Monday, September 22, 2008

What Does It Take To Change The Essence Of A Man?

If you're even slightly interested in film, you're probably aware of the auteur theory, which posits that the director is the sole author of his work, regardless of the contributions of the writers, actors, crew, etc. Unless you're a regular reader of Ain't It Cool News, however, you may not be aware of the badass auteur theory, which is that, in action movies, it is the star, or the "badass," who is the film's true author, whether he be John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or the subject of the book I finished this weekend, Steven Seagal.

The book is SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL. The author is Vern, a tremendously funny and astute writer whose frequently gut-busting reviews of action movies can be found both at Ain't It Cool News and on his own site. Whoever the mysterious "outlaw film critic" is, Vern is one of the most clever film critics I've read, due to his ability to not only mock and admire a movie at the same time, but write about it in a way that's insightful and always hilarious. Vern is also one of the few film experts to take seriously Steven Seagal, who was once among America's bigger movie stars, but has slid precipitously into direct-to-DVD schlock as quickly as his weight and work ethic appear to have changed (for the worse).

It's clear from SEAGALOGY that Vern is an admirer of Seagal, which doesn't stand in the way of his calling a spade a spade if necessary, which it often is when discussing the actor's often woeful filmography. From Seagal's film debut, the terrific ABOVE THE LAW (1988), to the recent PISTOL WHIPPED (2008), Vern covers them all, describing their sometimes senseless plots in hilarious detail and making note of the common themes that run through all of Seagal's movies. Regardless of who wrote or directed the movies, they all contain elements that could have only been contributed by the badass, hence Vern's badass auteur theory.

If you don't give a damn about Steven Seagal, the book may not be for you, no matter how funny you think Vern is. However, I do, and it's hard to say why. Maybe it's because I vividly recall going with my friends in the dorm to see ABOVE THE LAW several times and knowing immediately that Seagal was going to be a major star. Or maybe it's the hilarity that ensued the night Seagal hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE the same weekend OUT FOR JUSTICE was the box office champion and sang a bizarre rendition of "Kung Fu Fighting" before tossing Rob Schneider's annoying Copier Guy character out of a window. Or the amazement at how prolific he is, grinding out three or four DTVs per year and not even caring enough to perform his own action scenes or even dub his own voice; you truly haven't experienced Seagal until you've heard both him and his voice double, who sounds nothing like him, performing, not just in the same film, but sometimes consecutive lines, with Cajun accents.

Read SEAGALOGY and then tell me you don't want to watch ON DEADLY GROUND again, one frame at a time.


Anonymous said...

Well, now that you're done the book, you have to watch ATTACK FORCE and FLIGHT TO FURY, and rent all of the other ones you haven't seen yet!

John Charles

Adam Ross said...

I loved this book, tore through it faster than Mason Storm can destroy a convenience store. I'd say any film fan, regardless of Seagal bias, would enjoy this book, it's just so well written and entertaining.

I still have not seen "On Deadly Ground," but I bought a Seagal four-pack at Target shortly after reading the book, and I really want to catch "Belly of the Beast."

Ken Begg said...

"...and then tell me you don't want to watch ON DEADLY GROUND again, one frame at a time."

Been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea this book or the author existed. Now I feel as though I finally have something to live for! Thanks for the heads up!