Okay, I have to admit that Steven Seagal: Lawman is my new favorite TV show and in honor of the man I will be reviewing a couple of his flicks that I never got around to seeing. I’ve always enjoyed Seagal’s theatrical releases (my favorite is Hard to Kill) but I never could bring myself to watch his Direct to DVD fare with any kind of consistency. I am no Seagal expert (that would be Vern who wrote the excellent Seagalogy; a book that every human being on the planet should own) but I know what I like, and I sorta liked Into the Sun.
A Japanese governor gets assassinated by the Yakuza and the CIA is called in to investigate. They put Seagal on the job, even though he blew a big time sting operation by giving away his position in order to save a chick from getting raped. He is paired with an idiotic partner (Bloodrayne’s Matthew Davis) and together they learn about a plot that would unite the Japanese Yakuza with the Chinese Tong. When the bad guys kill his partner AND his fiancé, Seagal grabs his samurai sword and proceeds to slice them up like sushi.
Steven Seagal co-wrote and executive produced this flick. Because of that, Seagal actually seems to gives a shit and puts forth some effort in the acting department (although the scenes of him playing kissy-face with his fiancé are cringe-inducing). I’ve seen him look worse physically but he’s still fat enough that he has to wear a wardrobe consisting of nothing but slimming black trenchcoats. (Sometimes he’s even kept in the shadows a la Brando in Apocalypse Now.) He kicks enough ass in this movie to make his girth almost a non-issue. Seagal throws people out the window, cuts off a guy’s arm, sticks chopsticks into someone’s throat, and slashes a bunch of dudes up with a samurai sword. He also sings over the end credits, which makes him a quadruple threat.
Into the Sun is slightly more polished than most of Seagal’s Direct to DVD ilk. It was directed by a guy called “mink”, who like Seagal TRIES to make a good movie. (People get all up in arms about director McG being called “McG”; but mink is an equally bizarre moniker if you ask me.) While the action scenes may have lacked the intensity of Seagal’s best stuff they were respectable enough. I think my favorite scene was when some Yakuza punks interrupt his lunch and Seagal fucks them up but good. This scene has the feeling of his early work mostly because the editing is there to reinforce Seagal’s movements not disguise them. I particularly enjoyed the part where he bashed the guy’s head into a soda machine and Coke cans start coming out like coins from a slot machine. The sword fights are decent too. I’m not talking Kill Bill or Shogun Assassin quality mind you; but they were a lot better than what I was expecting. mink also uses a lot of camera movement and puts in weird little touches (there’s a big zoom in on Seagal’s finger when he points) that make Into the Sun stand out from the rest of the pack.
The action is surprisingly good but there is an inordinate amount of filler that gets in the way of the fun. The plot is thin and features way too much rigmarole involving the Yakuza taking meetings with each other and then killing inconsequential stooges. We also get too many scenes of Seagal sitting across the desk from someone while he tracks down various leads.
You also have to put up with Seagal’s dumbass partner. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Matthew Davis is the one of the most gratuitously unfunny comic relief sidekicks I’ve seen in a long time. He does everything from accidentally shooting his gun while putting it in the holster to saying stupid shit like, “What’s up dog?” It’s almost as if the role was written for a rapper or something.
Now a lot of reviews I’ve read for Into the Sun made a lot of the fact that Seagal speaks a bunch of Japanese in this movie. I don’t see where that’s such a big deal because there are more scenes of him speaking English while someone else speaks Japanese (especially the scenes with his fiancé) than vice versa. Since we don’t watch a Seagal movie for his linguistic skills, I’ll give him a Mulligan on that one.
There are plenty of middle of the road Direct to DVD Seagal flicks you could waste your time on. Into the Sun is a little bit further up the road than usual. Because of that, you should probably check it out.