On Deadly Ground (1994)

"Mr. Taft is the patron saint of the impossible." - Michael Caine,
speaking of Seagal

ON DEADLY GROUND proves, without a doubt, that Steven Seagal directs as
badly as he acts.  This environmental actioner is p.u. from the word
g.o. and even co-star Michael Caine, aka Mr. Will Act For Food, can't
help defuse this bomb.

The plot is some superior nonsense about a nasty oil mangate (Caine) and
the Bad Things he's planning for the pristine Alaskian wilderness.
Eskimo environmentalists want him stopped-- but they have no power. Or
hero.  Until the company's head firefighter, Forrest Taft (Seagal),
enters the picture.

When Taft gets wind of his boss's *real* plans, The Ponytail takes an
armed stance against his employer. They try to kill him, he tries to
kill them, and it all wraps up with Seagal on a soapbox with a speech.

Pay attention to the opening scene-- the first clue that Seagal doesn't
have one-- and you have still have time to ask for your money back.

At the beginning, Taft arrives in Alaska to "blow out" a 'well fire.
Yes, a well fire.  Anyone who's seen HELLFIGHTERS knows that you can't
get much more exciting than this.  But, believe or it not, Seagal sieves
the action right out of this explosive situation.

And he does this for the *entire* film.

His "back up" is fine-- production designer Wm. Ladd Skinner,
cinematographer Ric Waite, composer Basil Poledouris-- but even *they*
can't compensate for dingbat direction. With a poorly staged scene, who
cares about Skinner's authentic-looking Eskimo village?  Or Waite's
almost-unreal Alaskian photography?  Or Poledouris energized score?

Seagal even botches the obligatory bar-fight. Instead of anything
resembling choreography, he resorts to silly slow-motion to punctuate
his punches.

The Big Shoot Out is the Big Disappointment. Even after a middling
midsection, one still hopes for a rousing round-up of John Woo
proportions.  Sorry Charlie, no Grand Guignol here. Just a sloppy mix of
bullets and bad-guys and immolations and explosions and 101 Other Ways
For Bad People To Die.

Which is hardly the right reward for having to sit through Eskimo
subtitles, R. Lee Emery's crewcut, and Steven Seagal trying to be Kevin

Even with a "real" director, ON DEADLY GROUND is still a tough sell.
Seagal seems to have lost his charmisa (there's a relative term, if
there ever was one!). Certain supporting players are downright awful.
And the plot has more holes than a bad Schwarzenegger story.

And, just when you think you can't "stands no more," Seagal wraps this
stinky cheese with a five-minute (cut from fifteen!) environmental
speech complete with stomach-turning footage.  (Rated "R"/~110 min.)

BOTTOM LINE:  Why didn't he just do a documentary, instead?

Grade: F

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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