Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Born to Raise Hell (2010)

It's a high-octane, white knuckle thrill ride!
It was clear from the prologue that I was going to have a few problems with this movie. The opening scene features a subtitle that reads "Bucharest, Romania", which is rarely a good sign, followed by a nonsensical voiceover that is clearly not Seagal. Then there is a gunfight with Tony-Scott-on-PCP editing that goes way beyond any hope of visual comprehension. At this point the film was giving me flashbacks to early DTV Seagal like Shadow Man or The Foreigner. Not a good start.

Seagal plays Bobby Samuels, a cop working for the International Drug Task Force (IDTF). He used to be a soldier if Afghanistan, but when he learned how most terrorism is (apparently) funded by drugs he joined the IDTF so he could make the world safe for freedom etc. He also explains that his partner was killed and now he's out for revenge, although if they followed up on that plot thread I guess I missed it.

The main plot reminds me a little of Out for Justice. There's a big shot crime boss, but the main villain is a guy lower down the food chain who is out of control. The guy's name is Costel, and he likes to do home invasions on young rich couples, raping the women and murdering entire families. Costel works for a Spetznaz-trained Russian crime boss named Dimitri (Dan Badarau), but when Dimitri finds out what Costel is up to he is disgusted and wants him dead. At first Seagal is content to arrest Dimitri, but when he gets into a war with Costel Seagal forms an alliance with him. The grudging-respect-between-foes thing. I like that.

This movie was written by Seagal himself and seems to be pretty heavily influenced by his experiences on Steven Seagal: Lawman. There's a lot of cop lingo and gunpoint standoffs with criminals where Seagal shouts things like "lemme see yo' hands, bitch". At one point he shouts "I'm speaking English, it's easy" which seems condescending since he's in Romania. There are several scenes of him chewing out a junior officer for not properly securing suspects or clearing rooms because he was distracted by a woman with awesome tits. It's nothing we haven't seen before in other cop shows, but it's a little more attention to detail than you usually get for this kind of thing. Stuff like that caused the movie to grow on me.

One bit I liked was early in the film where Seagal's team bust into a house to arrest a greasy-haired drug dealer. The guy tries to drive away on his dirtbike (which is parked in his lounge room for some reason) but Seagal rips him from the seat at the last minute, sending the bike careening through a glass window. It's a nice sequence and normally that would be the last we'd see of the criminal, but here Seagal actually arrests him and takes him to the police station for questioning. Seagal gets information out of him not by busting his skull but by calmly explaining the situation. You catch more flies with honey than by breaking their wrists and throwing them through a window, I guess.

I also liked that the bad guys have a bunch of hot women who cook and smuggle their drugs and go on assassination missions. They are like sexy Terminators. There's a really funny bit where the team encounter one while on a covert survellaince mission. She appears right next to their police van like a movie monster and presses her face up against the window while the crew sit there in dead silence like she's the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. I know it's just a way to get a few more hot girls into the movie, but I really like this idea of using supermodels as henchmen. More movie villains should exploit the fact that hot woman can basically do anything they want without consequence.

Seagal has a much younger girlfriend in this one too, and there's even a subplot about how he neglects her and spends too much time with his police work. The film also continues the worrying trend of awkward sex scenes where the girl is bare-ass naked and Seagal is fully clothed. He's wearing a giant kimono/bathrobe/hoodie thing with a dragon stitched on the back. It looks ridiculous but I guess I should be grateful for it. The whole situation is pretty creepy because the girl is tiny compared to him. When he gets on top of her and starts pawing at her with his giant mitts it looks like she's being attacked by bigfoot.

I mentioned it ealier, but there is some shocking editing in this film. Whenever Costel and his men do a home invasion the film turns into an Abode After-Effects disaster, with random skipped frames, slow motion effects, freeze frames and double exposures. There's a lot of superfluous slow motion too. A scene where Costel's crew walk through a nightclub goes on for about three minutes. Gunfights are similarly over-edited, making them unbearable to watch for the most part, although I liked the bit where Seagal blasts the section of wall around a door with a shotgun so he can kick the whole wall in. He even has to pause halfway through so he can reload. I would have just blown the lock out, but I'll concede to Seagal's superior wisdom and police experience.

It's interesting how as Seagal gets older and stiffer they are trying to compensate by making the fights more brutal and violent, and Seagal's fights were always pretty brutal and violent. There are a lot of broken bones and every punch to the face sends a gallon of blood spraying out of the victim's mouth. The fist fights are pretty well directed for the most part. Costel is played by Darren Shahlavi, the guy who played Twister in Ip Man 2, so it would have been cool to see him in an actual fight, but the final showdown makes copious use of stunt doubles and is embarrassingly one-sided. More shades of Out for Justice.

The director is a French stuntman by the name of Lauro Chartrand, who also did some episodes of Seagal's new TV show/DTV movie series True Justice. I can't say I really liked his style, but I appreciate that Seagal seemed to be putting in slightly more effort than usual. Maybe he pounded a few cans of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt Energy Drink before every take, or maybe the fact that he wrote it himself gave him a little more vigour. Either way it's nice to see him only semi-sleepwalking through a movie. Even if half his lines were dubbed.

1 comment:

Ty said...

Excellent review! Happy to see this is decent. Will have to watch this soon. Haven't seen any Seagal since Machete.