Thursday, August 21, 2014

Above the Law (1988) Review:

The 1980s were a decade of Hollywood being claimed by several different actors and franchises. Horror films exploded and action stars became the next thing. The biggest of action stars to turn up at the time would be the obvious, like Sylvester Stallone & Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then came other actors like Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Jean Claude-Van Damme. All of which these actors had played some type of action role prior to the film that made their action star debut. As for Steven Seagal, his debut was an action film with nothing prior to it either. He was lucky because if he had started any later, who knows if his career would've taken off. To most, audiences find this to be one of Seagal's best. It is by no means executed badly but there are various problems.

That face,....looks like it means business
In his film debut, Seagal plays a cop named Nico Toscani who like many other cop films at the time, considered themselves to have the authority to do whatever they felt was right. Upon being introduced to Nico, viewers are also dropped into what seems to be a very convoluted plot that at times is clear, while other times is confusing. I'm surprised the three writers couldn't handle this, considering Ronald Shusett writer of Alien (1979) and Total Recall (1990) was apart of the trio. What isn't clear is the main plot. Nico begins to think the department he works for is corrupt, but on what exactly they are dealing with is foggy. The elements involve drugs and politics, yet the order at which its described is all over the place which makes it hard to follow. That like other police thrillers, so many names are referenced at which half don't mean squat or are connected thinly to the plot.

What the writers did accomplish was fleshing out Seagal's character nicely. At the very least, audiences will understand why Nico thinks his say is the final say. Understandably, after what he went through early in life, who wouldn't feel the same way? Seagal in his first role performs well. He is not able to spout out lines as memorable as his other action counterparts but there are times where his charm does shine through. The supporting cast is all right. None of them are bad and none stand out either. The only two actresses that are worth mentioning is a young Sharon Stone (before she was famous) and Pam Grier. Never saw that coming. Background wise, these characters don't go through much an arc but they at least give human performances that blend with Seagal's showing.

Sharon Stone
Since this is also Seagal's first movie it was certainly important that he displayed his skills and he does do that. His hand-to-hand combat skills are phenomenal. The introduction that shows him in slow motion implementing these moves is mesmerizing. It'll have people saying to themselves, "I want to learn how to do that". I know I did, it looked awesome. The only downside to this, is that the action doesn't happen as frequently as one would think. For an hour and forty minutes, the action is spread out. Why? This is Seagal we are showing here. Along with that is the steady camerawork and editing. The music provided by David Michael Frank was nice too. Again, his forte is more in synthetic instruments (i.e. Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)), but that doesn't mean it's bad quality. Frank contains a main theme and the Asian element at which co-exists in Nico's background is appropriate. It did work as movie, it just had more issues than expected.

It has appropriate music, visually appealing hand-to-hand combat and a good first performance as Steven Seagal's film debut. Unfortunately, it could've been stronger if the plot wasn't so muddled with vague details.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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