Cartels (2016)- * *
Directed by: Keoni Waxman
Starring: Steven Seagal, Georges St. Pierre, Florin Piersic Jr., and Luke Goss
Joseph "El Tiburon" Salazar (Piersic Jr.) is a drug kingpin that was captured by a team of U.S. operatives, including Maj. Tom Jensen (Goss). Because Salazar agrees to give information about his massive drug operation, the soldiers are holding him overnight at a hotel in Romania before they can fly him back to America. However, as you might expect, a large army of Salazar's goons swarm the hotel, putting our few agents under extreme fire. Outnumbered and outgunned, they have to fight for their own lives, as well as to save Salazar's.
His second in command is Bruno Sinclaire (St. Pierre), and when the mission goes sideways, as John Harrison (Seagal) likes to put it, those latter two men end up in a fight to the finish. Of course, Harrison has to interrogate Jensen in order to get to the truth of what really happened in this operation. Will our heroes stop the CARTELS?
In 2017, when Cartels came out, our TV and movie screens had been bombarded with things like Breaking Bad, Narcos, and Sicario (2015). America was on a binge when it came to all things drug lord, kingpin, or peddler. So, naturally, the next move was to make a DTV movie with Seagal that involved some of the same subject matter. But, really, Cartels is more of a "siege on the hotel" movie that seems to have been influenced by Smokin' Aces (2006). Of course, Cartels doesn't have the wit or the manic energy of Smokin' Aces.
There is a lot of gun-shooting, and some simultaneous beat-ups AND gun-shooting, which probably took a lot of work to pull off. We appreciate that very much, but there's no emotion or character development in Cartels. So, yes, there's a lot of violence and such, but the audience has to CARE. That's the key. Unfortunately, that key is not here.
As for Seagal, he takes more of a backseat role to Luke Goss here. Goss gets in on most of the action, and Seagal is the interrogator. When you watch a Seagal movie, you're never sure which voice you're going to get. Having just watched The Keeper, we're pretty sure it's not the same vocal stylings. At the outset, Seagal is "in the field", then he gets a lot of sitting down time as he questions Goss, then at the end we have the big fight between St. Pierre and Seagal. The idea that the rather large Seagal could defeat the in-shape St. Pierre in a hand-to-hand match isn't terribly realistic, but we're not all watching Cartels for the realism, are we?
Goss and St. Pierre look somewhat alike, and we got to thinking that DTV filmmakers could do a movie with Luke Goss, Georges St. Pierre, Bruce Willis, Michael Chiklis, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, and Vinnie Jones. Maybe they could call it "The Bald Expendables". It would be like a game for viewers to try to tell them all apart. It might be fun.
In the end, Cartels is basically just a "movie on a screen", as we always say. The shootouts and UFC moments may please some fans, but it needed more of a core that audiences could care more about. As it stands, it's not bad - Seagal has done MUCH worse - but it's not fantastic either.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty