Wednesday, October 15, 2008

KILL SWITCH - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Fortunately, I have totally dodged the Steven Seagal bullet. I mean a complete barrel-roll here, I have missed it all. I had a friend who always told me that I should watch some antagonist named "Screwface" in MARKED FOR DEATH. I never got it though. I put in some Youtube time and have learned recently that I missed nothing.
So when I heard that there was a straight to video Seagal movie in the mix, I went into it headlong.
You have to forgive a lot of things in KILL SWITCH. You have to forgive Seagal for being fat. You have to forgive Seagal for the lame plot. You also have to forgive him for the tacked on ending that makes no sense whatsoever. Forgiveness is also something you should consider when you listen to Seagal push a Cajun accent out of his overfed mouth.
The biggest thing that you will have to forgive is the editing of this film. In the opening scene, one of the two heavy antagonists in the film is Seagal-booted out of a window. We see this happen twelve times. It is editing overkill. Twelve is the magic number in this film. Twelve punches to the face is the standard. Of course, it is one punch, and it is replayed from every possible angle. Body shots don't matter as much, but if it is a face shot, there will be twelve hits/replays. Twelve is the magic number in this film. The first time I noticed this kind of editing was back during the Van Damage/Pyun cinematic masterpiece CYBORG. Double edits were employed to let us feel every punch two times. It must be noted that the film hails from 1987. Now we are more than 20 years past such a landmark and the best that a film like KILL SWITCH can offer is excess in the replay edit zone?
A lot is there to forgive, and a lot is there that is unforgivable. An example of this would be the films nonstop misogyny. Women are either killed or ridiculed in this film. Seagal, who wrote the screenplay, has no idea what to do with women. He knows that they need to be in the film somewhere, but outside of cannon fodder, creatures eager to hustle gratuitous nudity, targets for depraved sex-maniacs and ball-breaking Federal agents, he is at a loss.
The plot is a miasma of bad flashbacks and a new Zodiac killer. Straight up: I am not going to bother explaining it. Seagal sleepwalks through the role and there is no way that a man this fat can be as agile as he fronts. A lot of the fight scenes are so kinetic that there is no way to know who or what happened. The fight scenes are boring, and this is the unforgivable.
KILL SWITCH is the martial arts equivalent of a bad porno flick. The purpose of watching the action film is to see the fight scenes. Steven Seagal is not some Shakespearean actor, he is a tall, fat man who mumbles a lot but knows some fancy moves. The purpose of the film is to enjoy his brand of combat. Pornographic film is similar. These are not Shakespearean actors, these are people who will use their bodies as objects for the gratification of the audience. Plot and dialogue aren't the issues in a porno. The "action" is the issue. Now this is a crass parallel to draw, but it is fleshly accurate. If a movie starring Steven Seagal is basically a porn film with fight scenes rather than dirty sex, then this movie fails.
Another piece of this grand unforgivable failure is the dehumanizing of Seagal himself. I argue that every A-list male actor has had their ass kicked onscreen. This is a part of the humanizing of a male action star. It is also a part of the connection that an audience needs with an action star. If this connection is never made, then the actor in question will always be limited to acting in movies that are not "human" and thereby demoted to the realm of "silly." Steven Seagal has a reputation as an ass-kicking machine. What he needs is a movie where he gets his ass kicked, HARD. All of the other Hollywood leading men have taken such beatings. Daniel Craig, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Nardo, and more have all taken this beating. They have all in turn moved up the ladder in Hollywood. Seagal hasn't (as far as I know) taken that beating yet. Until that point, he will be limited to straight to video silliness like this. Steven Seagal isn't willing to show any part of his humanity. Part of the currency in a good action film is to know that the protagonist can get dismantled. This is more than just a good shot to the face or tousled hair. A good protagonist in an action film has to experience real pain and the potential of losing. Seagal never steps into that realm. KILL SWITCH fails horribly because there is no way to remotely take it seriously.
This film is lousy all the way to its tacked on ending. I must have gotten lost in the edits somewhere. In the film, he seems to be living with this one female police officer and he has no time for her. Then at the end he has 2 kids and a french woman (wife?). I don't recall a reference to her earlier in the film and it seems to be tacked on so we can see the french woman's breast before Seagal shuts the door.
Let's all hope he keeps that door shut and doesn't come back out. I mean this with all sincerity: I can't take another Seagal movie.
-Mediasaurus Rex