Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Okay, kids, this is the one you’ve all been waiting for, and only Vern’s got the goods:
Hey boys, it's Vern again, sitting out the film festival for a few days or weeks because something much more important came up. Today I managed to get my hands on the video screener I wanted more than any other. You guessed it: Steven Seagal's new picture, OUT OF REACH.
So obviously, you know, FUCK the Seattle International Film Festival. As one of North America's leading Seagalogists, I will be watching this many more times as part of my research. But I thought it would be good to share some of my initial thoughts with you and your readers.
Seagal may be at a crossroads in his career right now. As you have no doubt read, he is planning to do a comedy, parodying himself with the help of one of those Zucker brothers. I shoulda known that Mountain Dew commercial was a harbinger of doom. I'm sure this comedy will be one of the least funny pictures of his career, but still, the fact that he is trying to make fun of himself is probaly some kind of a landmark. Once he has acknowledged the ridiculousness of his persona, will that mean he can no longer make serious movies anymore? Because I don't see Leslie Nielsen doing any movies where he doesn't dress up like characters from other movies and then that's supposed to be funny, I guess.
Well luckily Seagal has an assload of serious movies already in production that he's gonna dump on us before the comedy. This could be the last stretch of true Seagalogy and I intend to enjoy it. This new one OUT OF REACH, you might think from the title that it could be a return to form, going back to his roots. After all, it is his first three word title since, well, since HALF PAST DEAD two years ago, but that was his first 3-worder since FIRE DOWN BELOW in 1997. And unlike either of those pictures, this one has the word 'OUT' in the title, like one of his best pictures, OUT FOR JUSTICE. This is his first picture with 'OUT' in the title since 2003's OUT FOR A KILL. But that one's four words I believe.
Unfortunately, OUT OF REACH is one of the shittiest pictures Seagal has ever made. It's not as boring as THE FOREIGNER and maybe makes more sense than BELLY OF THE BEAST but the low quality of this one is pretty astounding. I mean say what you will about Seagal, but this is a guy who used to make real movies. ABOVE THE LAW, HARD TO KILL, OUT FOR JUSTICE... these were well made dumb guy b-movies. UNDER SIEGE, UNDER SIEGE 2, EXECUTIVE DECISION... these were big time slick studio movies with actual skill and entertainment value. How did he get to this point? I don't think it was just from crossing the mafia.
Seagal plays Billy Ray Lancing, an ex-"CSA" hermit living in a cabin in the woods, where "he spends most of his time by himself, wandering the forest, looking for injured animals." We first see him stomping around stuffed into a giant trenchcoat, nursing an injured bird to health. I am more appreciative of the fat-Elvis period Seagal is in right now than almost anybody on earth, but man he looks scary in this opening scene. I swear to to Christ's Jesus he looks like Bigfoot wearing a bad Dracula wig with a mullet in the back.
Well right away we go to a voiceover of a little orphan girl in Turkey or somewhere writing a letter to Seagal about how much his friendship has touched her life. You see, they are pen pals and he likes to send her secret code puzzles to figure out and tells her to be strong and to channel the strength of Napoleon.
(Wasn't he a short guy famous for losing? I guess not.)
Then we see Seagal driving around with an intense look on his face and we hear some of his letters that he sends back to his pen pal. This is the biggest shock in the movie because they are read in voiceover by SOMEONE WHO CLEARLY IS NOT STEVEN SEAGAL! There are alot of voices in this movie that sound dubbed like one of those Bruce Li movies from the '70s. There are several parts where Seagal's voice is looped apparently by another actor (there is a possibility they sped up and distorted his voice somehow and made it sound weird, but I'm betting on the other option).
What Seagal doesn't know is that Matt Schultze, who played the vampire "Chupa" in BLADE II, is about to kidnap all the orphan girls and use them for what a british dude later calls "human trafficking" and Seagal later calls "an online internet scam." But it doesn't matter that he doesn't know, because when he gets a letter from the orphanage saying that his pen pal can't write to him anymore, he takes a good look at himself in the mirror and then goes to Turkey to investigate (and apparently cuts his hair on the way there).
Seriously, that is the plot of the movie, it is about Steven Seagal's pen pal. They even have a part where a bad guy says to the main villain, "I hear you're looking for a man who writes letters." It should be called PEN PAL. I know that doesn't sound very tough, but at least it's accurate. They could use some kind of "his pen is mightier than his sword" bullshit as the tagline to balance it out. (Instead the tagline is "It's a split second between hit or miss." What the fuck does that mean? Nothing! They wrote that one with refrigerator magnets I bet.)
Before I get to the plot though I should mention that there is an awesome part where he goes to pick up the mail. It almost seems like this scene was intended for a different movie because the guy at the desk calls him "Delacroix" and he's sporting a big fur coat and a five o'clock shadow. This is a freaky ass look that he has not ever used before.
Anyway, Seagal goes to investigate the case of the missing pen pal. He talks to people using various aliases, pretending to work for "The Global Relief Fund" and then "The International Education Fund" and then he just goes to the police and somehow becomes partners with a female cop, without even telling her that he is a former agent of any kind. I guess she just figures if Bigfoot shows up wearing a bad Dracula wig, he should help you find a kidnapped girl that he used to be pen pals with.
The villain is really lame. He doesn't even fake an accent but he calls Seagal "the American" and his name is supposed to be Faisal. Now I admire Mr. Schultze for appearing in both BLADE pictures, but I gotta be frankly honest. Here he's the straight to video Russell Crowe. And I don't even like the real Russell Crowe. All this one does is have sinister talks with a British guy saying meaningless shit like "learn to love pain and it will set you free" while they fence in an all white castle. In one scene he takes out a lighter and sets a rose on fire, an embarassingly forced attempt at some kind of elegant John Woo type crap. Then every once in a while he implies some secret agent past shared with "old friend" Seagal, which never amounts to anything.
He has some incredibly sleazy scenes with the little girl. They play chess together and he talks in that voice that means that everything you say actually has some kind of sinister subtext. Then he drugs her orange juice. You can only assume this is to rape her, but they don't even imply it. They just move on to the next scene with no explanation.
The girl somehow assumes that Seagal is trying to save her, so she leaves secret codes around, like rearranging a plate of caviar into a secret code for "this is a trap." Seagal decodes it in a hilarious voiceover: "This... is... a tr-- whp? She's here." (For that one, he actually did his own voiceover.)
Seagal also has a little boy sidekick who usually seems like he's supposed to be mute, but then he talks every once in a while. Seagal just takes him with him and makes him his son. Hopefully the kid didn't have parents because they would probaly be mad at Seagal for that shit.
The script is moronic even by Seagal standards. Seagal doesn't know the girl is in trouble, but he goes to save her. The girl doesn't know Seagal is trying to save her, but she leaves him secret messages. The villain doesn't know Seagal is trying to save her, but he tries to track him - because he's the girl's pen pal! I have been trying not to use the word "retarded" so often (out of respect for retards) but these fuckers who write these movies make it real difficult. It's THEM that's politically incorrect, not me. I like retarded kids.
There is only a medium amount of action, all uninspired. The aikido is slow and unimpressive. Nobody does any fancy moves (recent Seagal pictures have had guys doing wire fu but then Seagal punches them when they get too close to him). Then there are some shootouts. The best part is when Seagal does a somersault. They show it in slo-mo with a music sting like he's doing a triple flip through a flaming hoop or something. Dude, I could do a somersault. It's not that big of a deal, in my opinion. AT LEAST do a cartwheel or something if you want my respect. Then the lady cop gets shot, and Seagal heats up some knives in the kitchen to do emergency surgery on her. That makes sense in a movie like DESPERADO where the guy that's shot is a killer on the loose, but this is a cop. Cops are allowed to get bullets taken out at the hospital. Leave it to the pros, hot shot.
On the positive side, they don't have any car chases or CGI effects, lazy action cheats they resort to in alot of the recent Seagal pictures. And the climactic fight with the villain is okay because it's a sword duel and he does that classic samurai movie of running past the guy, then standing dramatically with his back turned as the guy starts to bleed and falls over dead. I definitely think Seagal should continue on this samurai theme. After all, he is a legitimate expert on Japanese swords (according to Vanity Fair) and I mean, he's not THAT much fatter than Lone Wolf and Cub, one of the top characters in all of badass Cinema. Maybe he could pull it off, I don't know.
The directionist is Po-Chih Leong, who is sometimes considered a legitimate filmatist due to directing THE WISDOM OF CROCODILES with Judd Law and that lame made for cable slasher movie CABIN BY THE LAKE with Jude Nelson. But the quality of the production is completely shoddy. It doesn't seem like anyone was really trying in any aspect of this movie. The screener actually says on the cover, "Final version of film will be remastered." I'm not sure what the deal is with that but this print almost looks like a bootleg, or some shitty Mexican import from the '80s. And you can see boom mics all over the place. So as you can see Columbia Tri-Star is pulling out all the stops for this one.
I think alot of you will get some real big laughs from this one if it ever hits cable. I won't give away some of the ridiculous freeze frames and superimpositions. But to me it's almost more sad than funny. This kind of seems like one of those movies where the star died before it was finished and they had to piece it together from scraps. Maybe the Dracula wig is his way of saying that he is in the Bela Lugosi-Ed Wood stage of his career. Poor dude.
Still highly recommended though
My primary ambition in life is to make a film that is “highly recommended” by Vern one day. Mark my words...