Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Bad Movies I Love..."On Deadly Ground"
(Ed: Note- This will be yet another in those Hangar 39 ongoing series. This isn't organized into any sort of specific order, just sort of whichever ones I feel like writing about at the time. For those that like the sports stuff, I'll have a Caps-Predators recap later tonight.)
As I am wont to do, I am going to get to the subject of my story after a somewhat pointless and long-winded story (If you don't want to read it, just go down a few graphs)
One of my best friends growing up was my buddy Paul, the goaltender on our hockey team. We played on the same team through every level in Easton up through high school. We remained friends after high school even though we haven't seen each other much since then. He went on to become an officer in the Army and serve in Iraq, even serving in a unit that overran one of Uday Hussein's palaces. I have gone on to write about sports teams, heavy metal and shitty movies for your amusement.
Anyway, for years the only time we saw one another was at Christmas gatherings. Paul's parents knew I was really into movies and eventually would go to study at film school. They always tried to get me movie related stuff, usually involving local filmmakers, specifically John Waters, who I really was not a big fan of. Maybe they knew I had a "Pecker" poster autographed by Waters himself? One year though, they got me a book called "Bad Movies We Love." This was kind of a tongue-and-cheek look at bad movies that were so bad they were good. It had chapters devoted to goofy thrillers and movies by bad movie veterans Mickey Rourke and Sharon Stone.
So because one of my favorite lessons in college was "good writers borrow - great writers steal," I am going to steal this concept and adopt it for mine own purpose. So without any further ado, today's Bad Movie I Love is...1994's "On Deadly Ground"
When you talk about lovable bad movies, it's pretty much impossible to leave off the work of one Steven Seagal. His early work had all the individual parts to reach bad movie nirvana: a goofy name (Mason Storm) in "Hard To Kill," the silly villians in "Out For Justice" and "Marked For Death" and Seagal's wooden acting in, well, everything.
Nonetheless, Seagal's career peaked in 1992 with "Under Siege," a movie that owed pretty much all its success to Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey as the villians. So, in 1994, tired of being a Schwarzenegger/Stallone clone, Seagal decided it was time to make a big artistic statement. The result is "On Deadly Ground," a movie we know will enter the bad movie stratosphere right from the opening credit "Directed By Steven Seagal." Yes, Steven Seagal actually directed a studio-financed motion picture. Don't believe me, the pics don't lie.
The plot: Seagal (given a standard issue action hero name - Forrest Taft) puts out oil fires on behalf of nefarious oil tycoon Michael Caine. Being the nefarious oil tycoon type, Caine, rocking a truly ridiculous bolo tie and wayyyy too much Just For Men hair coloring, wants to build a super oil platform called Aegis-1 and tap into the supply as quickly as possible or the oil rights "go back to the goddamn Eskimos!" Of course, Aegis-1 has all sorts of issues that will cause damage to the environment. Seagal, rocking an equally absurd fringe jacket and trademark ponytail, is tired of shilling for the greedy Caine and decides to quit by lecturing his boss, "How much money is enough?"
The movie reaches its loony high point during a bar fight where Seagal encounters a group of oil workers taunting a little Eskimo man. Our auteur teaches these oil workers the meaning of respect, change and tolerance the only way he knows how: by beating them to a bloody pulp. Best part of this fight scene? The point where Seagal twists the guy by the nuts while the fellow screams "MY NUTS!!!"
Caine, concerned that Seagal may be on to his scheme, decides to kill Seagal by trapping him in a building and having his chief henchman, John C. McGinley, blow up the building. Seagal somehow survives and is nursed back to health by the Eskimos, who teach him about all the nasty things white people are doing to the environment. Sufficiently healed our intrepid hero embarks on revenge, aided by Eskimo hottie Joan Chen. Caine, now knowing that Seagal is alive, hires a band of thugs led by R. Lee Ermey, to track down and kill Seagal. McGinley alerts Ermey and his soldiers of fortune that Seagal, as he usually is in these movies, is a well-trained ex-CIA operative with an arsenal of weapons hidden in the woods.
Seagal kills Ermey's men one-by-one by setting booby traps all over the woods and soon sets his sights on Caine's oil platform. Being the star and director Seagal takes down and blows up the platform without so much as messing up a hair on his ponytail. But being a major spiritual guy, he refuses to kill a helpless Caine, reasoning "I wouldn't want to dirty my bullets."
Now all this would be ludicrious enough but then we have the ending. Oh, the ending. Seagal, having achieved peace through violence (huh?)gives a 10-minute lecture on how we are poisoning the environment in what is quite possibly the most self-indulgent piece of filmmaking in the history of cinema.
Needless to say, Seagal's directing career began and ended with this flick and set him on the road to playing state fairs around the nation as a country/western musician.