Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seagal Samsara


It speaks to the emptiness of my evenings of late that I've been cycling through the on-demand movie selections and picking the worst possible diversions. It's a kind of punishment, I think, for my sloth. And it's part necessity, as most of the good movies are behind a pay-per-view wall. This is how I finally saw Catwoman. Like a country uncle, that movie took my innocence, and since then, I've been seeking more depravity, caking on one fresh, gooey coat after another.

I won't go on too much, as I can't hope to compete with the numerous, excellent and antecedent deconstructions of Seagal's body of work. But I'll offer a few thoughts on tonight's offering Out for a Kill. Now, that is a great title for one thing.
"Hey, where you going?"
"Out where, asshole?"
"Out for a kill."
"Ah, OK. Can you pick me up some beer and smokes if you pass by the store? I'll pay you back."
"Sure thing."

This is apparently the third Seagal movie beginning with "Out." There was also Out for Justice and also apparently Out of Reach. Other common words you'll find in Seagal movie titles: Kill, Dead, Deadly, Die, Justice.

Anyway, so this film starts out an archaeological dig in China where Seagal is unearthing some ancient thingees in his job as a professor of Chinese art history or some shit. Or maybe it starts out in a shootout in Poland.

Or maybe one of many other locales, as most of this film is comprised of almost endless flashbacks, each introduced with red typey details on the screen, like "New Haven, Connecticut: 9:32 p.m." And its punctuated with return shots to a bunch of Chinese guys who smoke cigars, drink whisky and seemingly never change their clothes over the many days this story progresses. In some scenes, they hiss their lines in English, in others they inexplicably switch to Chinese. In all though, they repeatedly refer to Seagal's character as the "Guilo." They go back to that word so often, you'd think it was the Chinese equivalent of "inshaallah," though it really means "white devil." This is intended as an insult, but it's revealed later in the movie Seagal's preferred nickname was something like "Guiho," which means like "white ghost." Devil, ghost. Same difference. One thing you can't call Seagal anymore though is white.

In the story, Seagal is a professor, but actually he's a master art thief, though in reality he's working with the DEA, and in fact he's just simple family man. That brings up another Seagal chestnut; the most dangerous job in the world is being his wife. He's confronted in a restaurant by some baddies who tell him to lay off the trail of their international crime syndicate, which Seagal kindly assents to. Perhaps the goons were disappointed that they didn't get to front more, so one guys says, "So yeah, if you don't then we'll kill your wife. Concern for his wife's well-being induces Seagal to immediately start a fight with the goons, wherein she is nearly shot to death. Don't worry, she doesn't escape death for long, getting blowed up in their house, prompting this reaction:

Which to me looks more like an overripe pumpkin taking a dump than a grieving husband who's himself narrowly escaped death. A lot has been said about how Seagal has plumped up over the years. That's not nearly so disturbing to me as his skin, which now bears the color and grain of my faux-oak Ikea coffee table. I don't know how, but it's a visage that is both bloated and dessicated at the same time.
Seagal is thrown in a Chinese prison where he's put in a cell with a black dude, whose reason for being there is never explained. I suppose the guards were like, "Hey, we've got two troublesome foreigner prisoners. Let's put them together, so they can better cooperate on an escape plan. Then we can get back to backgammon!" Well, they don't escape; Seagal is just let out, and as he leaves, he and the black dude make their moving goodbyes. The last shot there is of the black dude gripping the bars, looking forlorn and saying "Don't forget about me, man." He is never shown or spoken of again in the film.

Seagal ends up trotting the world dispatching various assassins sent to kill him and solving some "riddle" of tattoos on each of their bodies, which in the end of the movie nets him a safe full of scrolls and envelopes. You know it has to be valuable, if it's written on a scroll. Maybe they were recipes concocted by that poor black man rotting in the Chinese jail.

One final thing, and something to keep in mind if you rise to the top of a ruthless, global crime ring. You may fall victim to...