Sony // 2005 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // April 15th, 2005
It's a split second between hit or miss.
For maximum effect, readings of this (admittedly too long and too in-depth) review should be punctuated by frequent outbursts of laughter.
When his young pen pal is kidnapped by a band of international criminals who plan to sell her to the highest bidder, a former covert agent/killing machine named Billy Ray Lancing (Steven Seagal, Ticker) goes into action. Bones are broken, skulls are cracked, some people get shot, and a secret message is encoded in a tray of hors d'oeuvres (I bet John le Carré never thought of that).
I never thought I would live to see such a time, but it actually happened: I had some trouble following the plot of a Steven Seagal movie. I'm pretty sure I know what was happening in Mulholland Drive, and I had The Usual Suspects figured out about halfway through, but I'm a little fuzzy on some of the things going on in Out of Reach.
This straight-to-DVD release opens with Seagal (regardless of the character's name, Seagal is playing himself) walking through the woods outside his home. He finds an injured falcon, lovingly nurses it back to health, and releases it. This scene is accompanied by a voiceover of his pen pal, Irena (Ida Nowakowska), reading a letter she has written Seagal. Ida thanks Seagal for the kindness he has shown her, as well as for the time and effort he has put into her orphanage's outreach program. See, Ida is a young orphan who lives in Poland, although it took me about twenty minutes to figure this out, as Ida has no accent, her letters are composed in perfect English, and the envelopes in which she mails her letters to Seagal aren't marked with international postage. Seagal writes her back, and he includes a cipher for her to, well, decipher (foreshadowing!). Irena joyfully decodes the cipher, and this scene is accompanied by a voiceover of Seagal reading the letter he has written Irena, but it's not really Seagal. See, half of Seagal's dialogue in this movie has been dubbed -- rather poorly -- by someone who sounds nothing like Seagal.
Anyway, Lewis Morton (Robbie Gee, Underworld), a government agent who used to work with Seagal, comes to the local diner and asks Seagal to perform an op...I think. Morton mentions something about an op and slides Seagal's old CSA (whatever that is) ID card across the table, but Seagal blows him off and leaves. This scene is followed by one in which Morton and some other agents ransack Seagal's cabin. What are they looking for? Beats me. (I wondered if Seagal had maybe, as they say in the spy game, gone off the ranch and the agents were looking to bring him in, but I'm not sure. Then I realized I shouldn't be concerned with the logic of a movie in which logic plays no part, so I stopped thinking about it.) Okay, Seagal, who had stopped off at the post office to pick up his mail, comes home and finds the agents. He squints, gets all pissed, and then takes them out in one of those poorly shot, poorly edited fights Seagal's fans have come to expect from films featuring the now portly, over-the-hill action star. Seagal then hops out a window and disappears into the woods.
Meanwhile, the bad guys show up at Irena's orphanage, round up her and the other teenage girls, load them in a minivan, and take them to a warehouse. (The orphanage is a huge, sprawling complex, but it apparently only houses ten girls and a dopey looking boy who picks pockets and never changes his clothes.) The bad guys tell the girls they're being taken to a new foster program, and the girls somehow don't find this fishy. The bad guys go through Irena's belongings and find her letters and ciphers. They then slap some makeup on the girls and begin videotaping them.
Seagal reads a letter from the orphanage, wonders why he's being informed that Irena will no longer be able to correspond with him, and hops on a plane. He flies to Poland, goes to the orphanage, talks to the headmistress, and has his sunglasses lifted by the dopey looking kid. The headmistress, who is in on the girl-selling scheme, calls Colonel Faisal (Matt Schulze, Torque), the head bad guy, and tells him that Seagal was snooping around. Faisal comes to the school and pops a cap in her ass. (Oh yeah, much of Matt Schulze's dialogue has also been dubbed, apparently by the same person who sat in for Seagal.) Seagal goes back to his hotel, and some of the bad guys show up a few minutes later. Seagal hears them coming down the hall, peeks out his door, sees the bad guys directly across the hall from his room, and then shuts the door. The very next shot shows the bad guys breaking down the door to Seagal's room. Thing is, in the two seconds it takes for the bad guys to get into his room, Seagal has somehow had the time to hang a clothesline in his bathroom, turn on the shower in order to steam up the room, and hang a suit jacket in the shower stall as a decoy. Seagal then takes down one of the bad guys (in super slo-mo, of course) and hangs the other out a window. The guy won't give Seagal the name of his boss, so Seagal drops him. The bad guy plummets to the street and lands on a car. No one notices.
Seagal goes back to the school and finds the dopey looking boy. He also meets Kasia Lato (the quite lovely Agnieszka Wagner), the cop in charge of the case, and finds out about the murder of the headmistress. Lato and her partner take Seagal downtown; Seagal uses a police computer (the menus of which are in English) to tap into the International Missing People Database (sounds official, doesn't it?) and finds some information on the United Alliance of Nations (whatever that is). The cops let Seagal leave but later contact him after they find one of his letters to Irena at the scene of a young girl's murder. Seagal thinks it is Irena who has been killed, but the body is actually that of one of Irena's friends who had tried to escape. Lato tells Seagal not to leave the country until the investigation has been wrapped up. Seagal goes back to his hotel and finds the dopey looking kid waiting for him. The dopey looking kid gives Seagal a cigarette lighter he lifted from Faisal, which Seagal recognizes as the type used by officers in the Turkish military (although Faisal is about as Turkish as my dog). Seagal then goes back to the police station. A videotape was found near the young girl's body, but the police can't make out what's on it. The video is scrambled, but why it's scrambled isn't clear, nor is it clear why the bad guys would leave the tape with the body. Anyway, Seagal is nice enough to show the police technician how to unscramble the tape, the image of Irena's dead friend appears on the monitor, and Seagal realizes that Irena is still alive. (Let's see...he knows the girl in the video isn't Irena, but he thought the body was Irena's. Wait a minute...oh, forget it. My head hurts.) Seagal then prints out a photo of the dead girl and returns to his hotel, where he finds the dopey looking kid getting drunk off the contents of the mini bar.
Here's where things really start getting good. Seagal goes to the United Alliance of Nations' headquarters, breaks into the office of one of the head honchos, starts going through the guy's files, all of which are in English, and steals some stuff. Next thing you know, Seagal is walking through a stark white building. I don't know what building it is, nor do I know where it is, nor do I know how Seagal got inside. Nothing is in the building except for some phones and an envelope taped to a column (huh?). On the envelope is the name of an Internet service provider. Seagal picks up the envelope, which later plays absolutely no part in the story, and the phones start ringing. Seagal stands there, and he is magically able to hear the voices on the phones as they bid for the kidnapped young girls.
Seagal and Lato go to the home of the guy whose office Seagal broke into and find the guy dead. It looks like the guy shot himself, but I guess maybe this is a ruse since a masked assassin rushes into the room and shoots Lato in the shoulder. Seagal flips over a desk, which so disorients the assassin he is now only able to hit some potted plants when he fires his gun. Seagal and the assassin have a slo-mo fight, but the assassin manages to get away and tell Faisal what happened. Seagal uses a heated butter knife to remove the bullet from Lato's shoulder and then cauterizes the wound. The CSA honchos who tore apart Seagal's cabin show up and tell Faisal who Seagal is and offer to help kill him. Faisal finds Irena snooping around and asks her to play chess. During their match he gives her a glass of drugged orange juice, but this plays absolutely no part in the story.
Seagal and the dopey looking kid follow Faisal's car to an embassy. Seagal has a local newspaper, which is printed in English, and he sees a headline about a ball being held at the embassy. The dopey looking kid identifies Faisal as the man who took away the girls. Seagal realizes that the girls will be handed over to their buyers during the ball, so he decides to infiltrate the shindig. That's right, he knows who has the girls and, since he was following him, he obviously knows where Faisal lives, but does Seagal go rescue the girls? No, he lets them sweat it out for another day or two. Okay, so we cut to the embassy kitchen, where the assassin and Faisal are talking; Irena is with them and she says she's hungry. She goes over to the trays of food and rearranges some of the hors d'oeuvres into a message for Seagal. (Don't ask me how she knows he'll be there for the ball, or that he'll even see the tray, or that somebody won't come along and eat a couple of them before Seagal can get the message, or what she would have done had the food not been cut into the exact shapes she required.) Wait, it gets even better. After Irena has left the kitchen, Faisal sees the tray, knows it's a cipher-message for Seagal, and tells the assassin to make sure no one touches it!
Seagal goes to see some Russian dude (don't ask me who he is) and blackmails the guy into taking him to the ball. Seagal goes back to his hotel to get dressed; Lato and the dopey looking kid are there. Seagal says he's going to put a stop to the bad guy's plan and then tells Lato and the kid to get as far away as they can. The kid convinces Seagal to hug Lato; Seagal does, squeezing right up against the shoulder in which Lato was shot. You'd think this would be painful for her, but I guess not. Seagal and the Russian guy go to the ball; the Russian guy introduces Seagal as one of his colleagues, so Seagal spends the evening pretending to be Russian (ha!), although no one wonders why he doesn't have an accent. The assassin is downstairs guarding Irena, but Irena escapes when the dumbass steps out for a smoke and leaves the door open. Seagal sees the tray of hors d'oeuvres, deciphers the message -- THIS IS A TRAP! -- realizes Irena is in the building, and then promptly leaves.
Seagal follows one of the bad guys to a restaurant. He then goes to a brothel, gawks at the thong-clad workers, and pays one of the women to go to the restaurant and snuggle up to the bad guy. She does, and Seagal later comes in and roughs the guy up a little. He then pays the bad guy ten grand to go tell Faisal that he is at the brothel. The bad guy leaves, and Seagal goes back to his hotel. Lato and the dopey looking kid have ignored Seagal's orders and are still there. Lato and Seagal go to Lato's uncle's bar, which has a small arsenal, and borrow some guns and grenades. They then go back to the brothel, whereupon Lato asks Seagal why he has chosen such an odd place to take out the bad guys. Segal responds by showing her a secret passage behind a wardrobe. He says the passage was installed by a Polish king as a way to secretly enter and leave the whorehouse. How Seagal knows about the secret passage is never explained.
The bad guys show up at the brothel, gawk at the thong-clad workers (who don't seem to be bothered by all these guys with hand cannons), ask which room Seagal is in, and then start shooting up the place. Seagal and Lato use the secret passage to sneak around behind the bad guys and kill most of them. Someone knocks a cabinet over onto Lato, which doesn't seem to hurt her wounded shoulder, although it does knock her to the ground. Seagal and Agent Morton square off, and Agent Morton is killed, but only after Seagal unleashes an incredibly dumb, vulgar, and misogynistic quip, which good taste prevents me from reprinting here. Seagal, who isn't getting any younger and needs his rest, waits until the following day to go to Faisal's headquarters. He finds Irena; she doesn't know who he is, so he tells her, at which point her cherubic little face lights up. Faisal comes in, and he and Seagal proceed to walk down a hallway and smack each other in the head a few times. They then have a swordfight, and Faisal ends up with his guts spilling out all over his marble floor. Seagal returns to America and brings Irena and the dopey looking kid back with him.
So what about the other girls from the orphanage? Don't ask me. Did the Polish authorities round up the other members of this global human trafficking ring? Can't help you there. Why is Seagal starting to look more and more like Gene Simmons? Haven't got a clue. How do these movies keep getting made? That's what I'd like to know.
I had a feeling this thing was going to suck, but I didn't think it would be this bad. Not only is it bad, it's slow as hell. It's so dull I couldn't make it through in one sitting; I had to break it up into three thirty-minute chunks, and even then I wanted to kill myself before it was over. I'm all for the nations of the world working together, but this isn't what I had in mind. You take an American lead, add a Chinese director (Po-Chih Leong, who helmed Once Upon a Time in Shanghai), throw in financing from Poland and the United Kingdom, and this is what you end up with? It's enough to make you long for the days of the Warsaw Pact.
Let me finish this up before my brain starts leaking out of my ears. Out Of Reach comes with a pretty decent transfer, although at times certain colors look a little too hot and a couple of scenes are grainier than they should be. The audio is clean and clear, but it probably could have been a little punchier in the fight scenes, and the surrounds could definitely have been put to better use. The only extras, if you can call them that, are previews for other Steven Seagal turkeys.
I know someone who lives for the films of Steven Seagal, and I don't think even he would try to defend this one.
Guilty of being the stupidest piece of crap I've seen in...oh, at least three or four weeks.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R