Image Entertainment // 2003 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 4th, 2011
Emphasis on "belly."
You know, it's been a while since I've seen a Steven Seagal straight-to-DVD release. For a while there, we were getting new ones every ten minutes. To fill the lull, Image Entertainment has opted to resuscitate an older release (his 2003 misadventure in Thailand), give it an HD coat of paint, and kick it out of the nest so it can once again land on your head and annoy you.
Jake Hopper (Seagal, Under Siege) is a former CIA agent, known for his ruthless demeanor and impressive ability to shove the hell out of people. Since he retired, he's operated successful security firm and developed a strong relationship with his daughter. He's about to be pulled back into the craziness when he receives word that his daughter has been kidnapped by a group of terrorists.
Hopper springs into action -- as much as can spring these days -- and reconnects with his bad-ass partner from years ago, convincing him to ditch the Buddhist lifestyle he had assumed and take up throat-punching once more.
Bad news: Belly of the Beast is closer on the Seagal Aerodynamic Spectrum to his more recent stuff (The Keeper and Kill Switch) than Out for Justice and Hard to Kill. Where the later films featured a lithe Seagal executing many of his own dope moves, Belly of the Beast falls into the kind of material he's pumping out during the twilight of his career.
The gist of Belly of the Beast is simple and effective enough. Guy's daughter gets kidnapped by terrorists? Sure, that sounds like good enough motivation to get in there and start cracking skulls! Problem is, when our hero leaps into action, the choreography betrays him. Seagal is fine enough when the encounters call for his signature hand-to-hand efforts but for some reason the powers that be thought it a wise idea to have Jake Hopper engaging in flip kicks, roundhouses and acrobatic gunplay. And since that stuff just isn't in Steven Seagal's wheelhouse, the director is forced to use obvious smoke and mirrors to get around the star's physical shortcomings. That means a lot of motion blur, far-away shots, and prolific use of obvious stunt doubles. Which doesn't make sense to me: use Seagal and his skill set or maybe just have him fire guns or something. Swapping him out with a stuntman forty pounds lighter does him -- and the audience -- no favors.
On the periphery of the action is the usual grist: Seagal muttering his lines with the same hushed seriousness that has been the staple of his acting career for decades, bad guys unable to lay a single finger on him, and a Final Bad Guy Fight that offers the same amount of suspense as a Saved by the Bell episode.
Image's Blu-ray brings a slight upgrade to your home theater experience, though I have to stop short of an unequivocal recommendation if you happen to own the DVD already. The 1.85:1, 1080p HD transfer gives you some added juice in resolution and the uncompressed 2.0 PCM provides decent push from audio (no 5.1 is still a downer of course) and there are no extras. Hard to give a full-throated recommendation.
Not one of Seagal's finest outings. The Blu-ray measures up to the low expectations.
The beast vomits you back up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R