Director: mink Starring: Steven Seagal, Matthew Davis, Takao Ohsawa, Eddie George, William Atherton Screenplay: Steven Seagal, Joe Halpin, Trevor Miller Country: USA
I'm not sure why this Steven Seagal movie is called Into the Sun, because Stevie isn't really in the sun much at all. In fact, here he's taken to hiding in the shadows, a trick he employs to hide his growing girth and his bizarre hair. I didn't think Stevie looked at his heftiest in this one, but his hair is something else, as he appears to be going for some sort of Dracula ponytail. The title's probably really something to do with the movie's location, The Land of the Rising Sun, but that won't stop me from using it to talk about Stevie's ridiculous hair.
The movie starts with Tokyo's governor being assassinated, a guy who seems like he'd get along with Tony Abbott since they both hate immigrants. Yakuza are suspected to be behind the hit, so Stevie gets sent in. It's not the normal Yakuza that Stevie's facing off against, this is a new breed that are getting affiliated with Tongs, creating a Japanese and Chinese super gang that will probably be called Tokuza or something. Stevie starts making waves, but they're not big waves at first, and they're not rolling quickly. It takes a good long while for the ripples to be felt, but eventually this Stevie movie does have some action.
Into the Sun may not be action packed, but it's not dreary like some of Stevie's movies from this era, and the sword play filled finalé helps the film end on a good impression. For the first hour there's not a lot of hoo-ha, aside from a quick but nifty fight with some thugs, but at least there eventually was some action and it wasn't just gunfights, and Stevie even gets to redefine the term chop socky. If a Stevie movie isn't full of action, the next thing I look for is humour, and even though Stevie has co-written this script Into the Sun's not the unintentional comedy classic one might expect. There's a jumbled beginning and some very lax Japanese police procedures, but for the most part the script isn't too laughable. There is a romantic subplot that comes from out of nowhere and plays about as well as the one in Attack of the Clones, but I don't know that Stevie put that in because he really doesn't seem to be into it. He and his lady friend have as much charisma as Will Smith and Anthony Michael Hall, and the pair are so unanimated in their sex scene that it seems like it could've been a double audition to play the corpse in Nekromantik. The love interest is all a bit weird, but it's not really funny, except for the wistful coda it receives.
One completely unfunny thing is that a good portion of Into the Sun is in Japanese, and while I'd usually reserve that sort of comment for the audio portion of the review, it is problematic enough that I want to mention it here. The problem isn't that there's so much Japanese spoken, it's that despite having two different sets of English subtitles, no one thought to do a track where only the Japanese and Chinese dialogue is translated. I had to keep turning the subs on and off, which was annoying, but I eventually gave up because it often happens in the movie that someone will pose a question in one language and it will be answered in another, so it's not even like I could turn the subs off for entire scenes. This subtitle problem has hit this film for a few different releases, so it's something to research before purchasing any particular release of this movie.
Frustration with subtitles notwithstanding, I didn't mind Into the Sun. It's certainly a stand out of Stevie's direct to video releases, but I'd say it's not as good as the best of those like Pistol Whipped or Renegade Justice, and it isn't as crazy as some of the others like Out of Reach and Belly of the Beast. Fans of Stevie's more serious and well made films will probably dig it more than I did, since I gravitate towards his wacky work, but there's no denying that he brings the pain at the end in a flurry of sword slices, and even I have to acknowledge that that's pretty cool.
Into the Sun looks better than most Stevie movies of this era. It's clean and vibrant and nice to look at whenever Stevie hasn't taken refuge from the camera in a darkened area. There are some spots and a bit of edge enhancement, but this is overall a good transfer. Audio is available in English, French, Spanish and Polish 5.1 mixes. The first three seemed similar in quality when I sampled between them, but the Polish track is just dubbed on top of the English track. Unlike the video, I found the audio a bit problematic, because Stevie, or Mr Mumble as I will now call him, is very difficult to hear on this one. I had to crank the sound to make out what he was saying, when he was speaking English, that is, and the thing that eventually made me decide to leave the subtitles on for the whole movie was because I couldn't hear Stevie anyway. Other than Mr Mumble the track isn't too bad, but it doesn't have a lot to offer until the climax. There're some choppers and gunfire in the first scene, but then it's a long time before the sound picks up again with the gunfire and sword slashing featured at the end. One last maddening thing about the subtitles was that a few lines were left untranslated.
I liked Into the Sun, but it lacks the so-bad-it's-good charm of a lot of Stevie's less competent films, and it's not quite good enough to compete with his genuine classics. While the movie's okay, the DVD is absolutely worthless thanks to the half-assed subtitling job, so this is another case where fans will need to look for a better quality import before buying the movie.
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