Stars: Steven Seagal, Luke Goss, Georges St-Pierre, Darren E. Scott, Florin Piersic Jr., Martine Argent, Lauro Chartrand, Bruce Crawford, Adina Galupa, Claudiu Bleont | Written by Keoni Waxman, Richard Beattie | Directed by Keoni Waxman
It has been a long time since I’ve reviewed a direct-to-market Steven Seagal movie, in fact its been some time since I’ve so much as watched one for my own “pleasure”. I skipped over Sniper: Special Ops, Asian Connection, Code of Honour, and the most recent DTV release End of a Gun, maily because after buying, watching, and often reviewing, every single film starring Seagal until the aforementioned I was suffering from Seagal burnout… A condition that often comes about in an audience when they realise that the once-agile former martial arts superstar has succumbed to appearing in extended cameos in the hopes that long-suffering fans – like myself – will buy the film on his name alone (and trust me it works).
So why return to the Seagal fold? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, Luke Goss. The former pop star turned actor has put in some great performances in a bevy of direct-to-market action movies (in particular the two Death Race sequels and the more recent War Pigs); and that’s despite any shortcomings said movies may have had! The other reason is that Killing Salazar reunites Seagal with director Keoni Waxman, a name who is synonymous with the “better” Seagal DTV titles. In fact the last Seagal film I watched and reviewed, Mercenary: Absolution, was also helmed by Waxman.
Killing Salazar marks the seventh(!) time Seagal has worked with the director/producer, previous films including Force of Execution, A Dangerous Man as well as the fantastic Maximum Conviction. Waxman also helmed a number of episodes of Seagal’s TV show, True Justice (released here in the UK as a series of direct to DVD “movies” starting with Deadly Crossing). As such it means that Waxman can, and does, get the best not only out of Seagal but also ANY cast he works with.
This time round Waxman not only directs but also co-writes this tale of an elite team of agents assigned to protect a dangerous drug lord – the titular Salazar. Taking refuge in a luxury hotel while they await extraction, they soon find themselves at the center of an ambush as the drug lord’s former associates launch an explosive assault on the hotel.
Unfortunately – for those looking forward to seeing Seagal kick arse – Killing Salazar is actually told in flashback and, instead of getting involved in the action, Seagal spends most of his screen time questioning Luke Goss’ character; with the occassional scene of Seagal in action at the opening and close of the movie – which is ultimately more gun play than martial arts.
With Waxman at the helm I expected some decent action throughout and I wasn’t disappointed. The fight scenes are well shot and edited to maximum bone-crunching effect. Heck even Seagal looked good for once – even if he’s criminally underused. Though there is a brief flurry of kung-fu from the ageing star, towards the end of the movie, that makes him look just as badass as he did in his cinematic prime.
Speaking of action, this movie definitely doesn’t scrimp on the blood and guts when if comes the fights – be it hand-to-hand or gunfight. Unlike some direct to market action flicks, where bad guys die without so much as a smattering of blood (much like back in the day on The A-Team though today its usually due to declining budgets and not censorship), Killing Salazar is packed with effects. Admittedly, there is use of CG in place of blood squibs for some of the gunfights, but when the Seagal and Goss get down to the nitty-gritty, the mano-a-mano combat in the final third, Waxman isn’t afraid to show some grisly knife fights and bloody deaths. Which is refreshing….
As refreshing as the humour, which features a few near-the-knuckle lines that will have the politically correct in the audience feeling oh-so perturbed – though I doubt that Seagal’s audience is anything but non-PC. Ending with a plot reveal (it’s not major enough to call an actual plot twist) Killing Salazar leaves the door open for a possible sequel and more adventures of Luke Goss’ Major Tom Jensen – which I’d be more than happy to see.
Killing Salazar is out now on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.