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URBAN JUSTICE (2007) ** ½

A cop gets killed in the ghetto.  He just happened to be Steven Seagal’s son, so naturally he goes to the hood looking for vengeance.  There he runs into some dirty cops, gangbangers with itchy trigger fingers, and a drug kingpin who’s obsessed with Scarface (Eddie Griffin).  Will Seagal get his revenge?  Did Charles Bronson have a Death Wish?

 

After too many piss-poor actioners, Urban Justice was a nice change of pace for Seagal.  It eschews the clunky narratives of his recent flicks in favor of a straightforward revenge plot and for the most part; it works.  There are no quirky asides or funny business either; just Seagal kicking ass.  It’s not quite up to some of Seagal’s theatrical releases, but as his Direct to DVD films go, it’s definitely one of his best.

 

This has also got to be one of Seagal’s best performances in a long time too as he actually seems invested in his character this time out.  And by giving his stunt double a rest and doing most of his own fighting, he also regains some credibility in the action department.  The supporting performances are also quite good.  Danny Trejo returns to the Seagal fold as a Spanish gang leader and Eddie Griffin gives a surprisingly engaging performance as the villain.

 

And all things considered, the action sequences aren’t bad either.  There is a solid car chase and the shootout finale produces lots of dead bodies.  Don L. (Anaconda 3) FauntLeRoy does a competent job in the director’s chair, yet he allows the pacing to drag severely around the hour mark.  And unfortunately, the movie has more scenes of Seagal sitting around TALKING about getting revenge than actually getting it.  Once Seagal finally gets around to it though, it’s pretty good.  It’s just too little, too late.

 

Scripting and pacing problems aside, Urban Justice is a not-bad-could’ve-been-better Seagal flick.  If anything, it serves as a reminder of what the man is capable of when he gives two shits about his performance.  Give the man a better script and a bigger budget and he may actually be able to return to his former glory.

 

Griffin gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Vietnam ain’t got nothing on Compton!”

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