I have finally paid to see a Steven Seagal film. In my defense, I paid to joke at one, because Saturday night I went to the Hollywood Theatre's Hecklevision screening (sponsored by Deschutes Brewery and Chipotle) of 1994's On Deadly Ground. Hecklevision has its audience (comedians included) text their jokes and insults, which pop up onscreen. I've attended before, at Con Air; I wish I'd also gone to a previous Hecklevision screening of the insane Schwarzenegger action film Commando. Anyway, it's fun, and I went last night with my phone, and I left amused, as I should've.
I used the texting handle "YayBasil" for the late composer Basil Poledouris: he wrote an honestly pretty good score for ODG, and honestly enjoyed working with Seagal; he did it again in 1995 with Under Siege II. I've had this score on tape for years.
The film opens with Seagal's character extinguishing an oil rig fire. Before he does, I texted (facetiously) that I wanted him to light a cigarette with that fire. HE DID. It's that kind of movie.
Dr. Cox! Austin Powers' dad! LaFours! I mean John C. McGinley, Michael Caine (who's admitted that this role was mainly a paycheck job) and Sven-Ole Thorsen, a stunt man in several films like Conan the Barbarian and MallRats. And who speaks in this film for some reason, though he has nowhere near an American accent (he's Danish).
At an establishing shot of Seattle, where Michael Caine's Alaska-destroying oil company is based, I texted "Seattle is evil?" PLAYING TO A PORTLAND AUDIENCE, I CAN DO THAT. (No; if I were really playing to my fellow Portlanders, I'd've dropped the question mark, but I like Seattle. To visit.)
We couldn't swear. Feh. Even "porn" and "butt" (and "p o r n" and "b u t t") got censored if we texted them, so my Beavis and Butt-head comment looked really weird. We tried our best to be funny without banned words! And being quick enough was tough; there's a slight delay in the text appearing, and there were a lot of 'em, even with a fairly small audience. (Con Air's audience: much bigger.)
The film is bad, but compellingly bad. Seagal means it, but just doesn't have the directing chops to make it compellingly good. It's all "VISUAL METAPHOR!" and "THIS SOUNDS PROFOUND!" and "THIS OIL RIG WILL BLOW UP AND KILL PEOPLE, SO SAVE THE DAY BY BLOWING IT UP AND KILLING PEOPLE." (At least in True Lies (from the same year) there was the more knowing "Have you ever killed anyone?" "Yeah, but they were all bad.") Plenty of ridiculous overacting, so that torturing an old oil rig employee becomes unintentionally funny. Or flat acting, like Caine's evil assistant who really actually says "He's baaa-aaack," like she's a kid saying it. That becomes not funny at all. And the "save the environment" speech at film's end (cut down from, apparently, 11 minutes) shows how much Seagal means it.
R. Lee Ermey, crew-cutted and looking ready to chomp a cigar, likes to write or rewrite his own lines, so I wonder how responsible he is for this monologue. Maybe Billy Bob Thornton, who was getting started as both an actor and a screenwriter, had a say in his out-of-nowhere speech near the end about keeping the stock in on his gun:
Well, I do, see. 'Cause when it's out I kinda feel like a pussy, you know what I'm saying. And when it's in, it just feels like, I don't know, meaner or something and when I kill the son of a bitch I wanna feel good about myself. I wanna feel solid.
Bless you, Thornton.
Anyway, On Deadly Ground: it's no Cliffhanger. (Ooooooo, burrrrrn.) Remember, Stallone's a much better actor than Seagal. But a Hecklevision of Cliffhanger might not be as funny.