Sony // 2007 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 6th, 2007
When revenge is personal, justice can be brutal.
If you've just killed the son of a guy who looks like Steven Seagal, what do you do? Quiver in fear? Head for the hills? Or try to pay him off with an Applebee's gift certificate?
Seagal is Simon Ballister, whose last name sounds like "ballistic." And "alabaster." But we'll go with "ballistic," because that's what Simon goes -- ballistic! -- when he learns his cop son was brutally gunned down in cold blood. He's a mysterious guy, estranged from his son's mother, and wiling away the years God-knows-where, but when his offspring buys the farm, it's enough to spring him out of his malaise and start punching teenagers in the neck.
Ballister embarks on a destructive spree, aimed at tracking down his son's killer and rearranging his or her spinal column. His quest for revenge brings him second-chin-deep into the world of street gangs and with each successive visit to a hideout, more and more mofos get themselves smoked, much to the consternation of big-shot gangster Armand (Eddie Griffin). Who whacked Junior Ballister? How deep does the conspiracy go? And will anyone ever learn not to point a gun five inches from Seagal's face and start trash-talking?!?
Because that's a recipe for disaster. You know what else is a recipe for disaster? This movie and clinical depression.
Homies, here's a pro-tip for facing off with Simon Ballister: don't point your fricking gun in front of his face and start talking! This happens multiple times throughout the film and the result is exactly the same -- some idiot lying on the floor unconscious or dead, with his own gun now trained on him.
No wonder so many guys get destroyed; they're all stupid. How there's even a cohesive structure of organized crime is beyond me as we see Ballister, a portly middle-aged man, tear through this syndicate of street-hardened thugs and killers as if it were a special needs kindergarten.
The narrative is extra-simplistic, even for a Seagal straight-to-DVD actioner. Fight scenes -- if you want to call them that, these ridiculous one-sided affairs -- are broken up with "investigative work," which means Ballister bounces around talking to people and threatening them and smacking around their bouncers and threatening them some more until they finally give in and point this obnoxious, jowly guy to another gang, where he promptly lays a beat-down on the hapless victims. And repeat. Eventually, his son's killer is revealed, and you will absolutely have the perpetrator pegged 10 minutes into this thing, and there are a couple of huge shootouts and after the smoke clears and the corpses' internal death gases escape from their orifices, Seagal quietly and slowly walks off, leaving you, the viewer, with a headache.
Because when you get right down to the central truth of Seagal's filmography, they're pretty much all the same movie. In fact, Seagal hasn't mixed it up much since his golden years when he was doing his thing, leaner, meaner and in a theater near you (save for his surprising parachute-less skydive in the early minutes of Executive Decision). No matter what they're doing, Seagal's characters can always be boiled down to this: they're humorless and untouchable. Here, Seagal doesn't so much as flirt with a grin or for that matter an emotive expression, maintaining the trademark, stoic expression, whether he's mourning his dead son at a funeral or dislodging someone's esophagus.
As for the fights, as I noted -- and if you're even relatively familiar with Seagal's flicks -- they're hugely lopsided. At this point, I'm pretty sure Seagal's contract explicitly states that no one is to lay a finger on him at all. The result is our hero just slaughters everyone he finds, with no hope of resistance or suspense in the bouts. This was kind of cool in his heyday when he had the physical presence to sell it, but now? At least take a punch man! Anyway, typical Seagal mayhem: quick hand strikes, some snapped necks, lots of throwing people into tables, etc.
Standard-issue Seagal DVD: an okay technical presentation (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, drenched in murky earth-tones for stylistic purposes, and a serviceable 5.1 surround track) with no extras save trailers.
I will say this for Urban Justice: it may have broken the record for most blood squibs used in a feature film.
Seagal shows no signs of slowing down -- releasing crummy direct-to-video action knockoffs that is.
We'll just hope the inevitable follow-up Rural Justice is better.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R