On Deadly Ground
Reviewed by Ken Begg
Rating: 7.5 Beans
hat's scarier than a 'vanity' project? How about one made by an untalented action star who's decided to 'educate' his audience on his favorite Big Issue. After reaching the peak of his success with Under Siege, action maven Steven Seagal had the clout to choose (and direct) his next movie. He decided to make an 'environmentally aware' action pic that would wow the fans and educate them at same time. However, as anyone who's seen the film can attest, he failed horribly at both tasks.
Up in Alaska, an Evil Capitalist has about ten days to finish a super-duperty giant oil platform. If it isn't pumping oil by the deadline, the rights go back to some *gasp* Eskimos. Of course, as 'Native American' types, the Eskimos would be Wise Stewards of the Land, the last thing an Evil Corporation would want.
But the head of the oil company, Jennings (a humiliated Michael Caine, forced by Director Seagal to act with all the 'bad guy' nuance of a Bluto or Snidely Whiplash) has a problem: a vital part, the 'preventer', is no good, and there isn't time to get another. So the plan is to pump a little oil, which will resecure the rights automatically (I know, none of this makes sense). The faulty preventer will cause the entire facility to explode, destroying the ecosystem, etc., but retaining the profitable ("billions a week") rights. Luckily, Jennings works for one of those companies that doesn't apparently have a Board of Directors or any stockholders or anything to keep him from being Evil (oddly, these kinds of companies only seem to exist in agitprop films like this).
Opposing him is Forrest Taft (an increasingly portly Seagal - by the way, see if you can spot the subtle symbolism in his character's name). Forrest is an employee of Jennings until he learns the evil scheme, and his old friend is killed, and he's framed by Jennings, yada yada yada. At that point, Forrest opens a big ol' can of whup-ass and takes it to the Man. On top of that, the wise Eskimos reveal that Forrest has been personally picked by the very Spirit of the Earth to protect the planet (!). At the end of the movie, oddly not under arrest after killing like forty people, Seagal stands and gives an almost four solid minute speech on how corporations are repressing engines that run on water and stuff. Amazingly, in the original cut, this speech lasted ten whole minutes (!!), causing preview audiences to walk out.
Highlights include the way inane 'crowd noise' lines are highlighted on the soundtrack throughout the film; the Billy Jack rip-off scene - instead of Rednecks pouring flour on an Indian girl, here Rednecks pour beer on a Indian guy, in both cases causing our heros to go be-zzerk; the way a guy shouts "My Nuts!" real loud when Forrest crushes his testicles, instead of just crashing inert to the floor; the scene where Forrest beats a guy to a pulp, and then asks him a psuedo-Zen query, resulting in the man's complete spiritial reformation (I swear!); the "since I'm with Native Peoples" inevitable 'Vision Quest' scene; the humiliation of guest stars like R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), Joan Chen (Twin Peaks), Billy Bob Thornton (Slingblade) and Bart the Bear (Legends of the Fall) by appearing here; the bit where the line "I imploded the preventer' is used to explain why Seagal's blowing up the facility won't spill any oil; when he opens a gigantic tank of acid to elude pursuit and we're not supposed to think that maybe that will hurt the environment; the hilarious, neverending final speech, featuring conspiracy theories that Fox Mulder would roll his eyes at; the general idea that we need to be morally upbraided by Steven Seagal (!), and much much more. Recommended for those who enjoy retarded "Message Flicks."
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