Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dark Vengeance SPOILER FREE

We here at Dr.Action and the Kick Ass Kid headquarters, in conjunction with our parent site, were very happy to get a preview copy of, one of our favourite action men, Steven Seagal's latest film Dark Vengeance. Set to hit Redbox and VOD services today Thursday, February 27th.

If the truth be told, rather than being a feature film, this is actually 2 episodes of his TV Show, True Justice, edited together. It is a part 1 and part 2 of the same, on going, serial killer storyline though so it sort of works, despite there being no traditional character introductions or setting exposition that might  have helped for folks not familiar with the continuing adventures of Elijah Kane (Steven Seagal) and his band of bland CSI: Miami wannabes.

Imagine True Justice the series as a sort of CSI: Seattle but filtered through the fascinating brain of Steven Seagal and you can sort of imagine the look, feel and sound of Dark Vengeance. Sadly Seagal rarely whips his glasses off, stares just off camera and utters some punning bon mot on the discovery of a body. He does get some pretty terrific Seagal style, semi-philisophical one liners though, which are sure to please fans of the man.

The plot centres around a tough-to-catch serial killer that has been bumping off strippers in a way that seems to link the deaths to Chinese mythology. As the bodies stack up, Kane sends the two female members of his team under cover at a PG rated strip joint with the hope of setting a trap for this, slowly becoming, mass murderer. However all is not as it seems when Kane apparently captures and shoots the man responsible only for the killings to continue...
Along the way Seagal stops off to natter Asian healing techniques, herbs, mystical balms and mythology with his friend Chen, play some distorted blues guitar and occasionally shoot someone or beat someone up, even if it's not always entirely apparent why any of this is happening.

Also, along for the ride, is the cameoing George Takei as the not particularly helpful and stater of the obvious medical examiner in the police morgue.

When the action is happening Seagal proves he can still aikido his way out of a convenient plot contrivance or shoot his way into a pleasant diversion. His hands are seemingly as quick as ever and when it comes to staging a lean, mean shoot out, he's your man. The serial killer plot, too is pretty good, even if bodies are seemingly racking up on a daily basis with no useful clues to further an investigation, which becomes a little repetitive. The acting from the supporting cast is serviceable and rarely grating although you can't imagine they were given much to work with. The big man himself, Steven Seagal does that whispery thing he does with that ever evolving accent, including referring to his team as the POleese (police). It's fun to watch, if sometimes a little hard to hear exactly what words of wisdom he's attempting to depart. He has presence though, I'll give him that.

There are a lot of wild liberties taken with the law and police procedure, as you'd expect and seemingly there are no official repercussions for Kane's lax and violent approach to his job. This would all be fine if the story justified it in any way but then you're always welcome for some gun play or fisticuffs as, when they happen, sporadically, it reminds you why you were here in the first place. ACTION.

The main problem is two episodes of a TV show, while maybe having the same running time, do not have the same pacing, momentum or structure of a feature film. They essentially, or normally, would have a three act structure condensed to 45mins with a cliff hanger/twist ending. This means that Dark Vengeance has 6 acts, a twist and apparent wrap up in the middle of the film and then a lead up to the next episode/film at the end. Watched, however, with prior knowledge of the series and I imagine this is a lot clearer and maybe more enjoyable.

While I am not, personally, a fan of the flash cuts and close ups of the transitions that typically appear in police procedural shows in the US these days, the rest of the scenes are filmed ok and with, at least, a definite eye to some stylistic set dressing and lighting. The director, Keoni Waxman does his best work with Seagal, however, in 2012's Maximum Conviction.

So the plot's a bit all over the place, the final villain a bit laughably obvious and you'll have a tough time of it if you're not familiar with the TV Show but it has some amusing one liners and some sadly occasional but top-notch fighting and shooting. Probably only for hardcore Seagal fans but not one to miss if you are.

- The Kick Ass Kid