As the movie opens Cross and Manning are dropping off two female prisoners to a black site prison, specifically designed for persons of interest. The top secret super dark facility is so understaffed and off the grid that the warden complains, there aren’t even enough Military Police to hold legally the prisoners they house. In fact the site is in the process of closing down. Which begs the question; why drop off prisoners to a jail that is closing? As circumstance works out, Cross and Manning can’t leave until all the detainees have cleared the gate on the way out. As they are stuck waiting for the marshals to claim the convicts, a crazed terrorist group overtakes the compound, by cover of a garbage disposal service. The bad guys are lead by Michael Paré (looking better preserved than Seagal), a corrupt Marshal who is after an inmate that has a chip with intel attached to her heart. If she is killed the sensitive information will be lost forever.
After a shaky opening 20 minutes things settle into a satisfying groove thanks to solid direction. Keoni Waxman is arguably the strongest director Seagal has worked with since his silver screen years, having collaborated on several projects, he seems to get the best from the veteran action star. I am glad Seagal has gotten over the shadow period and we can see him now. He seems both refocused and energized. He appears to have gotten a bit fitter for the role. Maybe the work on True Justice, his television series (broken into miniseries in some parts of the world), kept him working enough that this is his first film that doesn’t employ a sound-a-like for the ADR, in years. Seagal has done the prison film before in Half Past Dead, this is more in the vein of Under Siege with a bit of Con Air.
Steve Austin is perhaps the most distinguished costar in a Steven Seagal movie since Michael Cain appeared in 1994’s On Deadly Ground. This is probably the most exciting pairing of current b-movie titans since Michael Dudikoff and David Bradley, each American Ninjas, were assembled for part four of that series. The stars play very well off each other here. Then again Austin is such a like able presence that it’s hard to imagine him not elevating Seagal’s game. It is the younger, bulkier Austin who does most of the heavy lifting in the movie, Seagal is relegated to the sidelines for damn near the first 40 minutes.
Though fans of this genre expect little in terms of plot and characterization, this film offers scant more than a few well staged shoot-outs. Steve Austin’s one-liners are a crack-up though and his enormous charisma saves the film. Steven Seagal’s persona is more interesting than other martial arts heroes, but he needs to pick better starring vehicles. After stabbing a man in the neck, Cross asks inquisitively “does it hurt?”, “yes.” the dying villain pleads, to which Cross coldly replies, “you fucking pussy!” now that’s the Seagal I remember.
Director: Keoni Waxman
Stars: Steven Seagal, Steve Austin, Michael Paré