Sony // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 4th, 2009
He lives by the sword. They will die by it.
Steven Seagal + Zombies = The greatest movie ever made, right? Right?
Thanks to a helpful title card showing the dictionary definition of "infected" and an even more helpful voiceover, we discover that an untreatable virus has ravaged much of the nation, turning the sad sacks who contract the disease into flesh-eating, ill-tempered walking dead.
While the uninfected few wander the streets looking for shelter and safety, a small group of hard-asses known as Hunters, patrol for infected to slice and dice with awesome katanas. The leader of this civilian militia is Tao (Steven Seagal, Under Siege), a master swordsman with a vocabulary limited to the F-word and several grunts. Who cares though, when he's able to chop up zombies with such a zesty spirit?!?
Yeah, this isn't the best movie ever made. In fact, it's not the best movie I saw today. While the premise looks like action geek nirvana on paper -- Steven Seagal applying his trademark scowl and contempt for everyone to zombies -- the follow-through was a clichéd and empty affair.
For one thing, Seagal's barely in this thing. For virtually the entire first half of the film, his scenes last about 19 seconds, and those consist of a quick glower and some sword swipes. Then we cut to the recipients of said sword swipes flying through the air and landing in debris. When he's not participating in a katana party, Seagal struts along with a band of fellow leather-clad scowlers and then it's back to the main story, which involves a group of boring survivors trying to last the night in a hospital.
This is the central arc and there's not much here. These folks are running around, getting into shouting matches about how much it sucks to be them, fending off the occasional infected, harboring suspicions towards each other and if they've been bitten; in other words you've seen this stuff before in countless zombie movies and the characters following the paces in Against the Dark are utterly forgettable.
The third piece involves the government and their plans to "sanitize" the infected area, i.e. drop a butt-load of explosive ordnance on the neighborhoods. The Alpha Male general is Keith David and the Beta Male State Department rep is Linden Ashby, two guys who've made their bones in genre films and are completely wasted.
There is a positive, though, and it might just be enough to salvage the film for some. While the story and characters are unsatisfying, the action and bloodshed isn't too shabby. Heads are lopped off, throats are slashed, blood spurts and Tao's gang of hunters are adept at hand-to-hand, skilled enough to give the beat 'em up scenes some juice. Ironically, it's Seagal's stuff that lacks in spectacle. With him bound to his katana the whole time, we're robbed of the magical vision of an aging, slightly-portly action star pushing stunt men into cardboard boxes.
Sony's issued a no-frills DVD. The picture quality (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) is decent, though the action in the darker sequences tends to get foggy. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround does what it needs to. One extra: a so-so making-of documentary.
Steven Seagal trapped in a mediocre zombie movie. Do with it what you will.
Guilty. Now Steven Seagal as a zombie?! That's what I'd like to see.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R