Posted on Sunday, November 6th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
One of the best film books I’ve ever read is Vern’s Seagalogy, which takes an astonishing and in-depth look at the films of actor/martial artist/musician/energy drink impresario/Vladamir Putin stooge Steven Seagal. Although Seagal has only directed one film (1994’s fascinating trainwreck On Deadly Ground), the book argues that his personal perspective, life philosophies, and beliefs run through his larger body of work, making him an action movie auteur whose films reflect him as an artist and human being. You don’t have to like Seagal (he’s a fairly awful person) to find this fascinating – it just adds an interesting layer to a body of work that is mostly terrible. ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer even made a similar argument for Arnold Schwarzenegger, although his filmography is stronger in every possible way.
Unfortunately, Seagalogy is increasingly out of date. Since its 2008 publication, Seagal has appeared in 22 more films, most of them direct-to-DVD and most of them unwatchable. His latest movie, Contract to Kill, has unveiled a new trailer and it has everything you’d expect and dread from a late-era Seagal film.
The thing about older Steven Seagal is that he refuses to embrace himself. Some actors gain weight as they grow older and the best of them learn to own it. Just look at Russell Crowe, who made his bulk something to be feared and respected in The Nice Guys, or Vincent D’Onofrio, who uses his size to inform the intimidating physicality of his characters in Daredevil and The Magnificent Seven. But Seagal? Seagal tries to hide it. And it’s not a good look.
This means he’s spent the past decade-plus refusing to be filmed in wide shots that will reveal his gut and only wearing clothes (trench coats, dark colors, scarves) that will mask his waistline. Rather than embrace his size and appear as a bruiser, a Bad Dude built like a brick shithouse, he keeps on trying to be his younger self. He wants to be the svelte guy who could move like lightning and Aikido his way through a room of henchmen in the blink of an eye. His new movies consist of him fighting guys in bewildering close-ups that attempt to mask that he’s not nearly as fast or as skillful as he used to be. Rather than embrace that and evolve, he continues to be stuck in the past.
So it’s only natural that the trailer for Contract to Kill is full of sped-up close-ups of Seagal fighting guys and shows that go out of their way to hide the fact that the leading man is on the heavy side. Toss in the fact that Seagal delivers every single line of dialogue in that monotonous whisper that once felt like a decent Clint Eastwood impersonation and now feels like laziness and you have…a new Steven Seagal movie. The plot has something to do with Seagal hunting terrorists, but whatever.
Contract to Kill arrives on December 9, 2016. It probably won’t be long until you’ll be able to watch 30 minutes of it on Netflix before getting bored and sad and turning if off. Here’s the synopsis:
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In this international action-thriller, Steven Seagal stars as Harmon, a CIA/DEA enforcer investigating Arab terrorists captured in Mexico. With his team—seductive FBI agent Zara (Jemma Dallender) and spy-drone pilot Sharp (Russell Wong)—he flies to Istanbul and uncovers a brutal plot: Islamic extremists plan to use Sonora drug-smuggling routes to bring deadly weapons, and leaders, into the U.S. To prevent an attack on America, Harmon must turn these two savage forces against one another before his time—and his luck—run out.