A decent B-movie actioner, and an improvement over FORCE OF EXECUTION6/10
Steven Seagal returns to the screen in this story about a former black ops warrior who gets caught in between Russian and Chinese gangs in order to save the sister of his neighbor, whose brother is in debt to the Russian mob. Truth be told, while one could call this a Steven Seagal movie, his character occupies a position that simultaneously is and isn't the center of the story (much like his previous effort FORCE OF EXECUTION). However, unlike FORCE OF EXECUTION, the story is better, more thought out and has better action sequences. Even the acting is better this time around, which is a plus. Story-wise, Seagal plays a variation on the character he plays in almost every movie he makes: that of the reluctant hero. He puts himself into a self-imposed retirement after a terrorist hit goes wrong, and a young girl dies while one of the bad guys gets away. Cut to the present day, and he's living a quiet life in Eastern Europe. His neighbor (Iulia Verdes) works at a strip bar (but she's just a bartender) run by the Russian mob while her half-brother (Victor Webster) pays off a debt owed by his father. However, when some men are killed and money meant for the Chinese mob goes missing, the neighbor's little sister is kidnapped and Alexander (Seagal) goes back into action. I thought that the story, while nothing original at all, was at least executed rather well within the confines of what constitutes a Seagal movie. The performances were also decent for this type of movie, with Tzi Ma probably doing the best out of the cast. Also of note is the improved fight sequences, which aren't completely edited to hell this time. The camera-work still has a hand-held feel to it, but the action is more comprehensible than a lot of Seagal's recent DTV output and you can tell that it's him a lot more of the time. They also varied the types of fighting. Sure, they had the typical gunplay and close quarters hand-to-hand combat, but Seagal also got to use a short sword for several scenes which was a nice change of pace (and provided some gruesome kills). Still, as always it wasn't all great. This movie was filmed on the cheap in Romania and it shows in the bleak cinematography and sparse sets. There was also some digital augmentation in a few scenes that stuck out pretty badly, and a couple of obvious uses of stock footage that wasn't at the same quality as the movie itself. And while some might count this as a positive, there was a bunch of gratuitous nudity which was only in there because some scenes happened to take place in a bar. There's also an awkward "sex" scene with Steven Seagal and Iulia Verdes which could have been left out completely. When all is said and done, Seagal fans should be pleased, as this is a return to form of sorts, at least when limited to his DTV work. As always, though, everyone else should probably find something else to watch.