A Movie A Day #214: Urban Justice (2007, directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy)

Steven Seagal returns and this time, he’s out for justice!  Urban justice!

After his son, a beloved Los Angeles cop, is assassinated, Simon Ballister (Seagal, of course) comes out of retirement to get revenge.  Retirement from what?  Like most of Seagal’s characters, Simon has a deadly and legendary past.  Nearly everyone who meets him says something like, “So, you’re Simon.”  Everyone wants Simon Ballister to do something for them.  El Chivo (Danny Trejo!) wants Simon to help defeat his rival, Armand Tucker (Eddie Griffin).  Armand Tucker wants to be Scarface.  Simon just wants revenge.

Much like Elvis, Steven Seagal’s career can be divided into a thin and a fat period.  Thin Steven Seagal was all over movie screens in the 90s, making up for the fact that he could not act by convincingly beating people up.  Fat Steven Seagal appears almost exclusively in direct-to-video productions.  He does everything that Thin Seagal did but he sweats a lot more while doing it.  Unfortunately, Fat Seagal is an even worse actor than Thin Seagal.  Since Fat Seagal produces almost all of his own films, there is no one around to say, “Let’s cut away from Steve during this speech, he looks stupid.”

Urban Justice is peak Fat Seagal.  It actually features more fights than the typical Fat Seagal movie but they are all edited in such a way that it is obvious that most of the blows were delivered by a stuntman while Seagal undoubtedly stood in a corner, trying to catch his breath. Since Urban Justice features Seagal in what is supposed to be the ghetto, he calls everyone that he meets, “motherfucker.”  Fat Seagal has the same Clint Eastwood-style rasp that he had when he was Thin Seagal but he still sound stupid whenever he says, “I want the motherfucker who killed my son.”

Eddie Griffin is pretty good as Armand Tucker.  I don’t know if Eddie improvised all of his dialogue but it certainly seems like he did.  All of the movie’s best lines belong to Eddie Griffin.  Just one example: “Man, fuck Santa Claus!  He never gave me shit!  That’s why I sell dope!”  As for Danny Trejo, he doesn’t do much but he’s Danny Trejo.

Personally, looking over the career of Steven Seagal, I think he made a mistake by trying to be an action hero.  It is hard to think of any other actor with as unlikable a screen presence as Steven Seagal.  If Steve had made his career playing villains, he would probably still have a good career going.  People would gladly play money to see Steven Seagal get blown up at the end of a Jason Bourne sequel.  Instead, he insisted on playing the hero and his career is now made up of appearing in direct-to-video movies and threatening to run for governor of Arizona.

To quote Clint Eastwood, “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

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