually let you know this). However, having not watched the series, for all I know this could be the end of the story anyhow. Mostly though, this is a poorly written mess, where narrative structure plays no part.
Seagal himself seems only a little more engaged than usual. His character, Elijah Kane though, comes across as unlikeable and unrealistic. He’s just too damn good and everyone else a little bit shit. Kane knows everything and needs to inject no effort into anything he does, including speaking. If there’s a trap set for him, he knows well in advance. If a building is booby trapped, he knows and can dismantle it with consummate ease. Okay, this may well be standard Seagal character traits, as is his invincibility in combat, but it’s tiresome to have someone so infallible. Hell, Kane can even effortlessly pull stunning women over 30 years his junior. It’s almost caricature, and his sage, wise characteristics as leader of the group, always seem unrealistic or lazy. The Elijah Kane big book of wisdom and sage advice, is a book not worth reading, I can assure you. Largely down to his character reeking of a pure Seagal ego trip. It borders on moronic how lazy the characterisation of the shows lead is.
As a fan of Seagal’s earlier, meat and potatoes work, it frustrates me seeing him in such low rent fare. The action is sparse, poorly conceived and flatly edited. Occasional orgasmic bursts of avid farting are jarring and out of place, while the poor attempt at CSI style gloss, just doesn’t work on Walmart budget. This isn’t the Seagal of old who conceived such brilliant set pieces as the bar fight in Out For Justice, or a three on one escape in Marked For Death. There’s no rhythm nor imagination, nor gritty reality to the action, nor any visual punch due to very tight filming and frantic editing, making the action (and no doubt Seagal’s doubles) indiscernible. Sadly, I can’t recommend this, even to the undemanding of genre fans. For a better example in Seagal’s recent history, check Pistol Whipped. Otherwise stick to his golden period of Under Siege and before.
Movie Review Archive