In this latest straight to video shoot'em up, Steven Seagal plays a cop named Roland Sallinger. When we meet him, he and his partner are taking down some drug dealers. With the bad guys safely out of commission, Roland's partner wants to take the two million dollars in cold, hard cash lying on the table in front of them. Roland objects and gets shot twice for not going along with the crooked cop's plan. He's hospitalized and apparently in a coma when his niece comes to visit him - but Roland is crafty, he's faking this whole coma thing and sneaks the pistol out of his niece's purse without her realizing it. When his partner comes back to finish the job, Roland pays him back in spades and shoots him down right there in the hospital. Why does he do this instead of telling anyone he knows that his life is in danger? Because Roland is a hard ass, that's why. When he's released, the Los Angeles Police Department forces him to retire. He's not happy about this, we learn about how upset he is while he talks to his niece about it. We see him try to get back in shape by throwing knives around in his backyard and popping pain pills like they're going out of style, leading to a subplot that goes nowhere... until the phone rings. It's Roland's old pal from Texas, an honest cop named Conner Wells (Steph DuVall), who Roland was in the army with. It seems Conner is in a bit of a pickle and Roland is the only man he can trust, so he sends his private jet for him and, through the wonder of stock footage inserts, whisks him off to Texas (hey look, the Alamo!).
When Roland arrives he meets Conner's hot daughter, Nikita (Liezl Carstens), a stone cold fox who is involved with an up and coming boxer named Mason Silver (Arron Shiver). Unfortunately for Nikita and Conner, who is financing Mason's career, Mason is involved with Jason Cross (Luce Rains), a separatist who hates Mexicans. Cross learns that Conner's land sits atop a massive stash of uranium, the biggest deposit in North America, and so he intends to kidnap Nikita to force Conner to sign the land over to him. This is why Roland has been called in - it's up to him to protect Nikita from Cross, while Mason does lines of coke off of a stripper's ass and screws around on her. Thankfully, Roland has the help of a few of the local Mexican's that Cross is so not fond of to help him out.
The Keeper is kind of a weird title for this one, but you know what? It doesn't matter. The logic gaps don't matter. The clichés don't matter. The fact that Seagal goes from speaking like a street gangster to talking like a down home Texan doesn't matter either. Nothing really matters here except that the plot is sufficient enough to drive us from one action set piece to the next and that Segal gets to punch people in the face, throw knives at people, and shoot lots of people. There's a weird and fairly creepy subplot where Nikita starts to fall for Roland, talking to him about how she remembers him from when she was a little girl, how she's always held on to the gift he gave her those many years ago, and how she'd love to travel to Asia with him, but this subplot also leads to nowhere. By the time the movie ends, the camera wisely panning to the flames of a fire caused by a stray bullet hitting some conveniently placed barrels of explosive stuff, we're really no wiser. We've not been enlightened in anyway, and there's been very little actual plot resolution, but Seagal has saved the day, or so we are to assume.
Director Keoni Waxman (who, a few years back, gave us The Anna Nicole Smith Story), working off some semblance of a script by Paul A. Birkett (who also wrote The Operative starring Brian Bosworth), keeps things moving at a good pace. The film is never dull, thanks to its emphasis on action over logic and reason and the shoot outs and fight scenes are staged reasonably well. Seagal has been in better shape than he is in this film, but he's also been in much worse shape and thankfully doesn't spend all of his screen time in the shadows covered in a long black trench coat. He's also chopped off his trademark ponytail. This isn't on the same level as Hard To Kill or some of his better, earlier films but it's a perfectly amusing low budget B-grade action film.
The picture is presented in a pretty good-looking 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are some mild compression artifacts present during a couple of the darker scenes, as well as some mild edge enhancement but none of it is overly severe. Colors look pretty bold and robust without coming across as overcooked, and the flesh tones in the film remain life like without turning too pink or too orange. It isn't a perfect transfer with the aforementioned authoring issues, but there isn't any print damage worth complaining about and the grain that is noticeable is only of the very fine variety. The movie looks good.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track does a great job of handling the action scenes for this film. It's a pretty aggressive mix that differentiates and places the action sound effects across the soundstage as required by the way the film plays out. Plenty of gunshots, bone cracking, knife throwing and cheesy background music swells up behind (not overtop) the dialogue, which lets the talkier bits stay clean and easy to follow. This DVD contains an optional English language closed captioning feature as well as subtitles available in English and Spanish.
Aside from a few trailers for similar direct to video action films, Fox has supplied menu screens and chapter selection. That's it. This disc is barebones, kids.
If completely brainless action is what you want, then you've come to the right place. The Keeper might not be particularly original but it does provide plenty of slam-bang action and goofy suspense to make for an entertaining hour and a half. Yeah, it's full of clichés and it's got plenty of logic gaps and sure, Seagal mumbles his way through much of it but that there is half the charm of a film like this. It won't convert the unfaithful but Segal's fan base should get a kick out of this and can consider it recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.