On Deadly Ground (1994)

On Deadly Ground (Really!)

Stone-faced action maven Steven Seagal famously got his cinema start because he was the personal martial arts trainer for Michael Ovitz. Ovitz was the head of the talent agency CAA and at the time the most powerful man in Hollywood. Seagal was further blessed when action ace Andy Davis was hired to direct his first film, Above the Law. Davis proved his talent prior to the Harrison Ford starring mega-hit The Fugitive by making good movies starring both Seagal (Under Siege) and fellow acting stiff Chuck Norris (Code of Silence). Davis also sagely spiced the Above the Law stew with such savory B-Movie stalwarts as Pam Grier, Henry “MegaForce” Silva and Sharon Stone. Still, the then trim Seagal was the main draw.

Seagal was unlike any movie action hero before. First of all, he looked liked he was actually fighting. His moves were incredibly quick and brutal, designed to put his opponent(s) down quickly. Aside from his speed, Seagal also used his height advantage, beating down on smaller adversaries. No fancy, schmancy spin kicks for Steve-o. No sir, you got in his face, and in two seconds you were on the floor. In fact (and this was the other main difference from his competitors), Seagal was so good that no one ever laid a glove on him. Even when a dozen guys were slugging it out with him, they’d get put down with nary a blow ruffling our hero. He was so formidable that even the criminals in his movies noticed. Each of his films invariably contained a scene wherein a worried thug would exclaim, “This guy’s good!” No sir, not for Seagal the classic “hero recuperates from a savage beating and comes back stronger than ever” bit. Seagal never needed to be any stronger. The closest he ever came to this was in Hard To Kill, when he was all shot up and put into a coma for seven years. Yet once he woke up he only needed about a week to reclaim his super-efficient killing machine status.

Still, the seeds of Seagal’s eventual downfall were already noticeable in that first film. They then became more conspicuous with each passing flick, which were produced at a quick clip. First of all, even in his first film Seagal seemed ridiculously perfect. I was willing to buy him beating up an entire bar’s worth of toughs (after all, I was watching an action flick). But Seagal’s convincing displays of brutality only made his perfect “love-machine” status with wife Sharon Stone all the more laughable. There were his omnipresent black clothes and ponytail, constants that became more comical with each film. The way his acting never got any better. The stupid way he would hold his pistol sideways all the time. The fact that no one ever shot him from a distance, but invariably walked up to him so that he could do that gun flipping move he trotted out every movie. The silly way he squinched his face when he was supposed to be pissed off. The lack of an adversary who could even marginally challenge the omnipotent Seagal, which eventually sort of lowered the suspense level. Even Seagal’s trademark fighting move, quickly grabbing and snapping an opponent’s arm, became farcical the forty or fiftieth time you saw it.

Then there was the off-screen Steven Seagal. There was the “shadowy past” Seagal started whispering about during interviews. His first couple of movies revolved around Evil Government Conspiracies. Seagal began hinting to reporters, “off the record”, that he had been involved with such rogue-agent types during Vietnam. These “fictional” plot elements were supposedly based on his first hand experiences. This, of course, set many a BS-detector a’wailing. There was the fact that Seagal was accumulating a reputation as a bullying jerk in real life. The ever more obvious weight increases, which could no longer be hidden by his de rigueur black clothing. Then when Seagal finally gave up his uniform black costuming, it was for gaudily colored “Indian” jackets, stretched tight over his now-imposing gut.

There was the horrendously awful Saturday Night Live appearance. (Which itself led to a hilarious line on a subsequent show. The “bit” of that week’s monologue was that the host [Alec Baldwin?] was an insufferable dickhead. Realizing his faults, he tearfully apologized to SNL producer Lorne Michaels. “I must be the biggest jerk that’s ever hosted Saturday Night Live,” he cried. “No,” Michaels soothed, patting his back. “That would be Steven Seagal.” This in turn supposedly almost got SNLer Al Franken beat up during an appearance on The Tonight Show, on which Seagal was also appearing. Jay Leno managed to distract the incensed Seagal and later crooned to Franken, “I saved your ass!”) And the eventual cherry on the sundae: when Seagal was officially recognized as the reincarnation of a Buddhist Holy Man (!!!!!!!!!!!!).

Seagal quickly became a money machine, largely because his films were produced quickly and cheaply. Eventually, he was deemed ready to challenge the aging Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Under Siege, his first big budget movie, benefited from a great action director, an unusually strong script, and flamboyant villain turns from vets Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones. (Not to mention the fact that, because Seagal’s character was in the Navy, he had to lose that damn ponytail.) Unfortunately, Seagal never made another movie nearly as good or as profitable as Under Siege, although the sequel had its moments. And now his budgets were much higher than in his glory days.

Seagal’s first real misstep was a classic Hollywood story. Take a overpaid and under talented star at the very peak of his earning powers (in this case, directly after Under Siege), and let him not only star in his own big-budgeted pet project, but write and direct it as well. Readers of this site already know what kind of awful fiascoes can result from such situations. (See my review of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, directed by Seagal’s fellow big-gutted egomaniac, William Shatner.) Swirl in the obligatory, Hollywood lefty agitprop: “Sure, the kids will see some action and have a good time, but they’ll also learn something”. Finally, spice it liberally with the humiliation of a respected veteran movie actor who has more talent in his nose hair than Seagal has in his family, and you end up with the recipe for On Deadly Ground.

The film opens on classily restrained black title cards over New Age-y type music. The credits are spelled out in a tasteful font. All this is meant to alert us that instead of an ‘action movie’, we should be expecting an ‘action film.’ Instead, we’re alerted that instead of an ‘action movie,’ we should be expecting a ‘crappy movie.’ We cut to a close-up of a majestic Bald Eagle. My reaction to this sight will probably surprise most people, but the appearance of this regal creature quite frankly pissed me off. Needless to say, the Eagle is shown here for its symbolic value. Whether representing America, the greatest country to ever exist on the face of the globe, or as a symbol of Nature in all its glory, the Eagle is a rich and powerful totem. That a talentless hack like Seagal would sully this magnificent creature in the vain — and I mean vain — hope that some of its splendor would rub off on his grotesque little picture is a crime against the very idea of Art itself. Moreover, Seagal continues to defile other emblems of Nature’s grandeur (sweeping forests, snowcapped mountains, polar bears, etc.) throughout the movie.

Now that we know that director Seagal is so ham-fisted that it’s against religious law for Orthodox Jews to be punched by him, we proceed on to our *ahem* story. A helicopter appears over the pristine wilderness, representing Man’s violation of the Purity of Nature. Just to make sure that we ‘get’ this subtle theme, we immediately cut to an out-of-control oil rig fire. As opposed to the Wonders of Nature, Man’s works belch forth vile Destruction and Pollution. (I mean this movie, of course, not oil rigs.) The helicopter lands, leading a nearby oldster, one Hugh Palmer, to exclaim, “Oh, thank God!” This remark proves that Hugh isn’t a film critic, for out of the ‘copter emerges Steve Seagal.

However, it does indicate that the old-timer is a Good Guy. For in the wonderful simplicity of the world of Steven Seagal, the lyrics of the old Hercules cartoon series theme song ring true: “…People are safe when near him/…only the evil fear him.” Our first glimpse of Our Hero is when his alligator booted feet emerge from the copter. Of course, most enviro-heros are too wimpy to wear alligator footwear. Still, as no one would ever question the fabulousness of Seagal, it’s not really an issue. And while some might be uncomfortable with the oh-so-loving way that ‘actor’ Seagal is introduced, as shot by, well, director Seagal, well, heck. We all know how super he is, so why should he have to engage in any false modesty?

Our hero Seagal framed by, like, cool flames and stuff. Dude! Embarrassed Actors Series: #1 - Michael Caine

The camera runs up Seagal’s legs, and we now encounter a truly historic moment in his cinematic career. For the jacket that Seagal’s wearing isn’t black, but a fringed buckskin coat with ‘Indian’ designs all over it. This marks the transition from Seagal’s Johnny Cash-esque All Black Wardrobes to his ‘Native Indian’ Garb period. Such clothing continued to pop up in Seagal’s more recent works, including the abysmal Fire Down Below and The Patriot (qv). At least Seagal softened this no doubt shocking transformation for his hardcore fans, as he, after lighting an Eastwoodian cheroot, quickly removes said jacket to reveal a reassuringly monotone ebony ensemble underneath. Hugh runs over to greet Seagal, whose name proves to be — I swear! — “Forrest” Taft(!). (Hmm, could that have some subtextual meaning?) Like Moses in The Ten Commandments, Forrest is greeted with prominent offscreen dialog that allows us to understand what a super-dude he is:

Offscreen Voice #1: “Hey, Forrest is here!!
Offscreen Voice #2: “That fire is as good as out!

Hugh blames the fire on their employer, Jennings, the head of Aegis Oil. He’s then chagrined when Jennings opens the other door of the helicopter to reveal his presence. The audience, on the other hand, is chagrined when Jennings opens the other door of the helicopter and reveals that he’s being portrayed by a slumming Michael Caine. Jennings remains such a stock cartoon villain that one concludes that Caine was only hired after both Bluto and Snidely Whiplash were found to be busy on other projects. In the end, it’s somewhat of a surprise that he never ties heroine Joan Chen (using the Hollywood “exotic actor” law to play an Eskimo here) to some railroad tracks. Caine’s hair is dyed a very weird oil-slick black, except for a few scenes when it inexplicably turns dark brown instead. He also wears a bolo tie throughout, apparently to help look like an “oil man”. Jennings pretty much proves to be the worst performance in Caine’s long and busy career (and he’s been in The Swarm, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, The Holcroft Covenant, Jaw IV, etc.). I’ve no doubt that this is entirely due to Seagal’s direction. I’ve always pictured this scene in my mind:

Director Seagal: “OK, Michael, you’re the Bad Guy. So act really, like, Evil here.”
Caine: “But look, Steven. You know that, in my character’s mind, he’s not the bad guy. To him, he’s the hero, see. He believes totally in what he’s doing, and in his right to do it. In fact, to him, your character is the bad guy, not he.”
Director Seagal, after staring at Caine for a very long time without changing expression: “OK, Michael, you’re the Bad Guy. So act really Evil here. Oh, and more Awe when he sees me enter the room.”

Hugh blames the fire on the faulty “Preventers” that Jennings made him install in the rig. Forrest finds this hard to believe. “I just can’t figure out why someone’d do that to their own rig. It just doesn’t make sense.” This bit of logic causes Hugh to call him a “whore” for selling out to Jennings. Unfortunately for the movie (and so its audience), Forrest is exactly right. Why would Jennings install substandard “Preventers”, which apparently are the parts of the rig that keep them from exploding? The closest thing to an explanation that the film provides is a sort of circular illogic: Jennings is a bad guy because he causes environmentally damaging fires, and he causes environmentally damaging fires because he’s a bad guy. Frankly, this ain’t cutting it, motivation wise.

Anyway, we now witness a way cool (not) scene of Forrest putting out the fire, which he basically does by pushing a button and setting off some explosives set up before he got there. Gee, I can see why he’s “the best”. The scene is really there to set up a shot of Seagal standing tall as the screen behind him fills with billowing flames. Everyone else (save Jennings, Forrest’s evil opposite number) falls to the ground. But no amount of fire, no matter how well back-projected on the bluescreen, are going to make ol’ Forrest bend down! On the flight back, the sleazy Jennings and his henchmen push Forrest to support a “human error” cause for the fire, rather than a mechanical cause, i.e. the Preventers. Forrest is obviously beginning to suspect some shenanigans on Jenning’s part, but can’t figure out why he’d sabotage his own equipment. The fact that his old buddy Hugh Palmer is being set up to take the blame for the accident adds to his discomfort.

Next we catch up with Forrest in a rough and tumble bar. To my amazement, this scene develops into the most positively naked rip-off of Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack that I’ve ever seen. And believe you me, I’ve seen more than a few. In Billy Jack‘s most famous scene, the half-breed, Vietnam veteran, kick boxing pacifist hero is pushed beyond all limits by the sight of evil rednecks pouring flour on a little American Indian girl, to make her “white”. In BJ’s own words, he goes “be-zzzerk” and pummels half a dozen evil white guys. In this movie, we watch redneck oilrig workers, led by veteran movie heavy Mike Starr as the imaginatively named “Big Mike” torment a drunken Eskimo. (Or Indian, or something. Insert your own oppressed minority here.) Like Billy Jack (in fact, just like him), Forrest strains to keep his cool. Big Mike notices Forrest glowering at him and calls him out. Forrest stands, resulting in a chorus of gasps and “watermelon, watermelon, cantaloupe, cantaloupe” noises from the assembled extras. Big Mike nervously strains to keep his cool as Forrest walks over. Forrest, however, just walks on by, even when the obviously relieved hooligan loudly badmouths him (by the way, the script is incessantly vulgar, filled with constant swearing and obscenities. Maybe this works for Martin Scorsese, but it ain’t adding anything here).

Forrest ends up standing over at the bar just as Hugh enters the place. This allows for a rehashing of the whole “preventer” issue. It’s also a prime example of how Seagal can’t act. I can’t really describe how awful he is, but this is a perfect scene to watch for some world class Bad Acting. Forrest tells Hugh that he’s going to collect the weapons and gear he left at Hugh’s place and go up into the woods for awhile. Hugh tells him that the stuff is in the upstairs closet (plot point!) and, his expository bit here done, exits the bar. Now it’s time for that fight. Just to prove how hard he’s trying to remain peaceable, we see Forrest ignore the slings and arrows of the redneck crew. However, the maleficent rednecks (including one token black redneck) then decide to torment the Eskimo some more. Not that they pour flour on him, like in Billy Jack. No, they pour beer on him. This cause Forrest to go be-zzzerk.

In the space of about a minute, Forrest takes out a dozen guys (and I’m not exaggerating). My favorite is when he crushes a guy’s testicles (with loud “crunching” sounds foleyed in), and the guy shouts, “MY NUTS!!” This immediately brought to mind the time in fifth grade when I was kicked a good one in the groin. I can promise you that I wasn’t shouting anything for quite some time. In fact, all the air instantaneously decompressed from my lungs and I collapsed to the ground. I lay there in a fetal position for over ten minutes, gasping, trying to reinflate my lungs. This was during recess, and I eventually watched the rest of the class go back inside while I lay like a fish out of water. It wasn’t until five minutes after the bell rang that I was able to stand up and limp ever so slowly inside. So I must say that I found this guy’s reaction pretty amazing. Still, I guess that I’m just a wimp, because when Seagal kicks another guy in the groin, he falls down and shouts, “MY BALLS!!” Finally comes the time to confront ringleader Mike Big Mike.

And let me tell you, this scene is positively nauseating. For about the next three minutes, we watch Forrest basically torture Big Mike. Since all of Seagal’s “characters” are utterly unbeatable, we know that Big Mike won’t even be able to touch Forrest as he slowly decimates him. Meanwhile, the same crowd that yelled at the rednecks for screwing around with the Eskimo/Indian guy stands around and coos excitedly as Forrest slowly and methodically beats Big Mike to a pulp. Only someone with Seagal’s ego could not understand how this sadism is making his “hero” look. I mean, yeah, these guys were beating on someone who couldn’t stand up against them. But Seagal is doing the exact same thing here, and the evident pleasure he takes in slowly crucifying this guy is horrifying. I guess, again, that we’re just supposed to root for Forrest because he’s the “good guy,” and not question it past that. Well, no thanks, you sadistic bastard.

Then, in one of the most amazing jaw-droppers in movie history, Seagal confronts the bloodied, brutalized and weaving Big Mike, now just barely conscious. “What does it take,” Forrest asks his victim, “to change the essence of a man?” Big Mike answers, “Time,” and then begins sobbing. “I need time.” Seagal nods sagely. “Me, too,” he replies. (Personally, I need an antacid.) Astoundingly, we’re actually supposed to believe that the beating Forrest administered, followed by this half-assed “Zen” query, has led Big Mike to a complete spiritual awakening (!!!). Forrest clasps the shoulder of the morally retuned Big Mike in a manful display of solidarity.

The surrounding bar patrons look on with tears in their eyes, awed by this beautiful scene. Then Forrest walks off, his work here done. (Uh, are the guys whose testicles he crushed also spiritually reawakened?) Join us next week when Forrest blows off a man’s arm with a shotgun, and then inquires, “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” Forrest is thanked by the Drunk Indian guy, who also has a message to relate. Our Hero will soon go on a “sacred journey”, which will “be good for all people.” My first thought was that this meant that Seagal would be going somewhere where they didn’t have movie cameras. Unfortunately, this message was meant for Seagal’s character instead. But, hey, it’s nice to know that even Drunk Indians can still fulfill their stereotypical role as mystical seers.

We cut to stock footage of a generic Big City. Jennings is stalking the halls of his corporate headquarters, underlings trailing behind. He’s angered at all the attention that his little oil spill is getting. Why, “environmentalists” are even “calling on” the EPA to investigate the spill (is that how it works?). Is an oil rig fire even a “spill”? Well, close enough, I guess. Anyway, the corporation has arranged for Jennings to film a TV commercial to buffalo the public. Again, this is fantasy land stuff, here. Where’s the media during all this? Why isn’t Jennings attending the typically hostile press conferences. What about calls from stockholders wondering what the hell is going on? Or the Board of Directors? Of course, corporations in movies are usually free from such real life encumbrances, which is why they can act so much more, you know, evil.

Jennings continues to display the subtly villainy of, say, a bad high school performance of Scrooge. He swears and harshly abuses the film crew, then immediately puts on a phony smile when the camera starts shooting. The commercial is filmed on a set constructed right in the building, built to look like wilderness. Even some reindeer are pushed onto the set. Jennings is all smarmy during the ridiculous commercial, then turns evil again the moment “cut” is yelled. Having petted the reindeer, he demands a washcloth, acting much like Lucy when she’s been kissed by a dog.

This leads to a fascinating idea: could this scene, with it’s ridiculous dialog, the playing of “America, America” during the filming, the comic book villainy, etc., have been meant by Seagal as satire? Certainly, nothing else in the movie is even remotely less than deadly serious, no matter how dumb and self-important the film gets. And is Seagal, who appears to be one of those guys who wouldn’t get a clue if it was mailed to him by Western Union, even capable of understanding a fairly abstract idea like satire? I don’t think so, for that would indicate Seagal’s entire public life to have been the greatest piece of satiric Performance Art the world has ever known. So he’s either the biggest dunderhead in Hollywood or the most subversive artistic genius Mankind has yet produced.


Jennings holds a business meeting with his #1 Hatchet-person, Ms. Liles, and MacGruder, his trouble shooter-cum-assassin (which, we are to assume, all oil executives have). Of course, it’s an Evil meeting, of the type you might expect to see on a Captain Planet cartoon. Liles, for instance, suggests that the standard settlement package, being offered to the families of the crewman killed during the fire, is too generous. Jennings smiles evilly (how else?) and gives her permission to reduce it as she sees fit. Then we get into the lame scenario filling in as the film’s plot. Aegis is building the world’s largest oil rig (the wittily named Aegis 1), which will generate “billions of dollars a week” (!!). However, the construction is behind schedule, and they only have thirteen days to go operational, or else the rights go back to (gasp!) the Eskimos. Of course, as a People more attuned to Mother Earth, they would be wise shepherds of the land, the last thing any greedy Capitalist would want.

Again, this is extraordinarily silly stuff. Even a refugee from the ’60s would have trouble believing that a multinational corporation would risk hundreds of billions of dollars a year in profits by building their rigs with substandard parts (the “Preventers”). I mean, what are they saving, a couple of hundred thousand? This doesn’t make much sense, to say the least. And that this is being planned by the very head of a multi-trillion dollar outfit? Seems unlikely. Liles also informs Jennings that someone on the project is ratting about the Preventers to the EPA. Jennings deduces that it’s Hugh Palmer, and we suddenly figure out that Palmer will be bumped off, providing Our Hero with a personal reason to seek revenge (duh).

Actually, we now learn that they don’t have time to get better Preventers, due to the Aegis 1 deadline. (Although this fails to explain why they’re being used on all their rigs, like the one that exploded in the beginning of the picture.) But we also learn that the oil rights have belonged to Aegis for the last twenty years. So how believable is it that they would wait until the last two weeks of the mandatory deadline to get their rig operational? Anyway, here’s how I’d have explained it, had I written the script. The initial problem would have begun at the local level. A construction foreman at Aegis 1 has been buying substandard parts and pocketing the difference. The problem has just been discovered (and the guy killed off), but now Jennings is forced to use the faulty parts to make the deadline. (You know you’re in trouble when you can think about a plot hole for ten seconds and come up with a more logical solution than the film itself provides).

We head back North, where we see a matte painting of a fairly ridiculous “futuristic” oil rig. Forrest arrives on the scene, nosing around. Luckily for him, in spite of the frenzy to get this thing built, there’s not many people on hand. This includes the control room, which is conveniently empty (!). Forrest sits down at the computer and pulls up one of those magically sophisticated computer programs that movies tend to feature. He calls up the info on the Preventers and finds that they’re failed pretty much all the safety checks (yeah, that’s the kind of info they’d leave on the computer system for the inevitable investigation).

It’ll take 90 days to get new ones. Why? Because it’s in the script. This, of course, would put Aegis over their time limit and return the land rights to the Eskimos. So instead, they’ll put in the faulty equipment, which will result in an environmentally catastrophic oil spill. Apparently, whatever contract it is that returns the rights to the Eskimos doesn’t provide for the voiding of the agreement in case of such negligence. I guess the Eskimos should get some better lawyers. The security office notes the opening of the restricted files and alerts Jenning’s office. He orders MacGruder to take care of Palmer first, then Forrest.

Now some major plot holes kick in. We see Hugh at his house, in his upstairs computer room. He had earlier asked Forrest to check things out, because he himself didn’t have the necessary security clearances. Yet, Hugh is now downloading files from his computer that we are to take as incriminating. Meanwhile, MacGruder and a sub-henchman have entered the house. Hugh quickly moves to hide the disk. This, of course, means that Hugh is now expendable, and that a physical MacGuffin (the computer disk) has been provided to drive the rest of the “plot”. But this whole set-up is really stupid. Forrest was in Aegis’ computer system (legally, with his password), and found the incriminating files.

Why didn’t he download them while he was there? How did Hugh get into the system, given his lack of access, as established earlier? Anyway, Hugh refuses to play along with MacGruder, and we are then subjected to one of the more unpleasant “killing the sidekick” scenes I can recall. First the frail old guy is half garroted as he’s tied down. Then his fingers are mashed with a whalebone club. Then a (warning to the squeamish: stop here!) pipe cutter is used to extract segments of his leg. That’s Entertainment, huh! We get several lovingly shot close-ups of Hugh screaming as his leg is drilled into. Now, if this film were more competent this scene would be utterly unwatchable. As it is, we’re more nauseated by the sadism of the filmmakers than that of the putative villains.

We go to a press conference. Ms. Liles reads a press release, maintaining that the environmental damage from the oil rig fire was minimal. The assembled crowd erupts in angry “watermelon, watermelon” noises and makes generic fist-waving motions. Jennings is harangued by a Eskimo representative that yadas on about the evil effects of Aegis pollution in the area. Then heroine Masu (Joan Chen), makes her appearance, throwing a cup of oil onto Jenning’s suit. This establishes her “Righteous Babe” credentials, so that we know that she’s worthy of her inevitable romance with Forrest.

We also now learn that Aegis signed the oil rights agreement with the tribe twenty years ago. This is to “explain” why Communing with Nature types like the Eskimos would sign up with an evil oil company. You know, twenty years ago they would have been more naÔve about the White Man’s Forked Tongues. This causes us to again ponder how the contract works. Apparently, Aegis will continue to hold the rights to the oil if they can have a working facility on-line within twenty years of the contract being signed. Hmm, I’ll bet that the Japanese wouldn’t have waited so long to exploit a site worth “billions a week”.

After the press conference, Forrest confronts Jennings about the Preventers. (This happens to take place in front of a wildlife diorama. This was no doubt intended to be the kind of “artistic” directorial touch that would make all the critics go “Wow!”, and demand that Seagal be nominated for Best Director. For those who are wondering, this didn’t in fact occur.) Of course, all Forrest had to do was raise the Preventer issue at the Press Conference and the evil scheme would have been ruined. But that would have ended the movie without Forrest opening a big ol’ can of whup-ass. And the central premise is still unbelievable. Here’s what we’re to understand: Aegis must have a producing oil pumping facility working in the next two weeks. If they don’t, they lose the rights to the oil, and the Nature Loving Eskimos will never, ever let people drill for that oil again (maybe it’s bad for their Casinos). But if Aegis can pump even one barrel of oil, even if the entire gigantic facility then explodes and utterly devastates the local environment, then they’ll retain all rights. Then they can just take their time and rebuild another facility. Oh, and no one will take them to court, arguing that a facility so built as to inevitably explode and wreak environmental havoc as soon as it opens fails to fulfill the contractual definition of an “operating” facility.

By the way, the confrontation contains what is, for me anyway, one of the film’s comic highlights. Forrest looks soulfully at Jennings and righteously asks him, “How much is enough?” We, of course, are supposed to nod our heads at this sage question. Indeed, why isn’t the evil Jennings content with the no doubt huge profits that the firm makes without intentionally destroying the planet and murdering it’s employees? (Uh, stockholders? No, silly, because Jennings is an Evil Capitalist.) But there’s some problems with this “powerful” scene. First of all (and feel free to call me naÔve), Corporations usually don’t knowingly build gigantically expensive facilities that they know are going to blow up. And I would guess that less than 10% of Fortune 500(tm) companies actually employ hit squads to torture and murder their employees.

Then there’s the fact that the “How much is enough” question is being asked by a talentless hack who probably got somewhere in the area of $10 million dollars in his own pocket to make an extremely lousy movie. And that said lousy movie probably cost between $70-100 million dollars to make. I wonder what percentage of companies in this country are even worth that much money? And when Seagal went to sign up for his next movie, did he tell his agent not to beat on the Studio over his compensation. “Sure,” Seagal no doubt told his agent. “You could probably get me another two, or three, or even five million. But, I mean, enough is enough, right? They’re no use being greedy about it. Besides, I feel responsible for the fact that On Deadly Ground tanked at the box office. So, why don’t you just tell them that I’ll do any script they want for one million bucks. Sure, it’s less than I could get, but hey, it’s more money than most people see in a lifetime, right? And after I make it up to the Studio, I can always ask for my normal $10 million dollars for the film after that. I’d really just feel better doing that.”

In any case, Jennings pops back to inform Forrest that there’s been an accident at an isolated substation. He asks Forrest if he’ll help, since only he has the expertise to deal with the situation. Shockingly, this turns out to be a trap (duh). After the helicopter lands, Forrest, wearing protective gear, enters the station. Inside, he stumbles over Hugh’s body. Luckily for him, our lackadaisical villains wait awhile before blowing up the facility, allowing Forrest to escape just in the knick of time. Now, aren’t there cheaper ways of disposing of bodies (up in the Arctic wilderness, yet!) than by blowing up no doubt rather expensive substations? And since they used enough dynamite to atomize the place, why not just shoot Forrest as he awkwardly left the ‘copter encumbered by his protective suit? (‘Cause then the movie would be over.) If they were going to be that elaborate, why didn’t they rent a Super-Villain Death Trap from the old Batman show and turn Forrest into a giant Popsicle or something? Anyway, they somehow didn’t notice Forrest running out of the fully visible front door right before the explosion. Believing him dead, our bad guys take off.

We next see a typically cool polar bear, no doubt hugely nonplussed to be appearing in this film. Then we see a bunch of Eskimo dogsleds tooling around, for no apparent purpose. A “Wise Elder” type sees smoke from the fire. “The spirit of the man-bear lives in the smoke,” he says. “I have seen it in my Vision.” (Does anyone else find this “Mystic Native” stuff somewhat patronizing?) Much to our surprise (not), they find the wounded Forrest. They take him back to their village, a bunch of primitive huts conveniently built on a plain that affords absolutely zero protection from the howling winds. I guess that we’re to admire that these people have decided to live by the “old ways”, but frankly, I think they’re nuts. Build yourself a house, for Pete’s sake! I mean, there’s a reason people stopped living like this.

We cut back to another press conference at Aegis. Frankly, one would think that this parade of mishaps would result in governmental scrutiny. But, again, then the movie would be over. We are now treated to more ambient dialog. One of Seagal’s oddest directorial flourishes is that whenever there’s a crowd scene, obviously looped-in “background” dialog is inserted. So we not only get the regulation “watermelon, watermelon” type stuff, but inexplicably clear lines supposedly yelled from “offstage” and highlighted on the soundtrack. I guess this is to provide “texture”, but instead it’s distracting and comical. In this case, lines shouted as Jennings ascends the dais include “What kind of crap you going to feed us now, Jennings?”, and “Answer the questions you weasel!” Jennings reveals that “our investigation” has discovered that the cause of the accidents was “sabotage” and proceeds to blame the “dead” Forrest and Hugh (“That’s a crock of sh*t!“). Gee, good thing for Jennings that no, you know, police or governmental agencies can be bothered to investigate this stuff. Apparently, they just wait for Jennings to tell them what’s what. (“You don’t have to live here!“) Having made his statement, Jennings ignores the press and departs. At this point, I again have to wonder what’s happening to Aegis’ stock value.

Back at the Eskimo village, Forrest is healing nicely. The Village Elder (the guy who had the vision) comes to check him out. It turns out that Masu is his daughter (oh, brother!). Masu translates between them, informing Forrest that her father thinks he might be a Bore, er, Bear. Forrest replies that, no, he’s, “a Mouse, hiding from the Hawks, in the House of the Raven.” The Eskimos promptly kick his ass for his patronizing and condescending speech mannerisms. No, wait, instead, they nod sagely, and explain that that’s just what a Bore, I mean, Bear would say. Meanwhile, MacGruder and his henchguy are flying around, looking for Forrest. Jennings figures that the lack of a body (even though he would have been disintegrated in the explosion we saw) must mean that Forrest’s still alive. Jennings and Liles meanwhile leave headquarters to head for Aegis 1, to see that all proceeds according to plan. Oh, and so that Jennings is on hand to pay the ultimate price at Forrest’s hands. (Oops, hope I didn’t give anything away there.)

Meanwhile, Forrest is feeling his oats. Sneaking out of his hut, he attempts to steal a dogsled. However, in a scene that must have fulfilled every movie reviewer’s most cherished fantasy, he is instead viciously set upon by the huskies. Unfortunately, they only rend his clothing. Caught, Forrest explains that if the men looking for him find him in their village, the tribe will pay a heavy price. The Elder instead insists on Forrest accompanying him on an excursion. Finding a suitably majestic panorama to degrade by putting it in this film, Forrest, Masu and the Elder stop for storytime.

Elder tells the tale of the Raven, who created the Earth for Man (or something). But the Raven feared Man would destroy these gifts, and so made the Bear to protect the Earth. Forrest, the Elder feels, is the Bore, sorry, Bear, here to protect the land from the Evil Oil Company. Boy, it’s a good thing for minorities that heroic White Dudes like Elvis in Change of Habit, Robert Foxworth in Prophecy and Seagal here are consistently willing to come to their rescue. Not that this should be construed as patronizing or anything. Meanwhile, we are forced to endure agonizing minutes of this baloney, meant to endow Seagal’s character with “mythic” importance.

Well, the savvy Bad Movie(tm) fans out there are already wrinkling their noses, aware of what is inevitably coming up next. Yep, it’s that most clichÈ of “Native Peoples” Stock Movie Scenes, the “Vision Quest” (just edging out “The Smoking of the Peace Pipe”). This is shot in the regulation “psychedelic” fashion. To our horror, it runs almost four entire minutes and features about the most obvious “symbolism” imaginable. Forrest wrestles The Bear. He falls in a river. He passes a laughably predictable “test” which consists of choosing between a wise old woman and a beautiful naked young woman. (Guess which one he picks?) Said wise old woman (gee, hope I didn’t blow that for you) turns out to be the Spirit of the Earth or something. She has handpicked Forrest to save the earth (!). This has to be the most nauseating elevation of an obnoxious character since Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Wesley Crusher was revealed to be Mankind’s next step up the Evolutionary Ladder. Along the way we see flashes of that poor Bald Eagle again, as well as some bare boobies. But don’t worry, said breasts belong to Eskimo chicks, and thus fall under the venerable “National Geographic” rule. This way, Seagal can toss in a little skin but still officially keep the movie “serious.”

This whole scene inevitably calls to mind the similarly moronic “Visions” of Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear. In fact, they have more in common than you might think. For The Bear Forrest dreams about is portrayed by none other than Bart the Bear, who was also the featured bear in Clan. And as in that movie, Bart gives what is easily the film’s best performance. Bart also joins On Deadly Ground co-star Michael Caine in the category of “Actors Making More than One Appearance on this Website” (Caine having starred in The Swarm). It’s nice to finally have a large enough body of work that commonalties are starting to appear among our featured films.

To morally reform a man, first beat him horribly... then have Zen master Steve Seagal ask him a spiritual query.

Now that Forrest has been officially anointed as an Avatar of Nature or some such crap, we can (thank goodness!) move on. So we cut to MacGruder’s helicopter, still searching for the missing Forrest. Spying the Eskimo village, they descend. Yes, it’s time for another outrage, so that the audience remembers how these are the “bad guys.” (Apparently Seagal doesn’t much trust his core audience’s ability to follow a plot. Which, when you think about it…) Sure enough, they find Forrest’s clothes and begin pushing everyone around. Masu is rapped on the head with a gun, and the Wise Elder is shot by MacGruder. This, of course, is supposed to shock us (“Oh, no! Not the Wise Elder!“). But I mean, c’mon, this guy’s death was as preordained as Hugh the sidekick’s. Did anybody watching this film not know that this guy was destined to get blown away, as further evidence of the bad guys, well, badness? Also, in case anyone doesn’t get where the Plot-o-matic 2000(tm) is going with this, they’ve now set up a “motive” for Masu to join in on the action later in the film (“I will watch you die,” she tells MacGruder. Does anyone doubt that she will?)

Meanwhile, Forrest is dogsledding across the tundra. Coming back to the village, he arrives (duh) just in time to see the Wise Elder before he dies. Elder gives Forrest a special amulet (oh, brother) which will guide him in his sacred task. Having given his last scripted line, the Elder immediately dies in traditional movie fashion. Back at Aegis 1, Jennings is chewing out MacGruder for killing the Elder in front of all those witnesses. This makes me wonder if there was originally a scene in the script where MacGruder’s guys go back to the village to kill all the witness. The fact that both Forrest and Masu (i.e., the only non-expendable characters) have left the village only adds to my suspicions. If so, it might have been cut due to either budgetary or running time restrictions). Now that they know that Forrest’s alive, MacGruder is ordered to start beefing up the facility’s security (so that Forrest will have that many more guys to kill during his righteous climatic rampage). Meanwhile, Masu reveals a convenient village snowmobile, hidden away for “emergencies.” Forrest and Masu are soon riding into action.

Forrest heads to Hugh’s place, which has been torn up in the search for the computer disk. Here we come across some more rather obvious plot holes. First of all, where’s the Law? Aegis has manufactured a frame wherein the dead Hugh was implicated in sabotaging oil rigs. Wouldn’t the police or the FBI (I’m assuming that such sabotage be a federal crime of some sort) have cordoned the place off, looking for evidence of these crimes? Second, the entire place is thoroughly trashed. Yet, when Forrest goes to the closet to get his gear (as plot pointed earlier in the movie), said closet has obviously not been searched (?!). Opening his undisturbed backpack, Forrest finds (*gasp*) the disk! Now, the really odd part is that the closet where the backpack was stowed is about six feet to the rear of Hugh’s computer! I mean, the entire downstairs is thoroughly ransacked, and yet they didn’t really bother, while looking for a computer disk, to check out the room with the computer in it!

MacGruder’s henchguy has meantime found their snowmobile. He and several well-armed Body Count guys begin surrounding Hugh’s house. However, they have been spotted by Forrest, who between Hugh’s gun rack and his own gear is rather well armed himself. Since there’s only four minor bad guys here total, you wonder why they bothered arming Forrest. Certainly he could handle this small amount of miscreants barehanded, without breaking a sweat. Sure enough, after blowing two of them away, everybody’s guns either jam or run out of ammo (at the same time!), allowing Forrest to take out the last two with his hands. “Ironically,” Forrest just happens to beat the MacGruder henchguy to death with the very same whalebone club that that guy used to smash Hugh’s fingers (wow!). Man, that’s, like, poetic justice, eh. All in all, this “action” scene was rather perfunctory, and seems to have been included under the “action every twenty minutes” rule.

Back at Aegis 1, we get the inevitable “Who is this guy?!” question, featured in every Seagal film. Invariably, he has a superhumanly impressive record as either a government spook who quit when his ideals were offended (to correspond with Seagal’s hinted at “real life” adventures), or was a super-duper member of some elite U.S. military force. However, this answer must wait for later in the movie. Here, Jennings just gives MacGruder a little speech about how terrifying Forrest is (see IMMORTAL DIALOG, below). Don’t worry though, vague (and preposterous) details about Forrest’s past will be provided later.

In any case, MacGruder suggests hiring a team of mercenaries. In case we should think this a little unrealistic, we are then informed through dialog that the use of teams of hired killers by major Corporations is rather routine, almost banal. Said mercenaries are soon hired, proving to be a typically multiracial bunch. After all, in Hollywood, even the villains are Politically Correct. Jennings (doesn’t he have any real duties? Is this really how the head of, say, Exxon, spends his time?) and MacGruder meet them in a secluded spot. To his embarrassment (and ours), the head of this team, Stone, is played by actor R. Lee Ermey, the Drill Sergeant from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Since then he has been fairly well typed in a series of military hardass roles, although usually in better films than this (admittedly, not much of a feat). Stone is given a file on Forrest and told to bring him in dead.

Meanwhile, Forrest stops at a friend’s cabin to access Hugh’s disk. Included is information that Aegis has been dumping toxic chemicals into played-out wells. The disk also indicates that Aegis 1 will explode shortly after it begins operating. Masu suggests that they take the disk to her contacts in the Press. This, of course, is by far the most rational course of action. So they just ignore it. To “cover”, they have Forrest give a speech. This involves how they can’t wait for Earth Spirits to come down and release all the “repressed” energy efficient technology and get people to stop driving cars and stuff. No, they must take action themselves. That means Forrest must blow up Aegis 1, but before it starts operating, which supposedly would prevent any environmental damage. (And, incidentally, provide a big “boom” for the movie’s climax.)

Forrest taps into his friend’s convenient secret stockpile of high tech weaponry. Then he and Masu jump on some horses and head into the hills. Proving that stereotypes are OK as long as they’re complimentary ones, Masu assures Forrest that she a can ride a horse. “I’m a Native American,” she replies. First of all, do people really refer to themselves that way? Wouldn’t she be more likely to identify herself as a member of her tribe than by this rather nebulous formulation (by the same, er, token, do Blacks from, say, Jamaica, refer to themselves as “African Americans”? Just wondering.) Also, while tundra-living Eskimos might be considered to be Native Americans, would they really have that much horse riding expertise? Does this mean that if you asked an Apache if he could dogsled, he’d say, “Of course. I’m a Native American”?

Stone’s group, with MacGruder tagging along, is flying around, trying to track Forrest with some typically fantastic (i.e. ridiculous) “high tech” imaging gear. Stone’s men are discussing what it means that both they and Aegis have been unable to gather any background info on Forrest. The general consensus: he must have been a top-secret operative for the government (surprise!). Meanwhile, Forrest and Masu have reached his secret mountain hideaway. This contains a rather ludicrously large stockpile of weaponry, which Forrest has set up, “just in case.”

Forrest turns on a communications outlay, part of his plan to lure his pursuers to his present location, where he can lay a trap. Sure enough, Stone’s guys pick up the signal. Looking over Forrest’s position on their super-boffo equipment, the group’s Native American member notes that, “I know that land.” (!!) But of course, he’d be acquainted with any and all forest areas of the U.S., right? I mean, given that he’s a Native American and all (gee, I wonder if he’s the group’s “tracker”, as well?). In any case, the land is too heavily wooded for the copter to be any good. The group will have to land and go in on horseback.

MacGruder radios Jennings. Then, (I guess) Jennings sends an Aegis helicopter in to scope things out. Meanwhile, Forrest has been packing a kit. He gives this to Masu to carry out to the horses (in real life, it would weigh two or three hundred pounds, but she carries it easily). Outside, the helicopter wafts nearby (that was fast). Forrest sets the remaining cache of explosives (he spent years stockpiling this gigantic mound of stuff for this?) on a timer and runs out. The resulting explosion produces a fireball which destroys a toy helicopter that was apparently flying nearby. And, it must be noted, while the explosion did its “job” and destroyed the helicopter, it certainly looked puny considering what appeared to be the literally tons of explosives that the cave concealed. Realistically, the entire mountaintop should have blown. Forrest and Masu head off into the woods, with Stone’s men fast approaching.

Embarrassed Actors Series: #2 - R. Lee Ermey Embarrassed Actors Series: #3 - Billy Bob Thornton

Forrest stops to create some MacGyverish booby traps using explosives, mousetraps, clothespins and such. Then they take off, with the Mercenaries (including Sling Blade auteur Billy Ray Thornton!) right behind them. Stone, seeing the layout of the land, stops to check for traps. He immediately finds some, and his men cockily ride around them. Of course, these were decoy traps, and two of the guys are quickly toast. The remainder remount the pursuit. Then, in a jaw droppingly clichÈ sequence, Forrest and Masu are confronted with your typical matte painting crevasse. Forrest and Masu jump across (in slow motion, of course). An explosive device dropped by Forrest then blows off part of one side, making it too wide to jump. This results in the moment we’ve all been waiting for: One of the mercenaries looks at Forrest’s work and says, “This guy’s good!” This line has been, I believe, uttered in every single Seagal movie. I’d confirm it, but that would mean watching all of his movies again. No thanks! (Any takers?) Maybe someday I’ll get up the energy and do so. Then I’ll also create a list of all of the lines and speeches that Seagal’s various opponents recite to his glory. But that’s for another day.

It’s nighttime, just hours from Aegis 1 going online. Forrest and Masu easily infiltrate the facility, and Forrest goes to knock out the generators. There’s a guard, but Forrest fashions a silencer from a two liter pop bottle and some electrical tape (!) and puts a bullet in the guy’s head. Then he rigs both the main generator and the (conveniently marked) emergency generator to go down. Meanwhile, Jennings greets the leader of the FBI anti-terrorist team, also on hand. When we cut back to Forrest, we see that he’s been merrily booby trapping flammable gas tanks. Still, he’s not so busy as to preclude taking out three more guys (that’s four so far, added to around eight previous kills).

Back with Jennings, MacGruder asks (for those in the audience wondering the same thing) if having FBI officials around might not make murdering Forrest harder to get away with. This is answered with a line about how the FBI is incompetent (oh, OK then). Next we see Forrest warning the regular workers that the place is going to blow. They all obediently run off. This is so the audience understands that none of the dozens of people Forrest is going to kill are regular joes. Of course, that this knot of guys represents the entire “working” staff of the plant is moronic. But hey, that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.

Meanwhile, some of Forrest’s pranks go off. The generators shut down. This is, however, only a temporary condition. Actually letting Forrest knock them out completely would keep the facility from becoming operative before the deadline and end the movie without the obligatory big explosion. Then a bomb goes off, doing some gratuitous damage. Forrest then opens up the spigot to a gigantic tank of hydrochloric acid (!) to cover his escape. Did I mention that Aegis 1 sits over the waters of a pristine bay? Exactly where does “eco-warrior” Forrest think the thousands of gallons of this toxic chemical are going to end up? The matter is never referred to again, so I guess we’re just not supposed to think about it. Still, this seems a little irresponsible (to say the least). Next, a little expository dialog relays the fact that Forrest would only be able to knock out the facility from one place, the Rig itself, which of course is heavily guarded. (Is this possible, much less credible?) Forrest, meanwhile, instructs Masu on how to set the explosives to create a “wind tunnel” effect. Cutting back to Stone, we get the movie’s main “This guy’s good!” speech (see IMMORTAL DIALOG).

Forrest begins his assault (on the Rig, not on the audience. That started over an hour ago). He’s soon taken out another six guys (running total: 18). The FBI’s taken off already (!), and MacGruder is freaking out, suggesting to Jennings that they get out of there. MacGruder leaves and Liles follows. Then, after Jennings heads instead to the Rig, all the technicians take off, further evidence that no “innocents” will be killed in Forrest’s rampage. MacGruder and Liles jump into a helicopter, which Forrest (man, that guy’s everywhere!) disables with gunfire. MacGruder ends up being fed into the copter’s rear rotor, while Liles drives into a fuel truck and burns to death in an explosion (which, frankly, seems a little out of proportion, given her “sins”). Plus, since they were only trying to escape, and Forrest stops them, I guess that that makes him an out and out murderer. Still, they were bad guys, so I guess it’s OK. And since he only directly kills MacGruder, we’ll only add his death to the Body Count, now standing at 19. Jennings continues on towards the Rig. He plans to pump a little oil, which will fulfil the terms of the contract and keep the oil rights for Aegis. Forrest, meanwhile, raises the Body Count to 21 by drenching three guys in gasoline and burning them to death (That’s Entertainment!).

Forrest and Masu continue on, knocking off two more guys (including Billy Bob) with the old “Bomb in the Elevator” trick. (23) When they reach the deserted central control room, Forrest monkeys with all the controls to make everything go haywire (for no real reason, as he still has to get to the Rig to do anything). Then he heads over to the Preventer (there’s only one?). In a hilarious throwaway line, we learn that by “imploding” the Preventer, Forrest can keep any oil from spilling when the entire facility explodes (It’s just that easy!).

However, the crafty Stone, waiting for Forrest to try this, sneaks out of hiding with a shotgun. Then he shoots Forrest and Masu, killing them, and ending the movie. No, wait. That’s what would happen in real life, not here. No, here, Stone walks up to Forrest to yak at him before killing him (after that big speech about how Forrest is the most dangerous man in the Universe and everything!). It’s a good thing for Heroes that Villains always do that, or they’d get killed a lot more often. Of course, once he’s close enough Forrest uses the patented Seagal move of grabbing his gun barrel and spinning the weapon around, shooting Stone with his own piece. (24) I guess nobody noticed that, with Stone dead, there’s no creditable opponent left to stop Forrest. Certainly the sixtyish, portly Jennings isn’t much of a threat. This makes the rest of the picture even more anticlimactic.

Still, to thrill the fans, Forrest runs into another bunch of anonymous security. Conveniently, it’s in an area with a lot of flammable gas tanks around. This causes a “no guns” attack, so that we’re “treated” to some hand-to-hand stuff. Final result: 10 more to the Body Count, now standing at 34. Then he and Masu finally run into Jennings. Jennings insults Masu (uh oh) and then tries to walk out. Forrest, however, suspends him from a crane, and then fire a bullet into the wire holding him up. Jennings falls screaming to his death in a pool of oil (Gee. How ironic). (35) In spite of the fact that Jennings was the bad guy, it’s a little creepy watching the invulnerable Forrest play around with him like that. And, of course, his death can only be described as cold-blooded murder. So Forrest isn’t exactly heading to the top of my all-time list of Great Movie Heroes.

Still, Forrest and Masu seems pretty smugly satisfied with their work here today. They head off, and then we finally (finally!) get that “Big Explosion” scene we’ve been promised. It goes on at some length, making the “no environmental damage” deal look a little shaky. Forrest and Masu spend much time dodging flying debris and fireballs as they escape. This sequence ends up looking like a set-up for a really bad “stunt show” at the Universal Studio theme park. Still and all, it’s very exciting, indeed. After all, with this completed, the movie should be over. Hur-rah!

To our horror, it’s not. We cut to the Alaska State Capitol. Presumably, Forrest is being arraigned for the 35 murders he committed (after all, he invaded Aegis 1 with intent to sabotage it. This should make every death that occurred there applicable under felony murder statutes). Instead, this angle is utterly ignored (how convenient). Forrest, instead, is introduced to the press and various dignitaries, to whom he gives what might simply be the single worst speech in the history of motion pictures. This speech drones on for (I swear!) an entire three and a half minutes of screentime (stare at your watch for three and a half minutes to see how long that is). Said speech is “illustrated” with a selection of over-obvious film clips of polluting cars and such.

Amazingly, in Seagal’s original “director’s cut” (which is the cut given to the producers, before they test it and usually alter the film), this speech supposedly clocked a stupefying ten straight minutes (!!). Needless to say, when they tested the film with live audiences, viewers began abandoning the theater in droves during this sequence. Ultimately, they talked Seagal into cutting it down by two thirds. Considering the poor intellectual quality (not to mention the wacky Fox Mulder-ish conspiracy theories) of the remaining harangue, one can only wonder at what the stuff that they cut out sounded like. Hopefully, Bad Movie(tm) scholars will someday unearth this lost footage, and the world will gain additional evidence of the magic that is Steven Seagal.

Embarrassed Actors Series: #4 - Bart the Bear My worst nightmare - being lectured by brainiac Steve Seagal.


Hugh has to hide the computer disk in the ten seconds before he runs downstairs to confront (and be killed by) MacGruder. We see him walk past the computer to hide it. In other words, he’s going to the fore of the computer stand. Yet later, when Seagal enters the house to retrieve his gear, he finds the disk in his backpack, in a closet directly to the rear of the computer. And while we do cut away from Hugh here, there’s no way he could have turned around, opened the closet, dug out and unzipped the backpack, stashed the disk, re-zipped and re-stowed the pack and then re-closed the closet door in the few seconds before we see him come down the stairs.


We get treated to one of the Seagal movies’ patented “This guy is really bad!” speeches, as Jennings answers the inevitable “Who is this guy?!” question with a response sure to resonate with Film Critics everywhere:

Jennings: “Who is he?! You want to know who he is?!! Try this!! Delve down, into the deepest bowels of your soul. Try to imagine the ultimate f*cking nightmare. And that won’t come close, to this Son of a B*tch, when he gets pissed!”

However, it’s mercenary leader Stone who gets to deliver the film’s real “This guy’s good!” speech. Proving that politics is all in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the script was denied even a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, despite this brilliant piece of oration: “My guy in D.C. tells me that we are not dealing with a student here, we’re dealing with the Professor. Any time the military has an operation that can’t fail, they call this guy in to train the troops, OK? He’s the kind of guy that would drink a gallon of gasoline so he could piss in your campfire! You could drop this guy off at the Arctic Circle wearing a pair of bikini underwear, without his toothbrush, and tomorrow afternoon he’s going to show up at your pool side with a million dollar smile and fist full of pesos. This guy’s a professional, you got me? If he reaches this rig, we’re all gonna be nothing but a big g*dd*mned hole right in the middle of Alaska. So let’s go find him and kill him and get rid of the son of a b*tch!”

Here it is, Seagal’s entire epic speech from the end of the movie, apparently written with the express purpose of driving master empiricist John Lock insane:

“I’d like to start out by saying, thank you to all the brothers and sisters that have come here today representing this cause. I have been asked by Mr. Itok and the tribal council to speak to you and the members of the Press about the injustice that has been brought against us by some Government Officials and Big Business (1). How many of you out there have heard of alternative engines? Engines that can run on anything from alcohol to garbage or water (2). Or carburetors that can get hundreds of miles to the gallon. Or electric or magnetic engines, that can practically run forever. You don’t know about them because if they were to come into use, they’d put the oil companies out of business. The concept of the internal combustion engine has been obsolete for over fifty years. But because of the Oil Cartels and corrupt government regulation, we and the rest of the world have been forced to use gasoline for over a hundred years. Big Business is primarily responsible for destroying the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat (3). They have no care for the world they destroy, only for the money they make in the process. How many oil spills can we endure? Millions and millions of gallons of oil are now destroying the ocean and the many forms of life it supports. Among these is plankton, which supplies sixty to ninety percent of the Earth’s oxygen (4). This supports the entire marine ecosystem which forms the basis of our planet’s food supply. But the plankton is dying. I thought, well, let’s go to remote state or country, anywhere on Earth. But in doing a little research I realized that these people broker toxic waste all over the world. They basically control the legislation, and, in fact, they control the Law. The Law says, “no company can be fined over $25,000 a day (5).” For companies making $10,000,000 dollars a day by dumping lethal toxic wastes into the ocean, it’s only good business to continue doing this. They influence the media so that they can control our minds (6). They have made it a crime to speak out for ourselves, and if we do so we’re called “conspiracy nuts” and we’re laughed at (7). We’re angry because we’re all being chemically and genetically damaged, and we don’t even realize it (8). Unfortunately, this will effect our children. We go to work each day and right under our noses we see our car and the car in front of us (9) spewing noxious poisonous gasses that are all accumulative poisons. These poisons kill us slowly, even when we see no effect. How many of us would have believed if we were told twenty years ago that on a certain day we wouldn’t be able to see fifty feet in front of us. That we wouldn’t be able to take a deep breath because the air would be a mass of poisonous gas (10). That we wouldn’t be able to drink out of our faucets, that we’d have to buy water out of bottles. Our most common and God-given rights have been taken away from us. Unfortunately, the reality of our lives is so grim that nobody wants to hear it (11). Now, I’ve been asked what we can do? I think we need a responsible body of people that can actually represent us rather than Big Business (12). This body of people must not allow the introduction of anything into our environment that is not absolutely biodegradable or able to be chemically neutralized upon production (13). And finally, as long as there is profit to be made from polluting the Earth (14), companies and individuals will continue to do what they want. We have to force these companies to operate safely and responsibly, and with all our best interests in mind (15). So that when they don’t, we can take back our resources and our hearts and our minds and do what’s right.”


  1. Don’t forget the “Elders of Zion.” (back)
  2. So how many “garbage” engines could this movie fuel? (back)
  3. Er, how do you “destroy” water, or air? (back)
  4. Could we possibly narrow that down a bit? (back)
  5. Whoever apprises Bill Gates of this is going to be a very rich man. (back)
  6. Indeed. Their most effective technique is to make “environmentally aware” movies so utterly ludicrous that they discredit the entire Environment movement. Books by crackpots like Al Gore and Paul Erlich are only the second most powerful weapons in this arsenal. (back)
  7. Actually, Steve, among the reasons that we laugh at you, your demented conspiracy theories rank rather low on the scale. (back)
  8. Uh, if you don’t even realize it, than how can it make you angry? (back)
  9. Yeah, certainly anyone who lived in, say, the London of a hundred years ago would have found that laughable. (back)
  10. …that in the last few decades such pollution has decreased dramatically? (back)
  11. La la la. I can’t hear you!! La la la la la. (back)
  12. Yes, and let’s give these people absolute political power, so that they can ignore anybody so crude as to demand empirical evidence and cost/benefit ratio studies, and just force the ignorant masses to give up the cars and air conditioners and disposable diapers that they wantonly and hoggishly consume. (back)
  13. Huh? (back)
  14. Which would be, I guess, forever? (back)
  15. Yeah, I’m tired of the array of products and technologies and medicines that have made human existence so much less enjoyable than it was, say, a hundred or two hundred or five hundred years ago. Instead of Corporations that respond to market pressures to give us “what we want,” let’s have big Statist Governments, like Communist China and the Soviet Union. After all, look at their splendid environmental records. (back)
  • Dave

    What ever happened to the picture of the bloodied Big Mike that used to be posted above the smug Steve-O’s “Zen Query”? I know it was kinda brutal to look at, but it WORKED as a perfect illustration of how NOT cool Steven Seagull’s brand of “heroism” really was.

  • Anders S

    Current review of this abomination on imdb starts with: “this is a great Seagal film. the acting is great the cast is great and the action is great. this has a good plot and a good message to send. he performs his Aikido with a great punch.”
    Disturbingly, it’s written by an American.
    Ken’s review however is every bit as good as the movie is bad.

  • The first thing any reasonable oil company would do if put in such a stupid legal situation as that printed above would be to put in a temporary exploration rig and then haul something as small as a bobbing duck in to make the site legally producing. They would have done this as soon as the geologic evaluation results were completed, at latest 10 years before our hero came on the scene. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, an exploration rig is about the only way that as much could be known about the deposit as they do, so they must have already pumped from the site. But I rather suspect Seagal could explain the workings of the petroleum industry about as well as a sea cucumber could explain wine making.

  • ginbot

    I don’t know how much peyote it would take to have this movie make sense or even be somewhat realistic. Actually, the peyote would probably have the opposite effect. Trying to understand Seagal’s logic would cause your brain to crack. Then you would go flying into a cardboard wall or sugar plane of glass. Man, this guy IS good!

  • Of course, celluloid, the base for film, is produced in a process that violates nearly every piece of his speech, but, then, one of the environmental groups went and bought a massive bus to convert to a touring vehicle to bring their brand of conserving energy to the masses and earned serious guffaws from all and sundry. Serious conservatism is hard work, analyzing systems to see what changes introduced will actually effect, while armchair hippie environmentalism generally fails to go deeper than a very superficial first-order analysis.

  • JoshG

    Michael Caine on “On Deadly Ground”:

    “I could see that things were going to be different now.I had reached the period of my life I called the twilight zone. The spotlight of movie stardom was fading and it all seemed gloomy.
    Soon the scripts started to dry up completely – even the bad ones – and if there is one thing worse than being offered bad scripts it’s being offered none at all.

    The danger is, of course, that the wait for a decent movie makes you desperate, and I got desperate to the point that I accepted a picture in Alaska with Steven Seagal, the martial arts expert. The movie was called On Deadly Ground and the title was to prove apt.
    Although Steven and the rest of the team were great to work with, I had broken one of the cardinal rules of bad movies: if you’re going to do a bad movie, at least do it in a great location.
    Here I was, doing a movie where the work was freezing my brain and the weather was freezing my a***.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1311129/Michael-Caine-I-desperate-I-did-movie-Steven-Seagal-In-Alaska-called-On-Deadly-Ground-The-title-proved-apt-.html#ixzz0zPgLguIP

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  • Scott

    Why read more , I didn’t read most .
    I can see why someone kicked you in the ungroin ! Do you even like yourself ?