Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The OTHER Best 2008 Comeback for A Grizzled Veteran

Everybody's talking about Mickey Rourke and "The Wrestler". I haven't seen it yet, but I am a fan of Mr. Rourke. Afterall, he starred in "Barfly", one of the best movies about drunks ever made and by far the best cinematic interpretation of Charles Bukowski's writing. Well, another grizzled veteran of the silver screen made a comeback in 2008, and not too many people know about it. Maybe its because he moves in silence, clad in black, his black hair greased back and his dark scowl distorting his visage into a hate mask of destruction. Yes, it is Steven Seagal I am talking about, and though his comeback didn't warrant interviews on NPR and a pictorial in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, it made die hard Seagalogists like myself take notice.

Seagal was once one of the all-time great movie bad asses. His rebellious attitude, the amount of gore and violence in his movies and his crazy conspiratorial politics all made for an intoxicating cocktail. From 1988 until 2001 (barring "Ticker" and "The Patriot") everything he touched turned to gold. Or if not exactly gold, at least movies that are entertaining as hell and just about the best thing to watch while stripping your mind of unneeded brain cells. Look, I could wax poetic about my love for the Ponytailed One, but you might be better off just reading this incredible book: Seagalogy. I can tell you, if Seagology was Tom Cruise's cult, he'd be making way better movies.

Ever since his last turn as a big screen action star, the crappy Ja Rule team-up "Half Past Dead", Seagal has churned out an endless succession of straight to DVD action flicks. They range from the fun ("Belly of the Beast"), to the palatable ("Black Dawn") to the downright horrible ("Submerged"). They've all had one thing in common, however. They are bad, bad movies.

Recently, however, Seagal has staged a mini-comeback. First he made "Urban Justice" in 2007. Now, by no means is this a good movie, but it is entertaining, and has a fairly straight ahead story. The problem with most of the worst of the Seagal straight to video films is that they have been extremely convoluted espionage tales. Nobody watches Seagal for the plot. The more stripped down the better. HIs best movie is "Out For Justice", and that has the simplest story out of any of his films. We watch Seagal, much like Jason Voorhees, because we want to see how he will dispatch large numbers of foes. In the classic Seagal films, he would never disappoint in this department. Hitting people with salamis, pool cues, pool balls, throwing people through windows, legs and arms breaking left and right. A perfect symphony of violence conducted by a large man with a ponytail and a penchant for wearing fancy three quarter length coats.

Seagal is getting old now, and it shows. First off, dude is fat. Second off, his face is looking pretty haggard. Now, i've been thinking for awhile that he could still make some decent films if he played his look right. Instead of being some dapper international spy and looking ridiculous, have him play an old burn out. That's just what they do in "Pistol Whipped" and it makes for Seagal's best film since "Exit Wounds".

Seagal plays a burned out drunk, a compulsive gambling disgraced cop. The great Lance Henriksen plays a powerful and mysterious guy who hangs out in an abandoned theatre and buys all of Seagal's gambling debts, which are over a million dollars. Seagal has to pay him back by killing a bunch of crime lords. Decent premise, right? On top of the decent story and brief but effective fight scenes, this film actually contains some of Seagal's best acting, ever! Not too impressive to some people, but for me, its a revelation. When you see a Seagal scene that actually approaches the universe that the planet Touching inhabits, you are seeing his best acting ever. Its a compelling character as well. Seagal pretty much looks like a fuck-up these days, so why not have him play a fuck-up?

I really liked this movie and I heartily enjoyed the Jim Beam Rye Whiskey that I sipped while watching it. I had only had Rye once before, some time when I was 21, I had a couple of glasses of Old Overholt and was not very impressed. I decided to give it another shot while watching this on my day off, and I was pleasantly surprised. Beam Rye has a sharp, spicy flavor, a pleasant aftertaste and a great, clean finish. It tastes way better than the Beam white label bourbon. The scary thing is, now there is a whole 'nother world of whiskey out there that I have to explore. Beam Rye, thank you for opening the doors to an even deeper level of drunken hell in my life. (That last sentence is a joke. My life is great, this blog is proof.)

Seagal drinks a lot in this movie, which is awesome. He walks into a bar and orders, in his trademark near unintelligible whisper, either a "Double dragon rock on the rocks" or a "double Jack and rocks on the rocks". Either way, impressive order. There is only one other line I felt the need to scribble down while viewing this and that was, of course, "You're cremated now, muthafucka!" Which is of course, a great line.

Anyways, this a wholly positive review, as I really liked the movie and the whiskey. See you in the funny papers.

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