I like it when Steven Seagal movies have three word titles, but Force of Execution doesn't quite work for me because I prefer it when there's a silent "Steven Seagal is" that goes in front of the title, like a secret pre-title. To rub salt in the wound there's a pre-title card that boldly states "Steven Seagal in", so it's like the filmmakers know they should be living up to great Stevie titles like Steven Seagal is Out for Justice or Steven Seagal is Cockpuncher, but they just couldn't get it together. I think Stevie's meant to be Southern in this one. Sometimes. As always, it's a bit of a guessing game trying to work out where Stevie's character is meant to be from. Because he's occasionally Southern and has a goatee he kept reminding me of Colonel Sanders, so I think a better title would've been Not Colonel Sanders.
|Director: Keoni Waxman
Starring: Steven Seagal, Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo, Bren Foster, Jenny Gabrielle
Screenplay: Richard Beattie, Michael Black
Steven Seagal is Not Colonel Sanders has a fight scene within the first five minutes, and by current Stevie standards it's a pretty good skirmish. I think there was some doubling, but it was nothing too noticeable. My expectations had already been raised because Stevie brought along the badass combo of Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo for this ride, and the opening intro go me hoping for brilliance. Then within 10 minutes there was another fight, this time not involving Stevie, so I settled in for what was shaping up to be a Direct to Video Stevie classic. I shouldn't have got so excited.
In this one Stevie is not Colonel Sanders but rather some sort of organised crim, and he's got a protégé. Stevie sends his apprentice in to a gaol to take someone out, but Rhames tricks him into killing the wrong guy and Stevie's trainee gets the blame and consequences. At about this point I started to get worried that maybe Force of Execution wasn't a "Steven Seagal is" title because the story was going to be focused on this other dude, so it wasn't worthy of a "Steven Seagal is". Maybe a "Steven Seagal's Disciple is", but not "Steven Seagal is". My new name still works either way because Stevie's underling isn't Colonel Sanders either. Anyway, when Rhames gets released he uses the tension he created to get Stevie involved in a gang war.
Steven Seagal is Not Colonel Sanders offers up some novelty to Stevie's fans. Firstly Stevie's got that aforementioned goatee to help distract from a hairpiece that's about as natural as his accent. Stevie also seems to have been studying at The William Shatner Acting School because he's taken to inserting some really bizarre pauses in his lines. Fans will be pleased that there's some narration at the start of the movie and it's actually Stevie's voice! The fact that Stevie did narration just makes it even weirder than usual when he gets doubled vocally a bit later, but ours is not to reason why with the logic behind Stevie's dubbing choices. He does most of his own dialogue in this one, so dubbing isn't really a problem, but the filmmakers foolishly decided to pay homage to Steven Seagal is Submerged and change his voice mid sentence.
Despite Stevie's initial fight, he doesn't get involved in fisticuffs too often, and it's nearly 50 minutes in before he gives some more opponents what for. The movie isn't an aiki-no like some of Stevie's less action driven vehicles where he barely battles at all, but Stevie coulda done more fighting. His acolyte, played by Bren Foster, gets more asskicking in, including what I assume is a less violent tribute to The Raid's hallway fights, and Rhames gets to make his ginourmous presence felt, but this is more an ensemble piece than a Stevie aikido show reel. Trejo is the most menacing actor of the lot, but his character spends more time being wacky tough, so people hoping for a Bad Ass spin off won't get what they're looking for.
Part of the reason Stevie doesn't fight much is that he disappears for long stretches in this one, which makes the proceedings feel a bit sluggish at times. This is a shame because the movie opened so strongly. I dug Foster's brawling so wasn't initially too concerned when Stevie went MIA, but this isn't a Prodigal Son type thing where Yuen Biao is trained by Sammo Hung and Lam Ching-Ying but you don't mind when they're not on screen because Biao is awesome and clearly the lead. Foster's fine, but this feels like a Stevie movie where Stevie couldn't be assed to turn up so the focus shifted to this secondary character. Foster's character clearly got a story arc, but it seems like Stevie's character should've been present more often within that arc. At least the story, while convoluted in places, isn't a muddled mess like some other Stevie DTVs.
With this one Stevie continues to distance himself from the sheer incompetence his films were displaying a few years ago, but Steven Seagal is Not Colonel Sanders is still a far cry from his glory days.