A Good Man (2014)

A Good Man (2014)- * * *

Directed by: Keoni Waxman

Starring: Steven Seagal, Iuila Verdas, Victor Webster, Sofia Nicolaescu, and Tzi Ma

A man known only as Alexander (Seagal) is a former Special Ops soldier. After a mission doesn’t go as planned, Alexander goes “off the grid” - WAY off the grid as a handyman in a Romanian apartment building. After living life under the radar for a while, he becomes mixed up in a mob war between Russian and Chinese gangsters. 

After becoming friendly with his next-door neighbor Lena (Verdes), he becomes especially mad when her daughter Mya (Nicolaescu) is kidnapped by the super-evil baddie Mr. Chen (Ma). Alexander then teams up with a fighter named Sasha (Webster) and, after years of living a violence-free life underground, goes into full battle mode to save Mya and perhaps redeem his soul. But will it be at the cost of losing his status as A GOOD MAN? Let us see...

We finally have some good news to report on the Seagal front. We actually liked A Good Man, and we believe it’s his best effort since Urban Justice (2007). The vibe is quite different from the latter movie of seven years previous, as we’re now deep into Seagal’s Eastern European DTV phase, and he’s a long way from beating up homies in the hood. 

One of the main reasons we can be so positive towards the movie is that Seagal is not a sadistic torturer this time out; while calling him “likable” is just a teensy bit of a bridge too far, this is the closest he’s come in years, and we give him props for that. His character is well-suited for the project, a sort of wise and weary veteran who has seen it all, but who can still fight when need be. It doesn’t call for him to be vicious, belligerent and brutal, which made for a refreshing change.

While the voice doubles and stand-ins are still here, they seem less egregious because we were reasonably entertained by the movie as a whole. Plus, they’re now an indelible part of the Seagal experience, so you might as well sit back and enjoy them. Additionally in the win column, he’s surrounded by some quality on-screen talent: Victor Webster has some nice fighting moves and a good screen presence. He was last seen (by us at least) in the silly Gangland (2001), and makes a nice foil for Seagal, just as Byron Mann did in Absolution (2015). 

Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also co-written and directed by Keoni Waxman, who seems to have hit upon a good formula for the Seagal vehicle. Tzi Ma is also noteworthy as the philosophical baddie.

As we’ve noted time and again, oftentimes the little kid in the action movie steals the show, and the girl who plays Mya was one of the better attributes here. You can see why  Alexander wants to save her - she’s not annoying like a lot of onscreen kids. 

The movie also tries to be topical, with Islamic terrorists and drone strikes at the outset of the proceedings detailing the former life of Alexander. Whether it’s normal or not to have a 62-year-old man in the field with all the young bucks, we don’t know. We’ll have to consult our team of military experts. The fight scenes have some cool moments and the whole outing is not quite as stupid and brain-numbing as you might think it would be.

We’re truly hoping Seagal and his behind the scenes bros (he calls a lot of people “bro” in the movie, by the by) go more in this direction in the future. We hope now, after a lot of unnecessary dumbness in years past, he’s finally found his niche.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Born To Raise Hell (2010)

Born To Raise Hell (2010)- * *

Directed by: Lauro Chartrand

Starring: Steven Seagal, Darren Shahlavi, and Dan Badarau

Our old buddy Seagal plays Robert “Bobby” Samuels, an agent for the “IDTF”, or International Drug Task Force, in Romania. When a psycho named Costel (Shahlavi) begins going around raping and killing people, not only does this upset Bobby, but it also tees off a criminal overlord named Dimitri (Badarau) whose toes Costel is stepping on. Despite initially being rivals because they’re on opposite sides of the law, Bobby and Dimitri enter into an uneasy alliance so they can both achieve their aim: stop Costel. Will they accomplish  their goal, or will they succumb to the depression of Eastern Europe? Dare you find out...?

In 1994, Motorhead, Ugly Kid Joe, and Ice-T all teamed up for the song “Born To Raise Hell”, which featured on the soundtrack to the movie Airheads, released that same year. Presumably they weren’t singing about Steven Seagal, but there are plenty of airheads in this run-of-the-mill latter-day Seagal DTV yawner. Perhaps Seagal himself is still bitter he wasn’t invited to perform on the track, as he is a musician, don’t’cha know. He’s really got the blues. One minute he wants to be an Asian Martial Artist, the next minute a Black bluesman, the next minute a Southern “Lawman”. Anyone but himself. 

Our working psychological theory for now is that 
Seagal is constantly running from his true self, which is why he constantly uses voice and body doubles as well. What he’s running from, we don’t know.  But he should run more often (we’ll try to keep the fat jokes to a minimum, but no promises).

As for the movie itself, it has that bleak Romanian DTV vibe regular viewers will recognize by now. To its credit, it doesn’t hide the fact that it was shot in the land of Vlad the Impaler and pretend it’s New York or something, but Seagal more closely resembles Count Chocula than anyone else more fearsome. Maybe his next movie will be a ghost story where he takes on the title role of Boo Berry. 

Born to Raise Hell just presents us with more depressing, soulless brutality served up as undemanding entertainment for less discerning viewers. Sure, it’s all tempered by the fact that we can now gauge the BMI of Seagal’s stuntman and Seagal himself is always shot with these bizarre shadows on his face, but none of this muck is really floating our boat as viewers. Seagal (or whoever is doing his ADR) is a bit more animated and less whispery this time around, but you’ll still need the subtitles on the DVD if you want any hope of knowing what people are saying.

It’s loaded with those quick-cut editing effects that are inexplicably used by moviemakers of the modern DTV era. Unless it’s all a conspiracy by LensCrafters and Pearle Vision Centers working behind the scenes with them so we all need glasses after watching a few DTV’s, there’s no reason for them to exist. They’re not cool, they’re just annoying. 

The same could be said for the dumb dialogue said in this movie, and what Seagal says is not tough-sounding, and doesn’t add to his image. It just makes him look like a cross between Eddie Munster and a walrus in an oversized leather coat. He ends most sentences with the words “boy” or “man”. Evidently he is judging how mature you look, which is just creepy.  After the second half of the movie, it just spins its wheels, nothing noteworthy happens and you’re mentally checked out and thinking about what you’re going to be eating for dinner that night. Not unlike...well, you get it.

While we appreciated the presence of fan favorite Shahlavi as the baddie, and perhaps the quick-and-silly fight/action scenes, we just thought it was typical crude oil from the Seagal spigot. Seagal fans may defend this one, as they are wont to do, but we just weren’t feeling it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddies, Cool Target and DTVC


Alien Warrior (1986)

Alien Warrior (1986)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Edward Hunt

Starring: Brett Baxter Clark, Reggie De Morton, and Pamela Saunders

Buddy (Clark) is an alien from another world. Imagine a cross between Tony Robbins, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, James Brolin, Jesus, and Superman. Buddy is sent by his father to earth to find and eliminate “great evil”. After looking around and asking people if they know where he can find great evil, he finds his niche in a skid row “reading room” where he puts his psychology skills to work. While simultaneously wooing the lovely Lora (Saunders), he also runs afoul of the personification of great evil - a pimp named Mr. One (De Morton). So while Buddy is transforming the mean streets of L.A. by turning gangbangers into devoted bookworms, Mr. One is trying to undo his handiwork - and he has a lot of cops and politicians right where he wants them. Naturally this leads to the ultimate showdown - will this ALIEN WARRIOR be the KING OF THE STREETS? (hey, I had to at least try to use both of the film’s titles).

Alien Warrior (we prefer the alternate title of King of the Streets, as it’s more in keeping with the tone of our site) is an 80’s gem that is well worth seeking out. Its sheer ridiculousness never fails to totally entertain. While it might not be quite at the level of a Miami Connection (1987), Samurai Cop (1991), Geteven (1993), or Deadly Prey (1987), it’s damn close. Think of it as a second-round draft pick if they were forming teams of absurd, silly movies that you just have to love.

The movie seems to be the end result of someone musing, “Man, I love that Paul Kersey character from Death Wish. You know the one thing that would make Paul Kersey better? If he was an ALIEN.” And that’s the good news - don’t be scared off by any supposed “sci-fi” overtones, as there is minimal sci-fi.  What you do get are not one but two wacky alleyway fights, a bunch of blow-ups, shooting, racism, and adult sleaziness blithely mixed with childlike good-natured comedy.  There are plenty of genuine laugh out loud moments, but we’re not sure if they were intentional. But it doesn’t matter. Alien Warrior is 80’s video store fun at its best.

Brett Baxter Clark seemingly gives his all to the role, and perhaps delivers the performance of his career - though to be fair we haven’t seen every movie of his, of course, but this towers over his roles in Delta Force Commando (1988) and even Shootfighter II (1995). It seems Clark really was on board with this bizarre mix of pop psychology, community improvement, and senseless violence. Let’s not forget that he transports himself to earth using the power of his naked chest, and when he uses his healing powers to help a girl dying in the hospital, he implores her to “feel my beard”. We don’t think it’s a spoiler to indicate that she makes a full recovery.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the nonsensical pleasures Alien Warrior will provide for you if you give it a chance. We’d list more to entice you, but we don’t want to spoil it for you.

In the end, Alien Warrior will appeal most to 80’s fans (there are arcades, breakdancing, and synths on the soundtrack), and people with a taste for the silly and absurd. As of this writing there is no DVD or Blu-Ray release, but there really should be. See it if you can.  

Comeuppance Review by: Brett 


Act Of Valor (2012)

Act Of Valor (2012)- * * *

Directed by: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh

Starring: Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, and Nestor Serrano

When CIA agent Lisa Morales (Sanchez) is kidnapped, the finest in our military service, the Navy SEALS, snap into action. During the course of their rescue mission, they realize a massive terrorist plot is afoot. They have to catch a baddie named Christo (Veadov) and find out what he knows before it’s too late. This will require everything from underwater demolition, to jumping out of airplanes and helicopters, firefights, evasive driving, room clearance, and many other tools of the SEAL trade that, frankly, we’re too ignorant to understand. Will our brave warriors foil the terror plot? Find out today...

As you may already know, Act of Valor is unique in that it has real Navy SEALS, not actors, in the main roles. They mix it up with some professional actors as the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. We thought that was a pretty novel approach, and it has no precedent that we’re aware of. Interestingly, it seems this project started life as a training video, and somehow rolled into becoming a feature-length, narrative film that played in theaters. That might explain the presence of the two directors, as it seems fairly obvious which are the “training video” scenes (glorious shots of aircraft carriers, planes, and men diving out of them) and which are the “added to become a movie” scenes (everything else). Please don’t take that as a negative, however - as stated earlier, we appreciated the melding of the seemingly disparate elements to forge a (relatively) cohesive whole.

Perhaps because of its training video origins, it all looks highly professional and glossy (check out the Blu-Ray for best results), and it has some old-school action standbys that we all love and enjoy - the shooting, blow ups, guard towers, and even some Prerequisite Torture. It’s a fairly simple “heroes and villains” plot, and thankfully there are no kids mucking it all up. Because the plot is so basic, it probably would have helped the movie if it was streamlined down to about 90 minutes or so from its almost two-hour running time. 

Perhaps one of the best things about Act of Valor is the camaraderie between the SEALs. And sure, their acting is a little wooden - but they’re NOT ACTORS. Cut them a break. Besides, you can’t make fun of them, because they’re busy saving our lazy, review-writing butts from the real-life bad guys. Because this was such a surprise hit in 2012, it definitely paved the way for other hugely successful, audience-pleasing films such as Lone Survivor (2013) and American Sniper (2014). Everyone should see all three. Someone in Hollywood probably thought “if this is working so well with non-actors, what would happen if we brought in the pro’s?” The results speak for themselves. The American people have a hunger to see what’s going on in the military, and these three films provide that in a current context, which is important for us to see. 

The whole experience is pretty unusual, and the fact that one of the main baddies is named Christo we took to understand that the filmmakers were saying that pretentious art like wrapping Central Park in cellophane or wrapping tropical islands in cellophane, or, heck, wrapping anything in cellophane is an act of terrorism in and of itself. In the end, though, watching Act Of Valor may leave you with one question: "is joining the Navy SEALs right for me?" For our part we decided we would skip the grueling training and dangerous missions and do the next best thing: support movies like this. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty