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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Out of Reach
Out of Reach
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // July 20, 2004
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Carl Davis | posted August 3, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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It's a split second between hit or miss.

What that tantalizing tagline has to do with Steven Seagal's latest Direct-to-Video opus, Out of Reach, I have yet to figure out. Clocking in at a brief 86 minutes, it should probably read "a split second from Start to Finish", except for the fact that Seagal really knows how to slow things down, way down, for added Drama, I guess. He's the only person that could make a gripping, action-drama about the vile, underground, human trafficking crisis in Europe as funny as his tongue-in-cheek Mountain Dew commercial… unintentionally, of course. Sadly, it was this very same commercial that kind of renewed my interest in Seagal's work. The man is literally responsible for about twenty-five percent of the wall space at Blockbuster these days, with titles such as Half Past Dead, Out For a Kill, The Foreigner and Belly of the Beast. After watching , I see why these are never rented out.

Seagal plays Billy Ray Lancing, a former CSA(?) agent living as a survivalist, deep in the woods. He is presented to us as a kind man and nature lover, as he frees a trapped falcon and nurses the bird back to health. We find out that his compassion isn't limited to animals, as he is also the sponsor of an orphaned girl, Irena (Ida Nowakowska), in Poland. They write letters back and forth to one another, and he sends her secret codes to try and decipher. Gee, I wonder if that will play a role later in the movie? To show the bond between these two, their correspondence to each other are often read aloud in voiceover. Hilariously, Seagal, the actor PLAYING Lancing, doesn't even do the readings of the character's letters!

When he gets a letter from the orphanage saying that Irena can't write to him anymore, he becomes suspicious and travels to Poland where he stumbles upon a human trafficking network, run under the cover of the United Allied Nations. Faisal (Matt Schultze), the leader of this underground organization, has kidnapped all the girls from the orphanage and intends to sell them into a life of (implied) sexual slavery. He seems to share a secret past with Seagal, whom he often refers to as "The American." It's amazing what is implied in this movie, since it's all so despicable, like when Faisal and Irena play chess and then he drugs her juice. Nothing is shown or said after that, but there has to be some depravity going on here, people.

Prepare to suspend your disbelief, as Seagal continues to search for Irena, even though he's not even sure she's in trouble and amazingly, Irena leaves him a trail of secret messages even though she doesn't know he's looking for her. He eventually goes to the police, where he is partnered with a female cop, without even disclosing that he is a retired espionage agent. The Aikido fights are all shown in slow-mo and the action scenes are generally unimpressive. The final fight with Faisal is probably the best in the movie, as it's a sword duel, a la Lone Wolf and Cub, where both warriors run past one another, then stand with their backs turned until someone falls over dead. Speaking of Lone Wolf and Cub, Seagal is so big at this point that he could probably play a decent Ogami Itto, so Aronofsky, if you're listening… why not tap the big guy for your new Lone Wolf and Cub project?

Seagal is definitely at a crossroads in his career right now, having several big budget, studio pictures under his belt (Hard to Kill, Under Siege, Exit Wounds), but currently being relegated to Direct-to-Video Hell (Ticker, Out For a Kill, The Foreigner). I just don't get it, since we all know that Seagal is the real deal, receiving his first Aikido dan accreditation in 1974 under the instruction of Harry Ishisaka, and reaching 7th level dan in the years thereafter. Even with Out of Reach's $20 million budget, exotic Polish locations and Po Chih Leong's adequate directing, there is very little that makes you sit up and notice anything but the lame-brained plot devices and ham-fisted acting, throughout. Thankfully the movie is short, unresolved plotlines and all, at just 86 minutes.

The DVD:

Picture: The movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The colors are crisp and clear, except darker scenes where the black looks a little murky.

Audio: English 5.1 Dolby digital. There are no other language and no subtitle tracks. This DVD features a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which sounds fine.

Extras: There are preview trailers for 4 other Steven Seagal Direct-to-Video pictures: Half Past Dead, The Foreigner, Out For a Kill and Belly of the Beast. There is also a trailer for a Direct-to-Video Thriller, titled 3 Way.

Conclusion: Out of Reach isn't a bad waste of time, but it is a bad waste of talent. Steven Seagal really needs to start reaching deep and delivering more than just these slap-dash action flicks. I would say that Out of Reach is a definite rental for Steven Seagal fans or those anti-fans out there that just love to see the man stumble and fall through another role like this one. Personally, I'm going to see if I can catch that Mountain Dew commercial again.

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