It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Some people in Hollywood think Steven Seagal is the hot new action star - heir to Eastwood and Bronson, contemporary of Stallone, Norris and Schwarzenegger. The influential Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times carried a cover story more than a month ago outlining the campaign to establish Seagal in the box office big leagues. His stats: He’s 6 feet 4 inches tall, with a sixth-degree black belt in aikido. He ran his own martial arts school in Japan before returning to Los Angeles, where he worked as an aikido instructor and bodyguard (as the press information says) for stars and heads of state. He’s married to actress Kelly LeBrock, the one with the great lips. A studio executive was quoted as saying Seagal has “extraordinary” screen magnetism.
With a buildup like that, doesn’t Seagal’s first movie almost have to be anticlimactic? And yet the curious thing is, Seagal more or less deserves the buildup. He does have a strong and particular screen presence. It is obvious he is doing a lot of his own stunts, and some of the fight sequences are impressive and apparently unfaked. He isn’t just a hunk, either.
He can play tender and he can play smart, two notes often missing on the Bronson and Stallone accordions. His aquiline face and slicked-back, slightly receeding hairline accentuate the macho exterior. He moves around too much in closeups, but then he moves around a lot anyway, seeming restless on screen, sometimes swaggering instead of walking.
His first movie is “Above the Law,” and it is nothing if not ambitious. It contains 50 percent more plot than it needs, but that allows it room to grow in areas not ordinarily covered in action thrillers. When was the last time you saw Norris or Schwarzenegger in a film where they ran cars through walls and killed people with their bare hands and went to mass, stood up at baptisms, meditated, hugged their wives, kidded their partners and made speechs about the need for a free and open society? If this film is an audition, it demonstrates that Seagal will try anything.