Director: Jeff King Starring: Steven Seagal, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Mike Dopud Screenplay: Mark James Country: USA
I've been mocking Steven Seagal's weight in previous reviews, but I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about that. I don't mind Stevie collecting kilos, and I don't have anything against massive martial artists. In fact, my favourite martial arts star is Sammo Hung. Comparing the two really highlights most of my issues with Stevie. Firstly, while I'm sure Stevie could Aikido my ass in a few seconds, his fight scenes aren't the most visually compelling, whereas Sammo is a diverse performer and choreographer who is responsible for some of the greatest fights in movie history. Secondly, Sammo may have an ego, but he isn't so hung up on himself that he won't ever let a cinematic opponent hit him. I've just watched three Stevie movies this week, and only saw one guy land a few punches; the rest of the fights were entirely one sided. Sure watching a few scenes of Stevie dominating an adversary can be entertaining, but it wouldn't hurt to get an idea that there might be a slight chance the bad guy's going to win at the end. It may always be clear Sammo will ultimately prevail, but at least there's some sort of tension to his fights. Thirdly, Lucky Star series and "We Love You, Girls" from Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon aside, when Sammo attempts to be funny he is, and when he attempts to be serious, he is. Most importantly, and specifically regarding being overweight, Sammo makes no contentions about his size. Characters constantly ridicule him about his weight in his films,and I think Sammo's talents are even more amazing given his girth. Sammo revels in his "flaw" and uses it to make himself unique in the action film genre. Sammo's gut is out and proud, Stevie tries to hide his in an attempt to fool viewers he's still fit. If Stevie did become self aware and less egotistical I may have less problems with him as a person, but his comedy career might well be over. Stevie's a man I love to hate, and Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill was a movie that filled me with love. Stevie and his bulky coat are back!
The film's intro feels like an episode of a TV show, but it does get more cinematic as it goes along. Stevie is a former Russian mobster who is dating someone that could be his daughter. To show how tough Stevie is, he acts rude to some guys then beats them up for calling him on it. Anyway, Stevie's daughter (who to be fair does look slightly younger than his girlfriend) is getting married to the son of a different gangster. When Stevie's ex-wife is murdered and his daughter is violently assaulted, Stevie becomes driven to kill those responsible. His daughter's fiancé tags along creating a weird buddy flick vibe.
Stevie looks healthier here than he did in Steven Seagal is The Keeper or Steven Seagal is Born to Raise Hell, but he still looks like he borrowed a toupee from The Count on Sesame Street. He might be one of the better actors involved in Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill, but his Russian accent is less convincing and consistent that Arnold Schwarzenegger's was in Red Heat, which is really saying something given Arnold's first language isn't English. Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill also offers up more of the pompous morality we've come to love and laugh at from Stevie.
But…I must give credit where it's due, and Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill has some genuinely awesome moments, harkening back to Stevie's glory days. Stevie is only obviously doubled when leg work is involved in the fights, and there are some great fight moments in this movie. To borrow a phrase from the only non-Digital Retribution critic worth listening to, Joe Bob Briggs, Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill has some spectacular shotgun fu. It's also got some meaner and more violent kills from Stevie, which gives the film a bit of gritty edge. Plus, Stevie lets one of the villains hit him a couple times before dispatching him in a Fulci-esque moment of gun violence.
Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill isn't up there with Steven Seagal is Out for Justice or Steven Seagal is Hard to Kill, but this is a fun, unintentionally hilarious, action cheapie that should delight Stevie's fans whether they see him as kick ass or fat ass.
Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill isn't quite grindhoused, but it seems to be aiming for the look of a 70s exploitation movie. As such it has significant grain and black crush. I can't really fault the transfer for that, but the movie also exhibits a judder that's very jarring and I'm sure not related to the source element. Most of the judders happen in the first half of the movie, but there are quite a few of these moments (usually no more than a second each) and they're very distracting.
5.1 DTS HD Master Audio or 2.0 LPCM tracks are available. Stevie is doing an accent, when he remembers to, so he mumbles more than usual, making him even harder to understand. The film has some poor ADR, and Russian dialog is only occasionally subtitled. The audio tracks are mostly okay, with the 5.1 naturally adding a bit more depth and oomph, but neither track is that noteworthy. The movie needed more bass, particularly during the shotgun fu.
The only available extra is a trailer.
The Blu-ray isn't too fancy, but I doubt there'll be an upgrade any time soon. The movie may never look that good anyway since it’s intentionally a bit seedy, so the only correction that might happen down the line is a smoother transfer to eliminate the judders and an addition of some dynamic to the 5.1 track. While that would be nice, I ain’t holding my breath. Somewhat dodgy transfer aside, Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill is a solid effort from Stevie.
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Originally born unto this world as Terror Australis.net back in March 2002, Digital Retribution is a proudly Australian website devoted to all things horror, cult, and exploitation that strives to promote Australian films and filmmakers while sharing its questionable taste in ultra-violent smut-laden local and international offerings with the rest of the world.