Starring: Steven Seagal, Gailard Sartain, LQ Jones, Silas Weir Mitchell
Director: Dean Semler
Streaming on: Amazon Prime (With Adverts)
Runtime: 90 mins
After the debacle that was ‘General Commander’ — I wanted to flush my eyes out with bleach. A film so horribly made that Neil Breen would hae cut off his arms in protest that someone got funding for it and not any of his bonkers efforts (He’ll be up soon).
So I had a look through available titles and hit a rare character jam for Seagal — The Patriot, where he plays a doctor. Just consider this for a second. A man who is self-credited in fourteen martial arts playing a man who would have spent at least 8 years studying to qualify as a doctor whilst managing an aggressive addiction to beef dripping. My belief is already suspended precariously by a fucking thread…
But let’s not panic. This film is helmed by Dean Semler, the cinematographer of Max Max 2, Dances with Wolves, Beyond Thunderdome and Super Mario Bros (Also Second Unit Director). Lets forget that this is one of the two films he directed in his career and look at that pedigree. It’s pretty good. Co-Star LQ Jones appeared in pretty much every western TV Series going (Rawhide, Cheyenne, Gunsmoke) and was a frequent collaborator with Sam Peckinpah. There’s also an appearance from noted character actor Silas Weir Mitchell, who played an insane inmate on Prison Break. There is some depth here, compared with General Commanders’ cast which consisted of potato powered lightbulbs.
Looking at the background of the film, it was filmed in Montana — which should be a cinematographer’s wet dream — but I also noted its the first Seagal release that went direct-to-video after an early 90s run of vague success. Alarmingly, both screenwriters on the project have no other credits (with the equally alarmingly named M Sussman one of these) and all rumoured writers on the script denied involvement.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this. But I’m here to take you deep on a journey into this possible turd. *Deep Breaths*
The opening shots are glorious as we see a 60’s western style credits sequence burst into a cattle run with a resplendent Seagal on horseback chasing down ill cattle to inject them. He looks like the Witchfinder General with his long black hair and coat, but the beige khakis he wears underneath suggest a small trouser accident en route. We learn that this is Dr Wesley McLaren — a local doctor but also former Government Immunologist. And a weapons and combat expert. And he’s kind to animals and loves his daughter. And he once sang a duet with Willie Nelson on the unreleased ‘My Horse is my Car and I don’t need no General Motors’.
Anyway, there’s an ongoing siege of some kind of cult in Montana and a man who looks like Orson Welles playing Colonel Kurtz called Floyd delivers some drivel about the president and what its about to be an American whilst an onlooking crowd of soldiers are sitting rapt in his living room. After some acting in a chair (I can see this having an effect on Seagal’s later acting style) he announces he’ll surrender to end the siege as a suspicious henchman looks on. Ominous.
Anyway this siege seems to be next door to Seagal and his daughter is worried about it. They have a long talk and Seagal uses more facial muscles in a sentence than in his entire body of work circa. 2016–19 as he tells her how he likes horses more than people and they discuss wildflowers.
This is a Seagal film. I promise.
The upshot of all of this rather low-key energy is that Kurtz has inhaled some toxic substance and give his men an ‘anti-toxin’ and as he surrenders he starts the spread of a deadly virus. Everyone is relieved expect the wise Dr McClaren who states ‘There’s assholes everywhere, and Floyd is an asshole’.
Its at this point that its worth pointing out that this the first 25 minutes of this film is very very very very very very very very wordy. For the gravitas of the type of film this is, you could do with Mark Rylance playing opposite Gary Oldman or Matthew McConaughy facing off against Brad Pitt. Seagal facing off against the 4th best Orson Welles impersonator in the North-West doesn’t work. And every scene seems to have some kind of message or conversation that you are meant to take meaning from. Early Seagal is good because in spite of his wooden acting ability the pace moves and he fights people in a semi-believable manner. This film moves at the pace of a clapped-out dinghy, only with less fucking hot air and more drowning in meaningless platitudic dishwasher script.
Anyway, turns out Kurtz infected himself with super-death-cold and now its spreading through Montana at a rate of knots. Seagal spends his time sitting in his surgery getting given blackberries by old women and discussing kidney dialysis herbal alternatives in between conversations with his daughter about desserts and school work.
Early suggestion for improvement: Every time you see Seagal onscreen with his daughter, just imagine its this scene instead. And that his daughter is Mike Tyson.
He then gets called into a hospital and immediately realises they are all fucked. Literally within a minute of being there he is calling in fucking quarantine control and the fucking national guard to land their helicopters in the street to implore everyone to stay calm whilst wearing ultra-strength miltary hazmat suits. My previous estimates of his medical qualifications would be 7–8 years of extensive study, but I reckon based on this instinct alone Seagal would have been teaching the course by year 3.
Turns out that Seagal knew about the toxin causing all this and told the government to destroy it but they didn’t listen. He has a big rant at an official (who says something about germs being cheaper than bombs) and finds out they have 24–48 hours at most before everyone starts dying — so its all hands on deck to get an anti-toxin made and fast so that Seagal can presumably jump in Santa’s sleigh and inject the entire population of the world in 12 hours before playing some puppies to sleep with a slow guitar solo. And still have time to have a touching conversation with his daughter and take a blood sample from her. Still the dialogue goes on and fucking on…
41 MINUTES IN WE HAVE SOME ACTION!
The bad guys antidote doesn’t work, so they drive to the hospital and take it by force using a sniper, a grenade and a truck filled with hay. Guns, blood, explosions, here we fucking go! This lasts all of 90 seconds until they realise the same anti-toxin (god I hate that fucking phrase) they have is the same the public have been injected with and it’s revealed that the government official knew this all along! And that they are all mega-fucked! That is until the bad guys find a blood test which shows someone seems to have natural immunity…and you can bet its Seagal’s daughter!
NOW WE ARE COOKING WITH GAS! WE’VE STILL GOT 50 MINUTES TO SAVE THIS CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE.
Floyd tells Seagal to find his daughter and bring her to him, so he decides to go mega-Seagal with an absolutely unbelievable sequence. He fights his way out of the room, finds his daughter and covers her in a blanket. He then proceeds to unload a 17 punch combo on a single guard’s face before somersault-smashing his way through a glass window holding his ten year old daughter in his arms and getting into a car to escape. Sensational.
They drive to a farm and decide to escape on horseback with LQ Jones in tow, while the bad guys go a bit Dukes of Hazard and pickup trucks filled with mercenaries plough into the Montana wilderness to find them, only for Jones to start tossing sticks of dynamite like used kitkat wrappers at them, blowing them up and finishing off the survivors with what looks like a minigun. He decides to then dance a jig on the spot and as Seagal follows the sound of gunshots he arrives just in time to see Jones get shot by a prone mercenary on the ground with a gigantic heart explosion of claret. Seagal and his daughter escape on horseback into the gorgeous landscapes (Montana is fucking sensational to look at) with the corpse of Jones. After a night in the fields, they take him to a Native American family in the wilderness to bury in a touching ceremony.
Back at the hospital and the doctors can’t make a mass cure without more blood from Seagal’s daughter. We cut back to Seagal who is hanging with the Native Americans (who are all fine) and tells them he’s on his way to a hidden facility out in the hills to research his own cure as he believes Native American blood is key…yup, in between his extensive medical studies, combat training and drawing pictures with his daughter he also found time to build an entire fucking lab. Even though it appears to be a government facility, he definitely built it BECAUSE WHY ELSE WOULD THERE BE ONE HERE?!?!
Any Seagal is told to go away by the guards at the facility until he produces a piece of paper (that he doesnt show them) and says its really important. To which they let him in, along with a Native American woman called Dr White Cloud. Turns out all the soldiers underground have the virus too and after a brief conflict where the 15 soldiers pointing guns at him are overpowered and threatened by Seagal holding a single pistol, they let him into the lab to do some medicaling in his old lab.
After some top-tier sciencing involving typing at a computer and drinking some tea, about 10 minutes later they put some yellow liquid on a flame and they have a fully fledged cure. Well at least they think they do until they try it on some soldiers and it kills them. More sombre tea drinking in a corridor follows and they resolve to spend 20 minutes on the next cure, cueing much typing, heating and injecting — somewhat like the Moroccan years of Jack Kerouac only far more boring.
This also doesn’t work and they hilariously manage to kill off nearly every single soldier in the facility gradually while shots of Seagal destroying the lab are intercut with him standing in a corridor next to a hilariously growing line of bodybags in a powerstance. Down to their last surviving soldier, Dr White Cloud suddenly realises that her grandpa’s special wildflower tea — which they’ve all been drinking like Katie Price at a Vodka giveaway — has been keeping him alive! NATIVE AMERICANS TO THE RESCUE!! So they fire up the ole’ test tubes, fill them with tea and literally inject it into his veins.
A government designed toxin that was described not 5 minutes ago as “More deadly than Anthrax” can be defeated with Grandpa’s homemade tea.
The soldier literally gets better in about 20 minutes and Seagal and White Cloud ride off back towards town. Seagal picks up his daughter and they head home to the farm, only to find it riddled by militia who take them at gunpoint into the living room where an ill Floyd is sitting drinking Merlot. He proceeds to tell Seagal that he doesnt want the damn government microchipping him to work out when he visits the bathroom and that he’s at war with those who created MK Ultra and Narco Hypnosis…and AIDS.
Yup, Floyd is fucking deranged like a 4chan moderator has plugged his own balls into the skull of Alex Jones and covered himself in Mountain Dew. Seagal then sets about basically saying America did that all and that’s why he left the government…but that’s not the point and anyway he has a cure so its all fine. Floyd tells him he wants the cure and they agree and toast Merlot…only for Seagal to throw the wine on a fire, break off the top of the glass and leap across the table between them to embed the stem of the glass in his fucking skull.
I won’t deny I fucking lost it at this.
Anyway the predictable then happens as Seagal shoots his way through every mercenary that ever existed (with a particular commitment from the sound editor to not match up a single muzzle flash with a gunshot noise). When the last henchman takes his daughter hostage, he puts down his gun and surrenders and walks straight up to the henchman and takes his gun instead and kicks him in the balls, leaving him to die in the cellar.
Seagal then phones the government and proclaims “tea for everyone”, as a crew of hazmats pick wildflowers in lush green fields and victorious music plays as they deliver tea to the masses via helicopter proclaiming “The Standoff has ended, your town has been liberated, these flowers will stop the virus” as flowers stream from the rear like a bride farting confetti. The final shots see Dr White Cloud and her dad arrive on horseback with a miniature pony, which they give to Seagal’s daughter.
The film finishes with her walking up to Seagal and they cuddle into the small animal as they watch helicopters dropping megavirus-healing flowers over the population.
And there is a sentence I never thought I would type.
Positives: The somersault through the window, Montana, LQ Jones Dancing
Negatives: The villains are incredibly irritating, the pace is glacial, the cure is laughable, the sound editing is horrible, the plot, almost every single bit of the script, the fact that they test out about 14 different antidotes in 14 minutes, FUCKING TEA?!
Score: 3/10 — best avoided, it’s mostly boring and the nuts bits aren't nuts enough to be fun. Other than the somersault bit.