Sony // 2006 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 23rd, 2006
"It ain't over until the wolf howls."
-- Jack Foster
Steven Seagal is a machine! Brother is just cranking these direct-to-DVD actioners out. Weekly, it seems. The latest has him as an indestructible ex-CIA operative skilled in hand-to-hand combat, caught in a conspiracy and squaring off with a bunch of white guys. You know, the usual.
Seagal is Jack Foster, former government spy, now retired and trying to build a comfortable life with his young daughter. The two are about to enjoy a vacation together, but a car bomb interrupts the bliss. Add to it, Jack's daughter is kidnapped by a mysterious woman in a taxi. In the chaos, Jack reunites with a shady former CIA buddy who has mysteriously reappeared. The two take off to track down the little girl, but they lose her -- and Jack is supremely suspicious.
Turns out, his instincts are still intact. Jack is in the middle of an international bum-rush over a highly volatile bio-contagion that has the ability to kill lots of people with ease. Now crooked cops, Russian spies and corrupt members of his own government are hunting for it -- and they're willing to do anything to get it, even if it means kidnapping Jack's daughter to use as leverage.
Thing is, none of these clowns realize who they're dealing with.
The first thing you'll notice with this disc is the slimmed-down version of Seagal that we see on the disc menu (and the disc case). Yeah, I know, making jokes about his girth is a cheap shot, but this is just too crazy to ignore. Not only does it look like the artists shaved off fifteen years from his face, but his pants size seems to have decreased by four or five increments. But when you produce your own movies, I guess you can do stuff like that.
You know what else you can do? Make yourself totally awesome. It's not like Seagal was even close to mortal in his old-school adventures, but even now, X number of years later when he's obviously not as spry as he once was, his characters emerge from gun battles and one-on-five fistfights with not a strand of slicked-back hair out of place. Shadow Man features an especially I'm-so-frickin'-awesome Seagal character. Jack Foster never even breathes rapidly after killing a house full of drug dealers. The opening scene shows Jack teaching some hapless pupils his martial art in his dojo, liquefying the insides of a watermelon with one punch and savagely beating the students for no other reason than to stroke the old sensei ego.
What other powers does Jack Foster/Steven Seagal have? Well, besides being able to flip and punch any attacker that comes with a 20 foot radius of his sideburns, he can fire guns infinitely. Plus, one scene has him being stalked by a military helicopter, and Jack shoots the thing until it explodes with his pistol! So, to recap: he can punch bad guys in the stomachs and nuke their intestines, turn ordinary handguns into infinite-ammo-carrying death dispensers, and blow up helicopters with a few pistol rounds. It's like the guy has tapped into a Contra code or something.
Even when the villains manage to surround Jack -- and they often do in this film -- they are never able to just pull the damn trigger. First, they stand within his striking/disarming distance (granted, that's about 3/4 of a mile), second they launch into a long-winded set of prepared remarks, and third they always seem to get lulled into a Seagal-stupor, where they just stand there, unmoving, like department store mannequins, just waiting to have their forearms broken into small pieces.
"Invulnerable Steven Seagal character," you say. "Tell us something we can't expect in his movies." Unfortunately, you can pretty much expect everything, from corrupt white bureaucrats that are always pulling the strings, to the large-breasted bad girl with the heart of gold, to the old reliable scumbag villains: the Russians. Yes, it is the Russian who would currently love to get their hands on a weaponized virus to kills hundreds of thousands of Americans. Brave filmmaking, my friend, brave filmmaking.
In the end, you've got a generic action film with an uninvolving plot, stilted action sequences, some shabby green screen work, predictable twists, and, I swear, a stunt double for Steven Seagal to walk across a porch.
Decent technical specs (a clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and an active 5.1 Dolby Digital mix) are marred by the usual bonus materials vacancy. I guess if you're cranking these movies out like they're breakfast cereal, you probably don't have time to include a still gallery or two.
Shadow Man is an action movie of little to no consequence. Seagal doesn't distinguish himself from any other character he's ever played and there's not enough interesting stuff happening on the periphery to distract us. Skip it unless you're wicked bored.
Back to the shadows with you.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R