Review: Force of Execution
Steven Seagal plays a former black ops guy turned benevolent crime boss named Mr. Alexander. Yep. When a rival gangster (Ving Rhames) screws over Mr. Alexander’s right-hand man Roman (Bren Foster) causing him to botch a kill job, Mr. Alexander is forced to retire him. Thankfully, being benevolent, when I say retire it doesn’t mean taken out the back and killed. It means cast out and having both hands broken. Now a drunk, he is thoroughly miserable and mostly hanging outside a diner run by Jenny Gabrielle, who just so happens to be an acquaintance of his former boss Mr. Alexander and watches out for him a bit. So does Mr. Alexander, who needs his help once again after Rhames starts to get a bit too big for his britches and wanting to rub Seagal out. Danny Trejo plays the diner’s cook, who also dabbles in a bit of witch doctoring, which somehow manages to help heal Roman’s hands so he can go back into action.
Although his post-cinematic release career has been far below in quality than that of fellow 80s/90s martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal can on occasion almost make a movie worth recommending unreservedly. Hell, if you want to count “Machete”, that’s at least one film I would recommend without reservations. Since I don’t count that as a ‘Steven Seagal film’ however, your best bet from his post-90s output is watchable stuff like this 2013 flick from director Keoni Waxman (“The Keeper”, “Maximum Conviction”, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s “Hunt to Kill”).
Like “Machete”, Seagal’s playing a criminal in this one, though in this case he’s one of the less awful crims on display here. A benevolent Mafioso of sorts I suppose, albeit with Seagal’s patented and ill-suited Creole accent in-check along with the sunglasses and seemingly painted-on facial hair. Performance-wise, this is probably his least lazy turn since “Ruslan”, wherein he also played a bad guy who wasn’t all that bad. He’s a long way from giving a good performance here, but let’s face it, he never was a good actor in the first place was he? In terms of action, this is also the least lazy I’ve seen Seagal in a while. I’m sure stunt doubles and camera trickfuckeryTM are still used, but a violent early aikido fight shows Seagal doing at least a bit of the work himself. I’m not sure how many fat mobsters deck themselves out in tactical gear and engage in violent skirmishes themselves, but I can’t really criticise Seagal for doing more than usual, can I? The producer-actor must’ve believed in this one a bit.
Scripted by Richard Beattie (Seagal’s “Maximum Conviction”) and Michael Black (his only IMDb credit to date), it’s actually Australian-born Bren Foster in the lead here, with Seagal just popping up from time to time alongside two slumming stars in Danny ‘The Old El Paso Guy’ Trejo and Ving ‘I used to have a legit career, honest!’ Rhames. Foster, like Scott Adkins before him, is good-looking and in action-mode is pretty impressive, though I’d give Adkins the edge in the acting department. Being that this was made several years back, I’d have to guess that the attempt to make Foster a star hasn’t really paid off even on an Adkins level. Still, he shows us what he can do early on by beating up a bunch of prisoners in what is admittedly very far from the most plausible prison break I’ve ever seen. He also spin-kicks like a mofo. As for Ving Rhames, he’s phoning it in here and it’s truly sad to see a genuinely talented actor still playing prisoners, thugs, and gangsters. Or all three in this particular case. Still, the guy has a truly intimidating screen presence that even here manages to scare you a little bit. Phoning it in or not, he still manages to dominate his every scene simply by being Ving Rhames. Danny Trejo is always good fun and has a particularly perplexing scene involving the strangest implementation of a couple of scorpions I’ve ever seen. What the fuck was that about? On the downside, in addition to having two first names Jenny Gabrielle gives a porno-bad performance playing a rather annoying character to boot. Look for small appearances by familiar faces Frank Mir, Noel Gugliemi (from “Training Day”), and former “Days of Our Lives” actor Ivan G’vera (of all people).
It’s pretty competently made so far as these direct-to-DVD Seagal films go, though the plot is a little complicated. It’s not “The Foreigner” levels of incoherence, however. In fact, a lot of it plays like one of those late 80s/early 90s action vehicles introducing the next big thing, right down to the star having to save an old diner worker from a nasty gang mugging. One of Seagal’s best films since “Under Siege”, but if you’ve been paying attention to his career since then, that’s not saying much is it? Almost worthy of a full recommendation but not quite, despite a better-than-usual supporting cast and some decently put-together action. It’s not bad.