Born to Raise Hell
Steven Seagal, the Weighty Warrior himself, is back in Eastern Europe. I suppose he's made so many
similar movies that he's run out of good titles because this particular name
seems to have nothing to do with the action. "Born to Raise Hell" sounds like it
ought to take place in South Carolina and should star Jerry Reed and Burt
Reynolds, with a cameo by Willie Nelson. There ain't no hell-raisin' here, just
shootouts in downtown Bucharest.
Seagal has really stretched his acting skills this time. Usually he plays an
ex-agent-turned-mercenary who was dismissed from government service because he
just has too much integrity, dammit. But this time it's a whole new ballgame.
This time he's still an agent, still on the government payroll, presumably
because he's been assigned to a special task force in Romania, where there is
absolutely nothing he can do to get fired. He could walk into the office of the
mayor of Bucharest and plug the sumbitch, and all the Romanians would simply
thank him and start dividing up the dead guy's possessions. Whatta country!
The plot, if you want to call it that, basically involves a three-way war
between casually violent Romanian drug traffickers, purposefully violent Russian
mobsters, and the Special Honorable International Task Force Opposing Russkies
By Raiding All Intercepts Nightly, Stealthily (known to their friends and
enemies as SHITFORBRAINS). So some of these groups shoot at others, then
others get revenge, and still others get revenge for the revenge, etc.
Seagal appears to be ideal for an assignment in Dracula's home country, since
the Pudgy Paladin seems to have a black widow's peak painted on his forehead to
make him look like a vampire, in the manner of SCTV's Count Floyd. Like Dracula,
the Bulky Battler is up all night every night, draining the blood from people.
Unlike Dracula, however, he obviously gets a remarkable amount of sun, because
his skin is so orange he might have reason to fear a paternity suit from
The Stout Sensei doesn't do a lot of hand-to-hand combat any more, and when he
does, the action is filled with jumpy edits to make everything seem a lot faster
and more impressive than it actually is. Rapid-fire cutting can make anyone look
like a martial artist, in the same way that strobe lights can make anyone look
like a dancer. (Even me. Long story for another day.) Of course, no amount of
screen magic can make Seagal look OK without a shirt, so he manages to do his
sex scene fully dressed. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because the chick
Seagal wrote this film and, to be honest, he did a serviceable job. Of course,
the dialogue reads like a ritual ceremony in honor of Seagal's ego, but the film
does have a few things going for it: (1) the Russian bad guy is a complex
character; (2) the Bucharest locations are exotic and generally pretty cool; (3)
the narrative is smooth and comprehensible after a few opaque moments at the
beginning. I wondered how Seagal's fans reacted to the film, so I wandered into
a few internet bulletin boards dedicated to Seagal. The only real complaints I
involved the fact that Seagal and the top Gypsy psycho didn't have a good combat
scene. Apparently Darren Shalavi is an accomplished battler, so fight fans were
hoping for an epic battle between Shalavi and Seagal. The two characters did
have a fight, but Shalavi's character was never given a chance to compete.
Seagal's character landed all the punches, and threw Shalavi around like a rag
doll until Shalavi surrendered like a girlie man, then pulled out a gun as soon
as Seagal dropped his guard. It reminded me of Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles.
("Oh, sorry, I just remembered ... I AM armed.") What happened then? Well, let's
just say it's not a smart move to pull a gun on Big Steve when he's playing a
character he scripted for himself. His hands are so lightning fast that he can
disarm you from the next room, and if you do accidentally get off a shot you'll
end up accidentally killing a little kid or a puppy, and then the Jumbo Jock
will be really mad.
Given that you know in advance that the great mano-a-mano battle will never
happen, and given that you should have a certain realistic set of limited
expectations for a latter day Seagal movie, this film probably will meet your
expectations, but not exceed them by much.
Frankly, I still think SS would be much better as a bad guy. I liked his
character in Machete much more than I like any of his "honorable" characters
with their sycophantic phony respect for foreign cultures. Hey, Big Steve, you
want to get back in theatrical releases? You gotta turn, man. Learn from the WWF.
You suck as a babyface. You were born to be a heel.
There are three scenes with female nudity. The nudity is not bad at all, but I
was not able to match the women with the credits.
This clip has all three scenes:
- A naked woman is part of a drug gang raided by Seagal's guys. T&A
- Seagal's girlfriend shows her breasts in the aforementioned sex scene
with a fully clothed Seagal.
- Some random background strippers.