Way back in 1994, Warner Bros. released the action movie On Deadly Ground which marked the directorial debut of its star Steven Seagal. The movie had a poster that easily attracted the attention of avid Steven Seagal fans and eventually the film lured quite a lot of moviegoers to the cinemas.
I never saw it in the cinemas due to a lack of time and money. Instead I saw On Deadly Ground on VHS format (and later on cable TV) in the comfort of home. That comfort however turned into disappointment after watching it.
For starters it’s a Steven Seagal movie which guarantees lots of hard-hitting action with lots of swearing. What makes it feel unique was its focus of the environment and its very forced concept about a very greedy top executive of an oil company is creating danger towards the environment as his team rushes to complete an oil rig called Aegis One in Alaska.
The execution of the movie, to say the least, is rather poor. Just about every character in the movie is one-dimensional. When it comes to action, it is typical (and very predictable) Seagal as the star gets to fight lots of bad guys without ever being hurt by them! Ironically Seagal in the film expresses pain over the treatment of his wounds.
And then there is the emphasis on the environment. The movie narrowly portrays the fictional oil company as the force of danger to nature and threat to indigenous people of Alaska because it is led by Michael Jennings (played by Michael Caine) who is too greedy and desperate to beat a deadline and prevent the oil rights from reverting back to native Alaskans.
That’s right! Jenning’s Aegis had the oil rights for twenty years and all they could do is try to launch an oil refinery so near the end of the time period. Does it really take that long to construct an oil rig? What exactly did Jennings do during those twenty years? I mean, he acquired the oil rights from the natives and I could speculate he did not prioritize the construction of any oil-related business project using those same rights. Perhaps Jennings spent years touring the world, suddenly was advised that his corporation has financial trouble and only then did he go to work to make oil rig.
More on the environment, Steven Seagal plays Forrest Taft who initially serves Jennings. He eventually checks the computers of the company to find out that faulty equipment has been used and the delivery of better and more reliable equipment is coming in way too late. Taft even asked Jennings (who eventually learned about Taft’s unauthorized computer access) how much money is enough and this predictably leads to a scene in which Taft gets set up to die in an explosion.
Unfortunately for Jennings and the other bad guys, Taft survived and got assistance from native Alaskans. Very predictably, he makes a comeback, collects weapons, performed a few destructive operations before proceeding to Aegis Oil’s rig to cause further destruction and kill bad guys!
Then the film ends with Taft giving a speech at the Alaska State Capitol focused on uncontrolled pollution, environmental destruction and big businesses’ contribution to environmental decline.
It’s funny how Taft got to deliver his speech. He was not arrested for causing the oil rig’s devastation nor was held accountable for killing other people. Where were the local authorities who could have initiated an investigation? Even without Michael Jennings, the oil company could have gone to the local authorities or the federal government to accuse Forrest Taft for murder and even acts of terrorism! Also where in the world are those staunch, loudmouth environmental activists, SJWs and climate change activists? The damage caused by Taft on the oil rig clearly caused damage to the natural environment with those toxic fumes from the explosions! Logic was clearly thrown out for the sake of senseless violence.
When it comes to performances, this movie is a showcase of shallow acting and cinematic expressions. Not only are the characters one-dimensional and the script really had no character development, the actors really had no where to go as far as acting is concerned. Chinese actress Joan Chen plays Masu who only serves as the English-speaking expository dialogue delivery person to help the audience understand the norms and concerns of a native tribe. Shari Shattuck (who is an author and has her own Facebook page) played the pretty, bland and straight-forward special assistant to Michael Jennings. R. Lee Ermey, who is best known for playing military officers, plays the leader of a group of mercenaries who got defeated too easily by Seagal.
In terms of directing and overall presentation, this movie is clearly nothing more than a vanity project of Steven Seagal. There were many moments in the film that looked like it suggested viewers to worship and idolize Seagal. The pacing of the film is very lackluster overall.
Poorly directed scenes? One of them is the excessively violent torture scene of Hugh Palmer (played by a then 73-year-old Richard Hamilton) which showed no restraint on the part of filmmakers. The scene, which was clearly designed to make moviegoers see the evil of Michael Jennings through the acts of his henchmen, would have worked better had the on-screen torture been reduced and shortened.
More on the movie’s violence, the scene showing Forrest Taft easily beating up multiple oil workers in response to the mistreatment towards a native man was unnecessary and overly long. Taft looked more like a senseless superhero who does not care about humanity and laws. And then there was that hand-slap game between him and “the man’s man” Big Mike (Mike Starr). The presentation of violence and bloodily injuring a man as means of enlightenment is senseless.
Ultimately On Deadly Ground is a worthless action to film to watch and I believe only die-hard Steven Seagal fans will love it. It was a very bad movie back in 1994, it’s even worse by today’s standards. On Deadly Ground is filled with bad ideas turned into film. A pro-environment concept presented as a senseless action film is a big waste. And then there is the old stereotype that a giant corporation’s head is unabashedly evil, inhuman and greedy (note: not all corporate heads of billion-dollar corporations are like that).
As such, I should say that you should never waste your time nor your money on this piece of crap.
Note: This retro movie review was originally published at my old blog Geeks and Villagers. What you just read was the updated and expanded version. As such, this retro movie review is the most definitive version.
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