I lived a sheltered childhood, so while many people my age grew up with action stars of the late 80's and early 90's like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme, I generally did not. As a twenty-something movie fan, I've filled in a few of these blanks, mainly the major ones like Die Hard, the Terminator series, but Steven Seagal is a guy I still haven't seen much of. Through no particularly evident fault of his own (mainly the normal march of time and subsequent aging), he's gone from action star to a bit of a punchline, but thanks to A&E's popular "Lawman", and with the help of Robert Rodriguez's Machete in 2010, we may be living once again in a world of Seagal. Whether people are looking forward to that or not is one thing, but in the meantime, those that are can check out The Keeper, an unoriginal but agreeable B-action picture.
While fighting over the possibility of taking a dead drug dealer's millions, police officer Roland Sallinger (Seagal) is shot twice by his less-than-honorable partner and ends up in the hospital. His partner comes to finish the job and Roland takes him out, but the police force decides that although Roland eventually gets back on his feet, they don't want him back on the force. The same day Roland finds out he's unexpectedly retired, a fellow ex-cop and old friend named Conner Wells (Stephen DuVall) calls him up and asks him to fly out to Texas and be the new personal bodyguard for his daughter Nikita (Liezl Carstens) after the previous one is killed in an attempted kidnapping. Roland agrees, and finds himself chasing after her thanks to a web of secrets that involves COnner, Nikita's boyfriend Mason (Arron Shiver), and a criminal named Jason Cross (Luce Rains).
I imagine anyone who counts themselves as a fan of Steven Seagal not only knows what to expect from The Keeper but may even take pleasure in the comfortingly familiar combination of rescue and gunfights that the actor's newest DTV outing provides. I haven't seen any of the numerous direct-to-video releases that Seagal has done since his last major big-screen role in 2002's Half Past Dead, but my impression that The Keeper, being the fitfully enjoyable, brain-off experience that it is constitutes a cut above most of them. Director Keoni Waxman does everything by the book, basically just finding a place to stick the camera and pointing it at Seagal. Like most modern directors, Waxman makes the irritating mistake of shooting the fight scenes too close for comfort (probably in a half-hearted attempt to cover up a stunt double or two) and throws a cut in between each punch, but it's not so bad that the fights are totally incomprehensible, and there's some amusing knife stuff.
The Keeper only cares that the audience invest in two characters: Roland and Nikita. Seagal's performance of Roland is all over the map, with his syntax randomly swinging from urban funk when he's angry or in action mode (early on I goggled at his delivery of "Thought I knew you, mothaf---er!" and later did a double-take when he calls someone a "stanky ho") to down-home country western when he'd rather be friendly. I also caught one truly out-of-left-field instance of Pacino's Scarface, when he calls someone "mang" after thoroughly kicking their ass. Carstens forms a nice rappaport with Seagal, and there were moments when I almost thought I'd prefer it if the movie kept up its weird father-figure/daughter-figure comedy bonding movie. Given the qualities of the film itself, the best I can really say is that the performance is more than adequate, but she'll probably get more work given that she looks somewhat like a taller Scarlett Johansson and there are hints of a charming personality.
The only real quibbles I have with The Keeper come right at the end. Despite two passes at the ending, I was very confused as to what happened to a certain character. I mean, I guess it's the guy that Seagal has the climactic final fight with, but somewhere between the scene where the character is holding a briefcase that gets shot and the end of the movie, he starts looking like an entirely different, much older person. There's also the fact that the movie has a climax but no ending (compositing some fire over random aftermath footage does not constitute a conclusion). Then again, who cares? This is a one-dollar Redbox rental for Seagal's pre-existing fans, and on that level it's just fine. Let me put it this way: during the last ten minutes of the movie, a villain shoots at Seagal and misses, instead hitting the cluster of extremely volatile barrels in the far background, which explode and silhouette the actor against the flames. If you are the kind of person who will see this scene and wonder why those barrels are there and why they're filled with explosives, then just take it from me: watch something else.
The DVD, Video and Audio
20th Century Fox sent over a single-layer DVD-R in a paper sleeve for the purposes of this review, so I can't accurately judge the packaging or technical merits of this disc. However, final copy should include a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish Dolby Surround, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles. It also has a much slicker menu design than the generic DVD cover art on the right side of this review.
None. The disc opens with trailers for The Marine II, Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead, Stargate Universe and 12 Rounds, which are not accessible from the menu.
I wouldn't recommend a purchase, given that the film isn't anything special and the DVD doesn't have any bonus features, but fans of the one and only Lawman can feel confident giving this the rental they were always going to.
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