On Deadly Ground

1994, R, 101 min. Directed by Steven Seagal. Starring Steven Seagal, Michael Caine, Joan Chen, John C. McGinley.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 25, 1994

Let's just say this: I didn't leave On Deadly Ground liking Steven Seagal any better than I did before going in. With On Deadly Ground, Seagal steps beyond his usual “action stud” role and takes over the reins as director. Seagal might be said to have gone Billy Jack in this movie for there is no better comparison by which to gauge it. On Deadly Ground is so inchoate and fragmentary that it almost seems like overkill to attack it from without. But certain things must be answered, like Seagal's environmental lip service that is utterly mocked by the movie's need to blow things up and destroy property. Seagal plays some kind of Red Adair-type character who puts out oil fires for Michael Caine's evil empire, Aegis Oil. Later we learn that he's not just a henchman for the bad oil-guys but also a top secret, government NSA-type who seems to be on some kind of vague mission of his own design. He's good to the Inuit natives (who, in turn, are simple and pure), he wears lots of fringed buckskin garments, and ends the movie with a several minutes-long environmental tirade to an audience-full of Inuit natives packed into the Alaskan Senate. More than any of this, however, I'm annoyed by Seagal's usurpation of American symbols and imagery. His character -- named Forrest -- is supposed to be some kind of Great Spirit and is represented by the bald eagle. As the villain of the piece, Michael Caine acts like he's portraying J.R. Ewing on a bad day and only proves, once and for all, that he's not a terribly good whore. And though it might doom me to further Steven Seagal vanity productions (as if its number one box office status doesn't make certain that future, already), I do have a title to suggest for his next picture (which all follow the rule of having only three words or three syllables): Beyond the Fringe.

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On Deadly Ground, Steven Seagal, Steven Seagal, Michael Caine, Joan Chen, John C. McGinley

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