- Steven Seagal and his, how you say, Russian Guyovich accent; Driven to Kill
But anyway...! No matter who's spreading her legs out in La-la-land, Ruslan does have a family back east. His ex-wife (Inna Korobkina) has moved on with her life, swapping rings with a sleazy lawyer (Robert Wisden). Ruslan's daughter (Laura Mennell, who, at 28 when cameras were rolling, is a year older than her on-screen mother?!?) is about to do the same. Yup, she's about to be Mrs. Wussy Son of a Russian Mobster Type. See, her fiancé Stephan (Dmitry Chepovetsky) is a kinda meek nice-guy who was supposed to be heir apparent to the gangster empire, but he didn't have the backbone for it and bowed out when he fell for Lanie. Anyway, on the day of the wedding rehearsal or something, Ruslan's wife is gunned down and his daughter is left for dead. This being a direct-to-video Steven Seagal flick and all, Ruslan's hellbent on tracking down whoever did this to his baby girl, so...yeah. Lotsa shootouts. There's a kind of embarrassing bit with a bunch of overinflated former-A-cups in a dingy strip club. Sad Sack Stephan tags along as a reluctant sidekick who never gets around to doing much of anything. Lotsa betrayals left and right. You know how this whole thing goes.
That's the problem, really.
Stilted, wooden acting? Sure. Amazing script with lines like "I told you I wasn't a cop, bitch", "you know...I have a feeling...that your troubles...are just beginning", and that really awkward threeway come-on? Absolutely. Masterful, artful direction? Depends on if you count replaying different takes of the same exact shot over and over again, jittery handheld camerawork, and hyperdramatic zooms. Driven to Kill is also packing an embarrassing soundtrack, leaping between nu metal, faux-Zeppelin, and, in the climax, accordion over an oompah beat. Yeah, nothing like klezmer to jack up the intensity of a climactic shootout. The annoying thing is that Driven to Kill really isn't even that bad. It's just...aggressively mediocre, and there's nothing all that memorable -- good or bad! -- about it. Skip It.
Driven to Kill looks like a low-rent direct-to-video flick because...well, y'know... Looking to have been shot on the chintziest 16mm stock the producers could dig up, the 1.85:1 photography's awfully soft, muddy, and slathered in heavy grain. Most of its interiors are sopping in a dingy brown, and colors are so drab and dull otherwise that it makes the movie look 15 years older than it really is. The AVC encode generally handles the thick film grain well enough, but there's one shot of the outside of a sedan -- tick over to the 38:33 mark, as if you're really that bored -- that's either a weird hiccup with the photography or some of the worst artifacting I've caught in a release from a major studio. Whatever. I guess if you're picking up a direct-to-video Steven Seagal flick, you're keeping your expectations pretty low anyway, so don't go in expecting much out of this flick in high-def either.
Even though it's packing a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, Driven to Kill even sounds like something I'm watching on TBS at 3 o'clock on a Sunday. The surrounds are such an afterthought that it might as well have just been a stereo track. Despite chucking out a couple of explosions as the flick limps to the end there, there's no real punch to the bass either. Even cracks of gunfire sound flat and lifeless, and the effects in general are all kinda muddled together. The recording of the dialogue's pretty uneven too. Seagal's mumbling his way through pretty much the entire flick, sure, but stretches of dialogue in an interrogation room and around a bar brawl also sound awfully hollow. Yeah. Bad.
Nope, no alternate soundtracks this time around. Fox has tacked on subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish if you need 'em, though.
The Final Word
Think Taken, only drop in a dumpy action hero who's pushing sixty and slap on a USA Original Movie-circa-1993 spit and polish. Skip It.