Monday, 22 August 2011

The Keeper (2009)


I've fallen a few movies behind in my On-Deadly-Ground-style spiritual odyssey through the DTV ouvre of Mr Steven Seagal. This one had been sitting on my DVD queue for some time, but I hadn't felt compelled to review it since the two subsequent films (A Dangerous Man and Born to Raise Hell) were still MIA. A year or two later and the Region 4 DVDs have lazily flopped onto Australian shores with all the energy and vigour of DTV-era Seagal himself, so I guess I've got some catching up to do.

In this one he plays Roland Sallinger, Super Cop. As the movie begins, he and his partner raid a drug dealing operation to discover a couple of million dollars in cash. His partner suggests that they help themselves and Seagal refuses, so his partner shoots him in the chest and leaves him for dead. Seagal fakes a coma and steals a gun from his niece, so I figured this film was a Hard to Kill type deal and that his revenge would play out over the course of the film. Instead his partner returns to finish the job that night, so Seagal shoots him and frees up the next 70 minutes of screentime for a completely unrelated plot.

Seagal is forced into retirement as a result of his injuries, sending him into a depression, so he is visited by his niece who says ridiculous yet no doubt confidence-bolstering things like "You're an inspiration to everyone on the SWAT team" and "I've seen you do shit that's beyond belief." It's not quite R. Lee Ermey's "million dollar smile and a fistful of pesos" speech from On Deadly Ground, but it's enough to get Seagal montaging his way back to full health. His state of recovery is symbolised by his knife-throwing abilities, which was neat but I suspect it was because it required as little physicality from Seagal as possible.

The plot starts proper when he gets a call from an old friend in Texas. He wants Seagal to be a personal bodyguard for his daughter, who was recently the target of an attempted kidnapping by some criminals disguised as papparazzi. The bad guy behind the kidnapping attempt is a crooked real estate developer named Jason Cross, who is also a racial separatist although it never comes up as a plot point or is even mentioned again. When Seagal asks why he can't just go to the police, he replies "There are some people who think a man's race should determine his worth. These people control everything. Except me". This apparently explains everything, even though the police seem more eager to nail Cross than Seagal does.

The girl Seagal is looking after is a spoiled heiress, but I liked that they didn't push the Paris Hilton angle too hard. She's reasonably intelligent and acquits herself pretty well during the attempted kidnapping. They could have easily made her into an annoying bimbo, but instead she's sympathetic and even kind of sentimental. At one point she tells Seagal how she kept a gift he gave her when she was a little girl. She tells him that right after drunkenly barfing in an alley, but it was still kind of a sweet moment. I was worried for a moment there because it seems like she was hitting on him, but luckily Seagal Keeps it in his pants.

Her boyfriend is a showboating obnoxious asshole named Mason Silver, who is apparently a professional boxer although he sure doesn't look like one and you never see him do any fighting aside from a brief training scene at the beginning. Seems like a missed opportunity not to have him fight Seagal or at least one of the bad guys. He is a massive douchebag, so much so that you wonder if he's a red herring, but it turns out that he had some dealings with Cross in the past and now he's willing to sell out his girlfriend rather than have his hands crushed by Cross's goons. What a prick.

Actually, Seagal is kind of a prick in this one too. He's a massive dick to a limo driver, flat-out ignoring him when he tries to make conversation and then sarcastically berating him for whistling. It's okay though, because Seagal gains his respect when he stops to help the limo driver's cousin from being harrassed by a couple of thugs. Probably the most dickish moment is when Seagal breaks into Mason's house to question him and kills three of his bodyguards. At first I figured they were Cross' henchmen, but apparently not. Seagal just straight up murdered three dudes for no reason. And the cops don't even care.

The plot is some nonsense about a crooked real estate deal and a hidden uranium deposit, but it's pretty straight forward and I won't bother talking about it. The action is what's important, and it's alright I guess. The film tries it's best to convince us of Seagal's lightning fast aikido moves, but sound design and editing can do only so much. Plus the main bad guy is an old man, so it doesn't really lend itself to a thrilling final confrontation. The gunfights have lots of bloody, overfilled squibs, which is good, but they are over-edited with a general lack of geography. There's also decent car chase, even though it's clear that Seagal was being greenscreened on a soundstage somewhere.

I don't know if it's because I haven't watched these types of films in a while, but Seagal's acting seemed distractingly bad here. He wears a big cowboy hat, uses words like "pod'ner" and speaks a little Spanish, but I think those efforts used up the bulk of his acting abilities. He's never been good, but here he's struggling just to even articulate himself. A lot of his lines are awkwardly phrased, as if he only just glanced at the script and refused to do a second take. His shirts are increasingly oversized and baggy to disguise his weight and his hair is becoming more creepily fake and Dracula-like. It's rough.

That aside though, the quality level isn't among his worst. It gets off to a shabby start, with some obvious dubbing in the opening scene, plus halfway through the film Seagal's character's name changes from "Sallinger" to "Ballinger" for no reason, but at least it mostly makes sense. The plot holes are just plot holes rather than supermassive black holes that threaten to suck the whole movie into oblivion. I guess that makes it less interesting than something completely batshit like Out of Reach, but at least I felt like someone gave a shit. Someone was at least half-assing it, rather than the one eighth of an ass normally given to this kind of thing. Adequate job, guy. You did it.

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