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Steven Seagal...a generic action-movie title...you pretty much know what to expect going into URBAN JUSTICE (2007). But the big surprise for me is that it delivers it so well.
The plot is simple: a young cop is murdered for getting too close to some shady dealings between his crooked boss, Det. Frank Shaw (Kirk B.R. Woller) and the East Side Gangstas, headed by Tony Montana wannabe Armand Tucker (well-played by Eddie Griffin). The dead cop's dad happens to be Steven Seagal, who blows into town looking for revenge.
And you know what you're in for with this set-up: a lot of cocky, smart-mouthed gangbangers and other sleazy characters getting the ever-livin' crap beaten out of them or shot to pieces for the rest of the movie. In other words--it's popcorn time!
Now, Steve's hair-and-makeup job in this movie is a bit startling at first. After his initial closeup, I thought, "Omigod, Dracula just gained 50 pounds and joined the Mafia." But I got used to it after awhile. His acting, as usual, consists mainly of mumbling while maintaining a steely-eyed glare, but his dialogue isn't all that important as long as you can make out key phrases like "I'm gonna kill the muh-fuggah that killed my son."
We all know that, by now, Steven Seagal is past his physical prime, so most of the time he hides his somewhat substantial spare tire under big, thick jackets--he often appears to have been cocooned. And when he drives his sports car, it almost looks like he's wearing it, too. The fight scenes are edited so that all he has to do is stand in one spot waving his hands around in a series of quick closeups, and the stunt guys go flying.
Thing is, though, the hits look and sound bone-crushingly hard, and when people get shot, squibs spew like geysers. This movie is filled with several intense scenes that pay off in a big way, even if the main character isn't quite as dynamic as he used to be.
But heck, he's Steven Seagal. If you're making a Steven Seagal movie, you don't hire a good actor who can leap and twirl like Baryshnikov, you hire Steven Seagal. He may not be able to move very fast anymore, or display "ooh-ahh" acting skills, but when he goes into kickass mode, he's still da man.
There's a cool car chase that's filmed the old fashioned way--no zippity-doo-dah camerawork or fancy editing, just a couple of cars zooming through various locations at high speed with the occupants blasting away at each other, and ending with a satisfying crash.
This goes for the rest of the film too, which is refreshingly free of the pointless, distracting visual nonsense that many current films are stuffed with. I have to hand it to director Don E. Fauntleroy for being a straight-ahead action director who isn't interested in stringing a bunch of half-assed MTV videos together and calling it a movie.
Besides Eddie Griffin, the capable supporting cast includes Danny Trejo as Chivo, the leader of a Latino gang that Steve initially suspects may have offed his son, and Carmen Serano as a liquor store owner who rents Steve the crummy apartment out back. It looks as though she may be a romantic interest too, but this doesn't go anywhere. At one point, though, her character does get to give Steve the old revenge-never-solved-anything routine with the line "You're just as bad as they are", to which he coolly replies: "No, I'm a lot...fuggin'...worse."
There's a rousingly good shoot-out between Steve and a whole bunch of East Siders that could serve as the finale for a lot of straight-to-video action flicks. But this is topped by the climactic battle, in which Steve goes it alone against the rest of the gangstas and the crooked LA cops, too. Lots of bad guys get killed real bad, and the fake blood goes flying in all directions. I won't give away the outcome, but one thing's for sure--you don't want to be the guy who gunned down Steven Seagal's son. You don't want to work for him, either. Hell, you don't even want to know the muh-fuggah.
URBAN JUSTICE is a kickass action movie. The ending's cool as hell. And, for now anyway, I'm a Steven Seagal fan again.
Added: Monday, November 26, 2007
Language: eng[ Did you find this review helpful? Yes No ]
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