Belly of the Beast

The Spoony One | Jan 19 2009 | more notation(s) | 
Belly of the Beast

A Review by Noah Antwiler

I know what you're thinking. You're not nearly drunk enough for this. But more than that, you're wondering why, of all the movies in Steven Seagal's illustrious filmography-- a lifetime of classics like Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Today You Die, Into the Sun, Submerged, and Executive Decision (infamous for being the only movie where Steven Seagal's character has ever, ever perished)-- why I would choose Belly of the Beast, a direct-to-video flick that certainly looks awful, but certainly not remarkable in any way. Indeed, any one of those films is worthy for inclusion in the hallowed halls of The Spoony Experiment, and before the end, many more will join it. But Belly of the Beast is special, remarkable over any other thing that Seagal has done before, and to prove it, I have to tell this story slightly out of order, starting at the end.

"You're not ready!"

This movie has sat on top of my rant-pile for about a year, collecting dust because I've been legitimately afraid of putting it into my DVD player. I've gone out of my way to avoid seeing it, as if it were some some unclean thing. I even chose to watch "Manos:" The Hands of Fate over this (without MST3K riffing) because every time I looked at the cover, I heard Steven's voice waft up from the ethereal realm and tell me "You're not ready." And I haven't been. I've felt unworthy of touching this...marvel. This masterpiece. I spent a month just tracking this movie down, and there it sat on my desk untouched, a neutron bomb of shitty movie that once released would scar me for life if it didn't destroy me outright. I went to every bookstore, movie store, secondhand store, and mall in Mesa and later in Tempe, and couldn't find it. I actually made clerks call other stores in the area to ask if they had a copy of this piece of shit. They looked at me like I was fucking nuts and tried to sell me copies of Hitch instead. The clerk at Borders actually asked if he was on a reality TV show when I asked him to find this movie in his computer. I resorted to Netflix, and found that the copy I received there had been split neatly down the middle. Not only that, the surface of the DVD had been ravaged and gouged with deep ruts, covered with dirt and tiny little shards of gravel wedged into it. It's as if someone, either a previous renter or the Netflix envelope-stuffer saw what I was about to do to myself, snapped the disc in half, then realized that some meaningful data might somehow be salvaged from the halves, took it to the parking lot and ground the pieces into the asphalt under his heels. I eventually had to get it from after a month of tracking.

You read that right. I put this much effort into tracking a Steven Seagal movie. Send help.

And there it sat. I had always known that this movie would be a life-altering experience. A trial unlike anything I'd yet experienced. I could feel its power thrumming through the plastic case, and knew that what I'd seen before was just a fraction of the dark powers I would unleash as soon as I hit that Play button.

It all started a year ago, around two in the morning. I get to bed late, but it wans't likely I was going to get any sleep anyway because of the terrible cold I had. Thumbing through the channels, lamenting how there wasn't even any good Skinemax on, I eventually stumbled across this-- a clip that changed my life. A clip that I am about to show you now, and what could be the most hilarious thing I have ever seen. Believe me, you are not ready for this. I could not make this shit up.

Steven Seagal backhand slaps a dude across the room!! He slaps, pinches, chops, and then backhands him over thirty feet through the air into a knick-knack cabinet! I must have spent an hour using the PVR feature on my satellite receiver just going back to watch this over and over. There's so much to pore over, to analyze that I barely know where to begin. The hilarious calm on Steven's face as a madman charges him with a katana sword, Steven's faggy little Neru jacket, the fact that he intercepts the swordsman, stopping him cold with a finger thrust to the stomach, completely devastates him physically with shiatsu-like nerve twists and femme-slaps to the neck, the abuse of bullet-time slow-mo as Steven charges up for his Dragonball Z-like kamehameha double backhand slap, or the flight of the hapless stuntman as he sails-- in a STRAIGHT LINE, mind you-- legs splayed up in the air with his ass over his head, for more than ten yards like he was fired out of a cannon. All of this culminates with Steven's stone-faced, completely serious resumption of his Aikido stance, like he wasn't at all surprised that he just bitch-slapped a guy-- nay, TORPEDOED his ass across the room into a fucking credenza in defiance of all the laws of physics. Instead his face just says "I'm Steven-Fucking-Seagal, destroyer of worlds."

Anyway, that's all I've ever seen of Belly of the Beast. Just that. After who-knows-how-many viewings of Steven Seagal's mighty pimp-hand at work, I literally passed out. Maybe I had succumbed to fatigue and the ravages of my cold, but by the time I came around, the rest of the movie had been lost. But one thing was clear: that single minute from Belly of the Beast had defeated me. I had been locked in a self-destructive cycle, like a computer confronted with paradoxical non-terminating code, spinning its wheels in confusion at the data laid out before it. I was locked-up, unable to move past the hideous, terrible truth of the movie clip I'd just seen. I kept going back, trying to analyze it, rationalize it, to understand it, but the more I saw the more meaningless everything else became. Nihilism encroached on my very soul, blocking out all else until nothing was left save Steven Seagal, a mad, bloated god of violence in the center of the galaxy. Had I not been saved by sheer exhaustion and weakness from my virus, I might still be sitting there, head shrunken from the radiation leaking from my television, thumb spasming endlessly on the back-button of my satellite remote as Seagal's feat of strength played on before my burnt-out hollow eye sockets for all eternity. From then on I felt that I had to see the rest of that movie. It had become an obsession, and so I journeyed on seeking it, knowing that it might destroy me. Now I must pass through pass through the belly of the beast to know that I am a man.

Steven started out surprisingly strong, considering his obvious acting limitations. Under Siege wasn't too bad, despite my standing claim that Steven wasn't really the star and that the battleship out-acted him. But that movie had Tommy Lee Jones who seemed to be enjoying himself and Colm Meaney who at that time was relishing his pre-Star Trek roles typecast as the same Irish asshole in every movie he's ever been in up through Con Air. It had its charms, from Seagal's complete untouchability to his strange maverick Navy SEAL character who'd chosen to be the ship's cook. There were a few other films where he systematically beat the shit out of Brian Cox and Kris Kristofferson, and one where he played an Eskimo warrior against big oil and Michael Caine (a favorite of mine for its five-minute monologue by Steven at the end about the evils of the oil industry and the part where he tapes a 2-liter bottle of Coke to the end of a pistol and uses it as a silencer). Since Under Siege 2 he's sort of become an underground direct-to-video king. But the years have not been kind to ol' Steven. It seems that he's blown all his cash to feed his Ding-Dong habit, as you'll notice if you pick up anything of his since Exit Wounds. He's so tubby in Half Past Dead that almost every shot of him is in extreme close-up so you can't see his ponderous paunch and huge jiggly ass. The few times you do see him from the neck-down, he's in gigantic baggy prison chinos and sporting a hilarous dew-rag. But in truth, Steven's stuntman gets most of the camera time anymore. He's more walrus now than man, and if he were to seriously try any of that aikido shit anymore he'd herniate himself so bad his stomach would rupture and he'd drown the crew in gravy.

He looks like he's made of honey-glazed ham...

The movie opens up, as a subtitle tells us, in sunny Thailand in 1994: the year NAFTA went into effect, OJ Simpson killed a couple people, Nancy Kerrigan got whacked on the knee, and the Buffalo Bills choked for the fourth straight time at the Super Bowl. I just wanted to illustrate the historical context because something tells me that it's all terribly important. I'm expecting a taut political thriller here.

We see Steven sitting across a table from a couple of Thai gangster types. He's wearing a weird kind of brown polyester Jedi master robe that really seems to be throwing his tough-looking friend off his game. "So as I said," he begins, "through our mutual friend in Burma here, I thought we could maybe reach an understanding. We just want peace, you know? You guys have the whole of Burma. Just stay there, leave us alone, and tell my friend that we respect him. We're staying outta his face." Burma? Oh, you mean Myanmar! See, the military junta changed the name from Burma in 1989. Whoops! How did Steven Seagal get elected the protector of Thailand, anyway?

"Hey, these things happen," shrugs the Myanmarian.. .Myanmarish... Myanmari... fuck it, the Burmese gangster. "We're running a big operation here!"

"You keep your territory, we keep ours. A war's not good for anybody," prods Steven's tough-guy buddy.

The gangster shrugs. "Of course. The last thing we need is an enemy in the CIA."

A weird vibe settles over the table as the three men look at each other, wondering if someone's forgotten a line. Steven's buddy grins stupidly as if he really believes that he's negotiated his way out of a gang war with the simple exchange "Please stay out of our country! People might get hurt!" "Golly, you're right! Bye!" But of course, Steven senses danger. The Burmese gangster reaches for a gun tucked in the front of his pants, but as he does so, Steven boots him in the gut which sends the gun flying, backhand slaps him out of the chair, and clotheslines him through a window!

Steven comes out shooting at a gang of thugs who spontaneously appear on either sides of the hallway. His buddy flings himself violently through the door in a shower of splinters, falls on his ass, and starts shooting too. They split up and start running in different direcions. Steven's buddy (who I'm just going to call Trip because he keeps falling) tries to jump down to ground level but lands hard and crashes prone in what really seems like a botched stunt that was left in the movie. Trip starts running through an open market, fires back at another thug, and stumbles backwards over a bucket of water and into a puddle of stagnant Thai sewage. Blinded by all the fetid shit in his eyes, Trip blasts a woman carrying a child in the chest with his .45. Man, is this guy accident prone. Then the dumb bastard starts howling for help as if he's forgotten he's got the entire Burmese Mafia chasing him and gets shot by one of them. The triggerman stands over Trip waving his gun and hooting like a Tusken Raider just long enough for Steven to shoot him dead.

Graaaaaaaggggggh I'll kill you any second now! Graaaaaaaahhhh!

The opening credits roll against the backdrop of a swimming pool, and as the title is displayed we can see a swimmer enter the frame. For a brief, panicky moment, I think we might actually see Steven Seagal's blubbery, buoyant ass crashing through the water. But no, it turns out to be some anonymous naked woman baring her ass just as Steven's name is displayed. And then, just as soon as we see the triumphant words "STEVEN SEAGAL," the credits end! That took like 15 seconds! There isn't anyone else in this movie? Not only did he get top-billing, he got the only billing.

The narrative crashes back into motion with all the subtlety of a Seagal cannonball off the high-dive by showing us a yuppie house ripped straight from the Miami Vice playbook. The movie tells us that this is "Hawaii, Present Day," a subtitle that's always annoyed me much like movies that establish the future at a date that by now has already passed. Like the Eugenics Wars in Star Trek that were supposed to take place in the 1990s! What the hell? I want my Khan! 2001 was supposed to yield true artificial intelligence and manned expeditions to Jupiter. And Snake Plisskin saving the president from the maximum security Manhattan Island prison around the year 2000! If I watch this movie twenty years for now, this whole "present day" shit just isn't going to fly. The lack of flying cars and voice-activated microwaves is going to ruin my already miserable viewing experience.

The place crawls with security, but a spry-looking burglar in black springs up the wall behind them and vaults to the roof. That better not be Seagal. He couldn't move like that if you told him there was a sack of Angus burgers up there. But sure enough, it's Steven. Yeah right, if it was, the sound of him hitting the wall would have been like the fucking rhinos crashing through the halls in Jumanji. Steven uses a glass cutter to put a hole in the window, unlatches it, and then for no reason does a diving Kirk-style head-roll into the house. Every few seconds we can see the same naked woman doing laps in the pool outside, flanked on either side by white-shirted security guards making a conspicuous effort not to stare at her ass.

You will believe a man can eat.

Steven sneaks around (shya, right), takes out some spy gadgets and breaks into an electronic safe to steal some kind of optical disk. Then he vaults over a rail overlooking the foyer and lands silently, two floors down on the tile floor like a cat. The movie takes great pains to show us that the guards hear nothing of Steven's artful gymnastic landing when in reality, the sound of his 300 lbs. ass rocketing into the ground from 22 feet up would have measured on the Richter scale. Not to mention that the sound of his shins exploding would have sounded like a piano collapsing. Then, to avoid notice from the guards outside, he kicks himself across the tile floor and slides about thirty yards under the windows and the director of photography credit, his momentum maintained by the perfectly frictionless layer of bacon grease that he naturally excretes at all times.

This done, he goes into the kitchen and checks the refridgerator. I'm not kidding. But he manages to resist the urge to tuck into the leftover pork roast and instead steals a bottle of water.

Back at home, Steven talks to his daughter on the phone (eeew, Steven's had sex...) and hurries to prepare a meal. His fridge is chock-full of meals prepared in individual Tupperware containers, each meticulously marked with Post-It notes. Steven likes to prepare his meals in advance, all at once, and organizes them using an extremely complicated indexing system so a minimum amount of time is wasted between the onset of a craving and eating. Somehow this makes a lot of sense to me. But in this case Steven looks extremely frustrated; the containers are marked with notes written in his daughter's hand with things like "No red meat! I'm serious!" "Take your vitamins!" and "Shrimp Grilled Rice - Lots of salad in the draw." No red meat?? That bitch! Even she realizes that her dad's a fat bastard, but they're both kidding themselves if they think Steven can go more than a week before succumbing to the siren call of Little Debbie, that chocolate-peddling whore. With grim determination he reaches for a dish of broccoli penne. You can tell that it takes all his willpower not to simply shred the lid off the container and cram fistfuls of raw pasta into his face, and with trembling hands he throws the dish in the microwave and stalks around the counter, watching the meal turn like a lion stalks a lone zebra.

Steven Seagal and Sammo Hung
in Collateral 2 ...

It looks like Steven's daughter Jessica is on a backpacking trip in Thailand with her boyfriend and two other friends. Nothing says adventure like a trip to Bangkok, I guess. She left Hawaii to go to Thailand? Not to bash the fine country of Thailand, of course-- ah hell with it, I'm bashing Thailand. Why not take a hike across the scenic jungles of Columbia and tour the rivers of Nicaragua, just to sample a little bit of the local flavor. Just as soon as all the teens go for a swim in a murky, chigger-ridden lagoon, guerillas representing the Abu Karaf attack. They kill the boys and abduct both girls. Dang, and here I was thinking that I should book my next spring break vacation in Thailand. I guess it's true, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble.

The CIA gets a tape from the Abu Karaf along with a list of unspecified demands "long as your arm" using the girls as hostages. They send an agent down there to see if they can free the hostages, but mainly to interfere with Seagal (whose name we finally discover is Hopper) to avoid any potential embarassment to the United States. Stopping Seagal from being an embarassment? Talk about Mission: Impossible.

Hopper climbs into a taxi. The cabbie tries to make small-talk like "where you from," but Hopper just dodges the question by giving the rather queer response "...far away" as if "America" was too complicated an answer for this guy to understand. Seagal looks like a pile of hamburger shaped into the form of a man in this scene, glistening with oil and perspiration. The cabbie continues to jabber away, offering him the hook-up on anything he wants: food (good first guess), booze, women, drugs. Steven just tells him to shut the fuck up and drive him where he wants to go.

On cue, the cab pulls to a halt and Steven notices the cab is at a dead-end, and being approached by three men from either side. "The ride is over!" announces the cabbie, producing a handgun, but without registering surprise, alarm, or emotion of any kind, Hopper disarms the man and backhand slaps him in the face, and through the driver's side door! Holy leaping CHRIST!

You heard me right. Seagal's backhand DESTROYS A CAR DOOR.

Hopper steps out of the car in slow motion and simply walks away from the thugs into an open-air Thai market. He doesn't run, mind you, that would make him look like a pussy. He just walks away like he doesn't care. They pose no real threat to him. Along the way, Steven looks around, noticing pointedly the roast chickens on display, the various fresh vegetables and fish. The thugs arm themselves with cleavers and boning knives. They rush him, but quickly find that their weapons are useless. Hopper easily dispatches the entire lot, and the merest brush of the back of his hand sends them careening back through the air into food stands with all the might the wire-team can muster. After a while, Steven actually starts to show off, beating them up with one hand behind his back. But soon he decides to stop playing,and his stuntman (you can tell it's the stuntman whenever Hopper does anything that doesn't involve talking, eating, or scowling) starts doing some aerial kicks to spice things up.

Here's a subtle one.

"Who sent you?" Hopper demands of the last standing henchman. The guy seems about to talk until the sight of some crazy-looking voodoo witch-doctor type looms into his field of vision and scowls at him. The henchman spazzes out, runs away, slips on a tomato (ya rly), stumbles onto a table covered with ice and fish (srsly), and slides across it like a cowboy being thrown across a saloon bar in a Western, headlong into the blade of a butcher knife wedged into the table. Wow. The old slip-on-a-tomato, across-a-table-of-fish-into-a-knife trick. Steven doesn't even really have to work hard to kill these villains, does he?

Seagal doesn't react to his terribly queer sight with any real emotion, or even a bemused "huh!" He doesn't even seem out of breath for having just defeated eight men in a fistfight, throwing them like lawn darts across a market. Oh please. If he even tried shadow boxing for twenty seconds he'd be doubled over, hands on his knees wheezing for a Diet Pepsi and a sack of Cheetos. Instead he just narrows his eyes (his usual acting response to anything requring emotion) and goes to get a room at a hotel.

He heads right over to a local strip joint after checking-in. I would have guessed the nearest all-you-can-eat pork buffet, but this makes sense too. It's one of those Walker: Texas Ranger-type strip clubs where none of the chicks show their titties and the place is full of hooting idiots at 10 AM. Hopper immediately runs into trouble with some goober getting fresh with one of the waitresses. "Why don't you head back on over to your own genetic puddle and take a swim," Hopper tells him in his usual smug pre-barfight mode. I'm pretty sure he's about to play the hand-slap game with him, rupture the man's spleen when he loses, and then go on to change his outlook on women with some fruity speech about what it takes to change the nature of a man. Uhm...go see On Deadly Ground. You'll see what I mean.

The Dik-Dik.

"Oh, you real tough walkin' in here, huh?" says the goober. He motions back to his two cronies and shouts "Dik dik!" Which must mean "get him" in Thai or something. I actually rewinded a bit to figure out if I'd heard it right. He shouts "Dik dik."

After mopping the floor with the three guys, the club's owner Fitch furiously comes over but recognizes him. "Jake! My old friend, Jake Hopper." Yeah, he looks like a Jake Hopper. Jake asks Fitch for help, because he's been out of the game for ten years. The owner says there's not much he can do but he'll work on it. Dollars to donuts says this guy's in on the kidnapping in what will be a "clever" plot twist, especially considering his not-so-subtle attempt at a failed "this is the first I've heard of it" expression. I don't know what it is that makes me think of donuts when I think of Steven Seagal...

Hopper hires a boat and goes off to a Buddhist temple to catch up with Trip, his bonehead accident-prone nightmare of a partner. After killing an innocent woman he's decided to become a monk, probably because there aren't that many ways you can be a danger to yourself or others inside a monastery. Trip's looking pretty chipper and together he and Hopper walk hand-in-hand (!) through the courtyard while discussing Jessica's kidnapping. It's more than a little gay. Dik-dik.

There's stuff being said in this scene, probably a lot of heavy expositional material but I can't really focus on it that much because everything that Seagal is saying through the entire scene is dubbed over by someone else who sounds almost entirely unlike Steven Seagal. What the hell? Why doesn't Steven just ADR his own lines? What, is he too busy ramming Twinkies into his gob to get his fat ass into a VO booth?

Hopper goes back to his hotel room and senses someone sneaking around inside. He shoulder-tackles through the door and throws the waitress from the strip club into a hammerlock. The waitress saves her own life by pointing desperately at a bundle of plastic bags nearby and screams "I brought you food!" These simple words crumble his fragile resolve and he shoves her aside to pounce on the vittles like a starving wolverine.

What is WITH those godawful Neru jackets?

Trip renounces his vows and tags along with Hopper. Jake tries to talk him out of it with the excuse that he doesn't want Trip to screw up the last ten years he's built up as a monk (five more and he gets that set of steak knives), but really he just doesn't want Trip to accidentally shoot him. But Trip is stubborn and Hopper has no choice but to agree.

Seagal's now chosen to wear a baggy, gut-concealing blue kimono. His hair is bound up in a terrible miniature ponytail that looks like one big split-end, frazzled in all directions. The waitress tells him that the club owner has been lying about what he knows; that an Abu Karaf leader stops in to watch the non-stripping strippers all the time. *gasp* Jake's old friend double-crossing him after all these years? I may faint! Hopper sends her back into the club to rifle Fitch's office drawers for clues. She gets there just in time to read an incoming fax that says "INCRIMINATING MEETING AT 10 AM TOMORROW AT TRAIN YARD. BRING AN ABSURD AMOUNT OF MONEY." Well not really but you get the picture.

Hopper and Trip infiltrate the trainyard in broad daylight somehow (probably hiding under the cloak of Steven's voluminious kimono) and watch the Abu Karaf guy selling some weapons. He notices a sniper off in the distance about to shoot the leader, and says "I have to shoot that sniper or I lose the only lead I have to find my daughter." What about the other twelve Abu Karaf extremists behind him, Jake? But Hopper shoots the sniper and all hell breaks loose. Everyone starts killing each other, and Seagal runs around shooting his .45 in his classic "I have no idea what a proper firing stance is, or how to hold a gun" style. He has this limp-wristed way of holding a gun, tilted in a semi-gangsta style that ensures he would never hit anything he intends to.

Hopper gets the Abu Karaf leader in his sights and they stare at each other in a standoff, even though the guy had no way to know that Jake saved him from the sniper. They simultaneously turn and fire on another gunman in one of those manly "we have a common enemy" stud moments. Seagal's stuntman then leaps through a wall and shoots John-Woo-style at a trio of gunmen he had no way of knowing were even there.

And he does it with his EYES CLOSED!!!

This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life, I swear to God. Seagal manages to fire SEVENTEEN TIMES before even hitting the fucking ground! I counted! He lands on a rolling cart (which under his awesome girth should have exploded into a thousand pieces) and proceeds to singlehandedly wipe out the entire gang firing another 25 rounds making it a total of FORTY-TWO shots before he bothers to reload! He slaughters about twenty-five people in this kill-crazy ramage before the cops swarm the place and drag Steven down by sheer numbers, throwing him into a squad car.

The chief of police takes Hopper to his office. Seagal looks dead-level at him as if saying "I'm only here because I choose to be here, meat puppet." At no time does he look intimidated by authority or shaken in the slightest by the lives he's snuffed out only a half-hour ago.

Seagal is above the laws of men!

"Some men were killed today," says the chief. "And you were responsible." Some men were killed? What he just did will probably go down in the papers as The Trainyard Massacre. The chief threatens to throw him in jail for interfering in his investigation, as if the truckload of dead bodies wasn't enough reason.

"I think that'd be a big mistake," warns Hopper. The chief motions for a nearby cop, who whacks Steven with a billy club, which Steven doesn't even react to! The cop pummels him three times in the back of the head before Seagal even grunts in the slightest pain. He leaps to his feet, disarms the cop and throws him over the desk. (Not since Rambo has a police station been so devastated!) He beats the shit out of the station's appalled clerical staff, uses his handcuffs (which for some reason have an 18-inch chain between the bracelets) to take another cop's gun and assumes a goofy martial arts pose with it as every other cop in the station surrounds him with a drawn firearm. As if their mortal weapons could harm him.

Agent Washington runs into the station and defuses the situation by claiming that he'll assume responsibility for Hopper. Amazingly, the cops back down and allow this despite the fact that he just assaulted the entire station and held the chief of police hostage after gunning down two dozen men. But Hopper doesn't even show any gratitude to Washington, who unquestionably saved his ass. Instead he threatens Washington to stay out of his way, saying he'll kill any man who gets between him and his daughter. While I can appreciate the sentiment, you'd think he'd try to get all the friends he can instead of alienating himself with both the Thai and American governments.

I am the god of hellfire!

Anyway, the strip club waitress (who I will simply call Needy from now on) comes home to find her roommate murdered so she runs off sobbing to Hopper, worried that she's next. "It's my fault," Jake says, seeming not really to believe that it is his fault or to give a shit either way. It doesn't make any sense if you think about it (which you shouldn't) because nobody knew that she was helping Hopper, and they certainly had no reason to think her roommate knew anything! Needy sits on Seagal's lap and buries her face in his ample bosom, sobbing that she's not safe.

"Stay with me," says the Seagal-Who-Is-Not-Seagal Voice Actor, and she kisses him on his beefy, buttery lips. Oh man, she must have been hard up for a role...

But then, oh my God, no...then he takes her back to his place where they proceed to have sweaty, undulating walrus sex! NO!! Please say this isn't happening! Please end before I see an inch of his greasy cellulite-cratered buttocks! STOP IT!! STOP IT!!! NOOO!!!!! WHYYYYYYYY WHY WHY???? WHYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I... I can't... I've seen too much... can't go on... Can't write any more review... feel weak... there are some guys talking about stuff. A guy shooting an arrow... stuff... vision fading... all I can see is Steven Seagal thrusting... please let the blackness come and take my pain away. My only hope is the booze, the sweet, sweet booze. Come to me, Jose Cuervo and erase these visions. I have to focus. I have to remember why I'm here.

Is this guy metal or what??

I think I'm better now, but I may only be able to stay with you as long as the liquor holds out.

Where are we? Hopper and Trip somehow find themselves in a lumberyard (for little reason more than they needed another place to stage an action set piece) where they're ambushed by somersaulting, dual sword-wielding maniacs who can apparently defy gravity because they know martial arts. Why, if this were an ambush like it was meant to be, the attackers don't have guns is explainable only in that this is a chop-socky film and that would be cheating. Once again, Seagal fails to register even a moment's surprise at the ambush, or even seem to express the slightest displeasure or worry at the attack. The fight goes like you expect it would: the better-armed opponents with superior numbers get outright humiliated by Seagal and Trip, who never seem to be in any danger whatsoever. Seagal sidesteps and weaves around their sword strokes (in slow motion, of course), throwing them twenty feet through the air with a casual flick of his wrist, left-handed.

The fight concludes with Hopper throwing a sword sidearm into a leaping ninja-man, which impales him through the chest and launches him backwards through a pile of cut lumber like he'd been hit in the gut with a Titan missile. The really distracting part of this scene is that it's accompanied with a grating soundtrack of an annoying Thai rock band attempting to rip off American alternative butt-rock. It sounds like the kind of poser-metal bullshit 12 Stones or Alterbridge would crank out of they were Asian.

After the fight, Seagal slouches in place, and to my horror I can see his man-boobs through his Neru jacket which is already baggy enough to resemble circus tent with a mock collar. I am forced to open my second bottle of booze.

Hopper and Trip are fresh out of leads, and so they seem to be driving about at random hoping to provoke another action sequence to provide another clue about where to go. A strange woman steps out in front of their car and narrowly avoids being hit. She stares enigmatically at Hopper and walks into a nearby pub. He follows just because the script says he should, and trails her into a back room. She waits for him there, where she takes off her top and exposes her breasts to him. Seagal's face betrays no surprise whatsoever, as if this were such a commonplace occurence that it's become boring. The woman proceeds to dip a washcloth into a nearby basin of water and rubs it over her boobs, exposing a hidden message in invisible tattoo ink. Oh come on, this is completely gratuitous! Hasn't anyone heard of frigging e-mail? Here I am typing up this nonsense in the dark, and Steven Seagal is somehow talking chicks into washing their tits on camera for no god damned reason. When did this ever seem like a clever plot device? Invisible boob mail?

Does the panda seem afraid to you, too?

I don't know what the message says, and it doesn't really seem to factor into anything because all Hopper does is track down his lying CIA partner Fitch at the club and demand to know where his daughter is. Fitch draws his gun on him and instead of blowing him away, jaws with him like your typical Bond villain until some skanky she-bitch in charge of this whole operation comes out and challenges Hopper to a one-on-one fight. Common sense and logic are just collapsing all around us now. She too has the power to cling to walls and leap over fifteen feet in the air, and she does it with razor sharp stiletto-heels that she uses as weapons. But Steven-- a million points if you can guess-- backhand slaps her right in the tits, which sends her sailing across the room and through a glass table. Sneering, the she-bitch pulls off her padded bra, revealing that she's really a very, very strange man who walks amazingly well in heels. A few more slaps later and whoever-it-is gets defenestrated into unconsciousness. Fitch finally decides now might be a good time to shoot the good guys but you know how fast a villain's thought processes work in these movies. He gets wasted with barely a second thought.

The villain, the Evil Thai General Guy goes off to his mentor, which turns out to be the Crazy Voodoo Witch Doctor Man we saw earlier, that caused a henchman to slide across a table of fish into a meat cleaver. At the same time, Hopper goes to the Buddhist temple to ask for the head monk's blessing to kill a staggering amount of people, which he receives because he's "doing it for love." I don't really think murder in the name of love fits in with the Buddhist ethos. But Hopper and Trip storm the Evil Thai General Guy's compound with silenced pistols and kill everyone in their path until they free the girls. Trip in particular seems to have no problem adjusting to his newfound bloodlust, gunning down entire squads of loyal Thai soldiers with a submachinegun. Gotta be hard to resolve mass murder with your religious doctrine here.

Cast that spell, you crazy Thai Voodoo Man!

Hopper goes to the second floor alone (why, I don't know when they should be headed outside) where he confronts Evil Thai General Guy who attacks him with a bow and arrow. A bow-- what?? A bow and arrow? USE A GUN!! ETGG shoots an arrow, which Steven shoots out of the air with his gun! More arrows follow, but Hopper cuts it neatly in half with a samurai sword he just happens to find in the room! Then they start dueling around with martial arts weapons, with Seagal getting the clear advantage until the movie cuts to Crazy Voodoo Witch Doctor Man, who starts poking needles into a voodoo doll, which-- believe it or not-- really works. Hopper drops to a knee, weakened by the voodoo magic, and Evil Thai General Guy starts knocking him around some. That is, until we see the assembled group of Buddhist monks chanting prayers in support of Steven! Their holy Buddhist magic starts countering the evil voodoo spell! For a full minute, we see the monks chanting in a theological battle between Buddhism and Voodoo, as the Crazy Voodoo Man starts bleeding from the eyes, having seizures, and strangling chickens to counter the divine power of the mighty Buddha.

Do many Thai practice Voodoo? Just a question, and I think I already know the answer. But until now, I'd never thought to question which one would win in a fight. Let's see what we've got to deal with here:

Shaolin Kung-Fu Monk Dudes
Creepy dancing people
Hardcore hallucinogens


That's not to impugn Buddhism, but if I were to put them head-to-head in a brawl-for-it-all? I think Voodoo's got a lot more mystic ass-kicking potential! Plus, let's not forget the hardcore drugs. Meditation might help you understand God, but you rock enough of that voodoo ganja and you'll talk to him!

Anyway, this is clearly an issue that needs exploration, and only Steven Seagal has the balls to bring these matters to the forefront. But in this case, Buddhism wins and frees Hopper from the nefarious crippling power of the voodoo doll. He gets up just in time as Evil Thai General Guy charges him with a sword! This is it! The moment of truth! Here's what happens, blow-by blow!

This is the greatest scene in movie history, I swear!!

- Seagal parries the sword blow with his arm.
- Stops his attacker dead in his tracks with a finger thrust to the solar plexus.
- Swats the sword away backhanded.
- Bitch slaps him across the face.
- Chops him in the collarbone.
- Double-chops to the top of the head.
- Chop to the back of the neck.
- Double follow-up chops to the back of the neck.
- Asiatic thrust to the Adam's apple.
- Winds up for the deathblow.
- Delivers a backhanded double-thrust to the sternum, sending him completely across the room and through a credenza!

Oh my GOD! I need to change my shorts after such an orgiastic display of Seagalian dominance. I don't know what it is that makes me laugh the most. I think it's that extra second-and-a-half that he's allowed to hang unfettered by gravity in the air, ass over his head. Victorious, Hopper goes downstairs to see that his old buddy Trip was able to hold off the military, but at the cost of his life. How Seagal manages to get out of the compound despite the entire Thai military still surrounding the complex is never answered unless Trip managed to kill every last man outside. But hey, I can't complain anymore as long as it speeds the credits along, and those aren't far behind!

Dik dik!!

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