DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review
Directed by Lauro Chartrand, Written by Steven Seagal, 98 minutes, Rated R.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Surely, many have been waiting for the latest direct-to-DVD offering from that auteur of non-theatrical entertainment, Steven Seagal, and "Born to Raise Hell" will surely scratch that itch, assuming that itch is for dead partners, mixed martial arts from a guy that barely moves let alone emotes, and gratuitous sex and violence.
But we'll get to all that. Let's get that necessary burden called a story out the way, shall we? Seagal stars as Samuel Axel -- that's right, Samuel Axel -- a trash talking, nose-breaking Interpol Agent who protects the corrupt cities of the Balkans from the swarm of drug smuggling action movie clichés. Having never known the meaning of "police brutality," Axel beats his way to a lead on a rape and double homicide case (which comes five minutes into the film--Seagal's script wastes no time), which connects to a aristocratic drug smuggler named Dimitri (Dan Badarau), whom, because he's from a more respectable era of drug smuggling, agrees to help Axel bring his own men down.
Seagal's script really doesn't stray to far from the actor's strengths. He's got a doomed partner with a baby on the way, a smooth talking, aristocratic villain that plays chess and listens to classical music, a host of nameless soldiers with paper bones, and a city with a majority supermodel population. However, to discredit the actor would be to miss the distinct and surprising changes in his character type. Instead of his Eastwood squints and whispers, Seagal takes a daring chance and names all of his other characters "bitch" and/or "boy," or at least that's what Axel seems to think their names are. He’s got more fervor, yet it’s mostly hilarious, rather than intense.
Nevertheless, it's hard to be too disappointed with a film like and called "Born to Raise Hell." As written, produced and acted by Steven Seagal, it's no worse than his other recent outings. Seagal punches and kicks to throbbing techno soundtrack and “Saw”-like jump cuts, which further serve to distract from the plot.
As he grows older and any kind of self-awareness slowly fades, Seagal continues to make films that his fans want to see, but refuses to acknowledge that it's all pretty stupid. A little irony would go a long way in this case, but Seagal continues to take himself seriously, which, supposedly, is what his fans want. Everyone else would do better watching “Above the Law” again.