'Absolution': Film Review

Courtesy of MPRM
The once charismatic action star looks practically immobile in this by-the-numbers B-movie

Steven Seagal plays a mercenary tackling a human trafficking ring in his new actioner.

Is it too much to ask of aging stars that if they want to continue making action movies into their golden years that they at least stay in some semblance of shape?

The question is fairly begged by the new Steven Seagal movie in which the 63-year-old actor plays a mercenary named John Alexander who, as the title suggests, is looking for Absolution for the many bad things he's done. The problem is, Seagal is now so portly and immobile that he doesn't look remotely convincing delivering the martial arts fighting moves that initially gained him renown. With the director, cinematographer, editor and other actors working overtime to make him look like he's actually kicking ass in his fight scenes, Seagal doesn't even bother to return the favor. Looking bored throughout and delivering his dialogue sounding like Alec Baldwin imitating Tony Bennett, the once intimidating performer mostly resembles a wax figure at Madame Tussauds.

A sequel to his direct-to-video efforts Force of Execution and A Good Man — you deserve a prize if you've seen them both — this film, directed by his frequent collaborator Keoni Waxman, is inexplicably receiving a theatrical release, no doubt to boost its standing on VOD.

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Set in Ukraine, the rudimentary plot has Alexander, along with his Chinese sidekick Chi (Byron Mann), fulfilling a U.S. government agency assignment to kill an Afghani bad guy. After finishing the job and relaxing with a cigar in a bar, the two men are minding their own business until a beautiful damsel in distress (Adina Stetcu) desperately asks for help while being chased by thugs.

Their violent intervention attracts the ire of a local gangster known only as "The Boss" (Vinnie Jones), whose efforts to exact revenge fuel the ensuing mayhem.

It's all strictly by-the-numbers, including a climactic showdown between Seagal and Jones in which the latter, his character enduring a harsh beatdown, at least demonstrates considerable acting skills.

Delivering lines like "Get up and fight, bitch!" as if he was reading them off cue cards, Seagal, whose hair and goatee look painted on with black shoe polish, displays absolutely none of the charisma showcased in such vintage hits as Above the Law and Under Siege.

Fortunately, some of the slack is taken up by his co-star Mann, who exhibits an enjoyable insouciance and physical grace in his numerous fight scenes, especially when manipulating his ever-present switchblade knife.

While such B-movie '80s and '90s-era contemporaries as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren have recently shown that they're still credible action stars in films like The Expendables and its sequels, Seagal sadly proves here that he's now merely expendable.   

Production: Castel Film Romania
Cast: Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Josh Barnett, Adina Stetcu, Massiomo Dobrovic, Vinnie Jones
Director: Keoni Waxman
Screenwriters: Keoni Waxman, Richard Beattie
Producers: Augustin, Binh Dang, Phillip B. Goldfine, Timothy Marlowe
Executive producers: Barry Brooker, Marlowe Harvey, Benjamin Sacks, Keoni Waxman, Stan Wertlieb
Editor: Trevor Mirosh
Composer: Michael Richard Plowman

Rated R, 96 minutes