Belly of the Beast

release year: 2003
genre: action
viewing setting: home DVD, 10/3/04

synopsis: A middle-aged, semi-retired CIA operative springs back into action when his daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom in Asia.

impressions: This is one of the better of the more recent Seagal movies. Put another way: it's got its moments, but it's not a great movie. Still, I suspect that it would have been worse if not for the HK-style directing and stunts. The main problem is Seagal: he's not doing real fight scenes anymore. What do I mean? Simply that the fight scenes are either sped up or slowed down. Compare this to 1988's Above the Law, in which the fight work was undeniably real and actually showcased his considerable aikido skill. I think the bulk of the problem is, well, bulk. Seagal's gotten fat. Why, I find myself asking, can't this surely-a-millionaire movie star hire a trainer and a dietician and lose some pounds? Plenty of people in far worse shape (and older) are doing it, even if they're not rich. I think Seagal needs to think about this. Another problem: inclusion of unnecessary elements (in this case, magic) in the plot. Seagal's had this problem ever since 1994, when he made On Deadly Ground and shirked his bone-breaking action duties in favor of sending an ecological message. Since then, the messages have varied, from further ecological themes to a peaceful lifestyle...and now magic. This movie includes a voodoo doll used on Seagal during a big fight. I am not kidding you. Oh well, at least this movie didn't contain a rapper as a major co-star.

things to watch for: The fight with the several dozen assassins in the lumber warehouse was good mayhem.

something this movie has that no other movie has: A message delivered via naked woman who pours water over her chest, revealing hidden ink.

acting: Seagal doesn't have much acting range, but his tough-guy lines seem to dwindle with each movie he makes. The guy who played his old ex-monk buddy had better delivery and more to say. The girl who played his kidnapped daughter did very little except scream.

final word: Seagal movies aren't what they used to be. My personal advice to Steven: drop some weight, stop including outlandish elements in your movies, and get back to serious bad-guy bone-crunching. That's what made you famous, that's what we pay to see, and that's what will re-gain our respect.

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