Ginger Nuts of Horror
This post starts off with a brooding monologue, rather like the film does, with the proud owner of what was once the toughest ponytail in action movies sitting on a chair ruminating about what a bad boy he's been. The plot for this one is something of a no-brainer as it deals with the usual drug-trafficking, sex slaves, tough guy villains and of course random martial arts thrown into the mix. We don't watch Seagal films for the plot though do we? HELL NO!
Years ago life was different, back in his heyday this film would have been lost among the mass of Steven Seagal films as it has pretty much the standard plot as the majority of his films had at the time. Good guy beats up bad guys and we all go home. These days there is however, although prolific with a never ending supply of DVDs getting released there is within them much less action from the man himself, he is not looking quite so good these days being clearly a lot less mobile and having the look of a bloated corpse which has had its head asphalted, but even at 63 years old and somewhat portly he still comes across as someone you wouldn't want to mess with. He has exchanged running for casually strolling, and some of the action scenes appear to be using a body double/stuntman, however when he is in close quarters combat Seagal is still a force to be reckoned with.
Byron Mann plays his friend and ally Chi, whose screen time is totally justified as this is somewhat like watching the Green Hornet TV series in which the bigger star of the show is upstaged by his Oriental sidekick. Absolution comes across as a fitting vehicle for Byron Mann's rather energetic fighting ability. Those unfamiliar with Byron may well have seen him in the episodes of the DC superhero series 'Arrow' in the role of Yao Fei, the guy who teaches Oliver Queen how to fight, or the older among us may have seen him in Jean-Claude van Damme's 1994 film 'Streetfighter' in which Byron played 'Ryu'.
In all fairness it has been a while since I've seen a Steven Seagal film, partly because of the general formulaic treatment in action movies over the past few decades and partly because of the eco-friendly new-age preaching that began to take over the plotlines of Mr Seagal's movies. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against making the planet a nicer place to live, when I watch an action movie I do not want lessons about my carbon footprint. I know too that given Steven Seagal's extraordinary career and even more extraordinary life is very much connected to a high level of more spirituality; we can expect some of his personality to bleed in to his films. Mercifully 'Absolution' doesn't stray down the green brick road to any great degree. In this film a government agency hires John Alexander (Seagal) to assassinate an undesirable element, which he does, after which he inadvertently rescues a young woman Nadia (Adina Stetcu) who has just escaped the clutches of a sadistic mob boss played by Vinnie Jones. Adina Stetcu, whose name is an anagram of 'Cutest Nadia' lives up to her anagram as the obligatory pretty girl on the run from the Mob. She is a relative newcomer and handles her role beautifully; I can imagine her career escalating rapidly if she makes the right choices and can avoid being typecast in the usual 'Token East European babe' roles.
Although it is quite sad to see Steven Seagal losing popularity and credibility since the '90s this film does serve as a reminder of just why he was one of the seminal action movie stars. I can only hope that he continues to delight his hard-line fans with the speed and precision of his close-up Aikido magic for many years to come as his skills are every bit as reliable as they were in films like 'Nico' and 'Hard to Kill'.
The whole plot of 'Absolution' is nothing new but the action sequences are well handled, I think it's safe to say that this is one for the dedicated fans of Seagal, or indeed Byron Mann who in my opinion is the real star of this film. Vinnie Jones is believably brutal as he sadistically tortures for the sheer fun of it, and it is somewhat unfortunate that a lot of the plot centres around Government Agencies rather than presenting two tough guys knocking seven barrels of shit out of one-another. When they do in fact clash the fight is over rather too quickly for my liking, I believe this is a missed opportunity as Vinnie's character aptly named 'The Boss' was seriously underused.
The Mercenary: Absolution is available digitally in the UK via Content Media from May 18.
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