Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lawd Have Mercy

For the first time, Steven Seagal takes sole writing credit, but don’t let that fool you into believing he held any personal feelings for KILL SWITCH, which just came out directly to DVD by First Look Pictures. If he ever had any passion for filmmaking, it is long gone now. Not only did he apparently fail to show up on the set to shoot his action scenes, but another actor dubs a lot of his dialogue using a hilariously unconvincing Southern accent almost as terrible as Seagal’s.

For example, in an interminable barroom brawl in which Seagal should have knocked out two chuckleheads in about four seconds, director Jeff F. King combines jittery, confusing shots of the star’s unconvincing stunt double and his opponents to random close-ups of Seagal taken from an earlier scene. Since the editors didn’t have enough footage to choose from, they use the same shot of Seagal several times, even though the actor is just standing around in it and not fighting at all.

As much blame as Seagal shoulders, his collaborators are equally poor. King has about as much business directing movies as I do piloting the space shuttle, and he and his editors couldn’t cobble together a wedding video competently, much less a complex action movie. In an effort to build suspense (or something), King cuts together the same shot of a villain being tossed out a window six straight times, believing, I suppose, that if one guy smashing glass is cool, doing it five more times will be totally freaking sweet. Ten seconds after Seagal graphically busts a guy’s teeth out while “curbing” him for information, the dude pops up with—you guessed it—a full set of pearly whites.

As a boy, Jacob King (Seagal) watched a man slash his twin brother’s throat during their birthday party. He thinks about this a lot, but it has no bearing on the story at all. Forty years later, he’s a Memphis homicide cop who says “Lawd have mercy” a lot. He and his black partner (who survives to the end!) are tracking two serial killers: one who uses astrology to plan his kills and another random redneck whom King captured once, but got out on a technicality, said technicality being King knocked the crap out of him and sent him smashing through KILL SWITCH’s infamous window.

King is so obsessed with catching the killers that he hilariously ignores the sexy young policewoman (Karyn Michelle Baltzer) who tries to seduce him while parading around his apartment half-nekkid. He actually pays more attention to the poor, green female FBI agent (Holly Dignard) following him and his partner around, though in today’s parlance, his hazing would be described as sexual harassment.

After about ninety minutes of watching boring fights and deciphering Seagal’s mumbling, the movie pulls one of the world’s biggest bullshit endings out of its rear end. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you make it that far, I guarantee you it will have you laughing. If I had been in a theater, I would have accused the projectionist of accidentally switching reels. As fucking idiotic as it is, it almost makes the rest of the movie worth watching. Actually, no, it doesn't.

Despite Seagal’s clumsy attempts at local color and the hiring of Stax/Volt legend Isaac Hayes in a one-day bit as a comic-relief coroner, KILL SWITCH never went anywhere near Memphis, lensing entirely in Vancouver. I think Seagal just had a wild hair to do a Southern accent.

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