Directed by Lauro Chartrand but written by and starring Steven Seagal, 2010's Born To Raise Hell finds everyone's favorite portly Aikido star playing an American cop named Bobby who is working for the I.D.T.F. (International Drug Task Force, for those keeping track) in Romania. When we first meet him he's searching a bad guy hideout and when asked for a warrant pulls out his shotgun and says 'I got your warrant right here, bitch!' He calls people 'bitch' a lot for some reason. At any rate, we soon learn that he lost his last partner in the line of duty and are then introduced to Steve (D. Neil Mark), the new guy who will be working alongside Bobby.
Steve's first mission, which he's assigned to about five seconds after he arrives, finds the I.D.T.F. making a bust that lands them an informant in the form of a long haired Russian guy he lets them in on the operation of a big time dealer and inadvertently spills the beans about a Gypsy guy running around killing rich people for reasons we can only assume are resentment. After Bobby and his hot young girlfriend are assaulted while trying to enjoy a nice romantic dinner, the kid gloves come off and our hero takes to the streets to kick people and punch people and throw them through windows and shoot at them.
Seagal has written himself a hell of a part with this film. Not only is Bobby more or less an unstoppable super cop but he's quick witted and good at speaking in rhyme - 'I got this .45 trained on your brain' - and on top of that, nubile young twenty-something chicks can't get enough of him. Unfortunately, he's still rockin' his recent large and in charge look and while his hands move pretty fast, he kind of lumbers around more than he charges through. His skin is also a pleasant shade of orange, making him look like he was the victim of a bad spray on tan, and his hair is starting to look like it's made out of carpet, his trademark widows-peak giving him the appearance of a chubby trash talking Dracula.
And yet, Born To Raise Hell is a surprisingly entertaining vehicle. If Seagal's role as the bad guy in Rodriguez's Machete doesn't seem to have pulled him out of straight to video Hell, at least this hasn't stopped him from trying. Here he's got more enthusiasm than he has shown in a while and is quite obviously having a good time with the material. The violence in the film, and there's plenty of it, hits hard enough to work and if he's not exactly graceful, he still has an inexplicably interesting screen presence. Prone to putting down his fellow cops and reminding them how lucky they are to be working with him, his constant attempts at humor are weird enough that, if they don't exactly work the way he probably thought they would, they will make you question the sanity of the dialogue.
The film is edited rather haphazardly and uses plenty of fast cuts and inserts and flashbacks and shots where things speed up and slowdown for no reason whatsoever (Does some random background cop really need to walk out the door in slow motion? Why? Nothing happened once he got outside, he just walked through the door!) - it adds to the insanity of it all and does go some way to covering up Seagal's shortcomings. There's plenty of entertainment value to be had here and you don't have to work for it, it's doled out in heaping helpings. Don't take this one too seriously and go into it with the proper expectations and you can easily have a good time with it.
Born To Raise Hell looks okay in this AVC encoded 1080p 1.78.1 widescreen transfer from Paramount. Detail is pretty decent though some scenes do appear to be a bit softer than you might expect from a brand spankin' new movie like this. Black levels are generally good and color reproduction is fine though it should be noted that the movie does show a slight tint at times resulting in some shots looking just a little bit darker than maybe they would have been otherwise. This appears to have been intentional on the part of the filmmakers, however. There are no compression artifacts to complain about nor are there any problems with print damage. Overall, the image is strong and generally shows nice detail and texture throughout.
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, in English. No alternate language dubs are supplied though subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. This is a fairly aggressive mix, with a good bit of surround activity throughout, particularly in the action sequences. Bass response is strong and gives the car chases and shoot out scenes some welcome rumble, while the more quiet moments in the picture offer some subtle background noise to keep things interesting. Dialogue is generally well balanced and easy to understand, though Seagal's periodic mumbling can be a little hard to decipher in spots.
The disc includes a static menu and chapter selection - that's it, there isn't even a trailer here.
Born To Raise Hell doesn't bring anything new to Seagal's filmography but it's entertaining enough in its own ridiculous way. There's plenty of action, bad one liners, violence, and even a bit of gratuitous nudity thrown in for good measure and if it isn't high art, well, it's a good popcorn movie. It won't change your life but it's a fun ninety minutes and even if Paramount's Blu-ray is completely barebones, the presentation is decent enough that this comes recommended for Seagal diehards and is a decent rental for anyone else with an affinity for low budget action movies.
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.