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Judging by his non-performance in his latest three word-titled cinematic vehicle, former action movie star Steven Seagal might actually be dead and nobody’s bothered to tell him. I say “former” because the performer is such a shadow of his former self (spiritually, not physically, because if anything, he’s now twice the size) — that anything related to “action” is now completely out of his reach. Longtime fans will want to avoid Contract to Kill and instead dig out their old DVD copies of Under Siege and Above the Law.
Written and directed by Seagal’s frequent accomplice — uh, collaborator — Keoni Waxman, this effort was shot in Romania, a country that for some reason still takes the actor seriously. Seagal plays John Harmon, an “enforcer” for the CIA and the DEA (seems like overkill) whose latest mission involves a conspiracy involving both Islamic terrorists and Mexican drug smugglers, which just sounds like a Donald Trump wet dream.
Assisting Harmon in his investigation — and he needs a lot of assistance — is Zara (Jemma Dallender), the sort of sultry, sexy FBI agent seen only in bad movies, and Sharp (Russell Wong), a master drone pilot whose skill, depicted in the form of him constantly fiddling around with a handheld control panel, isn’t particularly exciting cinematically.
Delivering a constant series of F-bombs and dialogue on the order of “Stay down, bitch!,” Seagal could be said to be going through the motions, except that would actually require motion. In one fight scene, he looks painfully annoyed at the idea of having to get up from his chair, and his once arresting fighting style now consists of flailing his arms wildly as the camera desperately bobs and weaves around him, with no shot lasting more than a few seconds. His appearance, to put it mildly, leaves something to be desired. His jet-black goatee and hair look like they were painted on with shoe polish, and he’s now reached such a level of girth that he’s clearly embarrassed to remove his shirt for the obligatory sex scene.
Laughably inept on every technical level and representing the sort of badness that falls far short of being campy fun, Contract to Kill is strictly DOA.
Production companies: Daro Film Distribution, Actionhouse Pictures
Cast: Steven Seagal, Russell Wong, Jemma Dallender
Director-screenwriter: Keoni Waxman
Producers: Steven Seagal, Keoni Waxman, Binh Dang
Executive producers: Barry Brooker, Stan Wertlieb, Phillip B. Goldfine, Pierre Andre Rochat, Benjamin F. Sacks
Director of photography: Liviu Poponi Jr.
Production designers: Alina Pentac, Don Toader
Editor: Trevor Mirosh
Costume designer: Oana Draghici
Composer: Michael Plowman
Casting: Gillian Hawser, Domnica Circiumaru
Rated R, 90 minutes
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