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Driven to Kill

Fox // Unrated // May 19, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author
"Everybody wanna be a tough guy. Nobody wanna pay the price."

- Steven Seagal and his, how you say, Russian Guyovich accent; Driven to Kill


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marketeers at Fox are pitching Driven to Kill as a Taken knockoff, but shrug off pretty much everything you're looking at on the cover. Nope, Steven Seagal's not blowing shit up in Russia. (Pretty much the entire flick's set in the Fake Big Apple.) Nobody actually took his daughter. Whatever. Doesn't matter. Chucking the usual backstory of a former CIA badass or a cop out the driver's side window, Driven to Kill opts to make Stevie S. a former Russian mob enforcer. He ditched that life decades ago, swearing to his badnik bosses in New York that he'd stay out of their hair forever. He's set up shop in L.A. churning out crimeland novels, and I guess that's why half the characters in the flick say, "hey, don't I know you from somewhere...?" So, Rusland (Seagal) is living it up on the Left Coast, and we know he's a stud 'cause the movie opens with one of the broads from the Black Christmas remake offering up a threeway if he'll show her some parlor trick with a spike under a paper cup.

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.

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Driven to Kill is pretty much a paint-by-numbers direct-to-video action flick. It's competent enough to not be embarrassingly bad but not good enough to be...y'know, good. The movie does what it can with Steven Seagal, who, for whatever it's worth, isn't dubbed and doesn't lean quite so heavily on a stunt double hammering out pretty much the entire movie for him. On the other hand, he opts for a mumbled, borderline-incoherent Russian accent that comes and goes, and the fight sequences are usually really tightly framed and are pretty forgettable straight across the board. I've never seen a guy in his late fifties try to kick some ass in person, but this is awfully close to what I'd bet that'd look like. There's a good bit of action -- bridged by long stretches of nothing -- although not all that much of it really stands out. Y'know, a few cookie-cutter shootouts, generic thugs being flung around... I mean, I did just tear through Taken the other day, so that's kind of fresh in my mind, but while that flick is unrelentingly intense and piles on one unbelievable "" assault after another, Driven to Kill doesn't serve up anything I haven't seen a couple hundred thousand times before. There is a pretty good knife fight with Seagal slashing a guy's face apart, I dug the way he got rid of the Lead Bad Guy at the end, and he cobbles together a shrapnel bomb once the climax rolls around, but the rest of it's pretty standard issue. I felt kinda badly for the guy as he tries to run at a couple of points (it's more of a waddle), and I'll 'fess up to rewinding and laughing over and over again at the sight of him pretending to clack away at a word processor in the epilogue.

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.

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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.

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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.

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