Chronologically (as we’ve been proceeding apart from when I forgot Out For a Kill) the next film is supposed to be Out of Reach. But the way the box sets worked out we ended up with two copies of that particular film so Pod and I are going to try to liveblog it from either side of the Irish Sea. So we skipped on to the next film, Into the Sun.
Vern gave this one a pretty good review and the fact that it was released theatrically in Japan, that I knew it had sword fights and that it has that hilariously awesome cover were all pointing towards this being another favourite, but I’m sorry to say it fell very short of the mark. Perhaps to appreciate it the way Vern did you have to see Out of Reach in between, because next to the mind-blowing Belly of the Beast it just doesn’t really measure up. Seagal plays Travis Hunter, a (possibly) ex-CIA man who now runs a sword dealership in Japan. Again, SPOILERS: Some bullshit happens to some politician and then the young Yakuza are teaming up with the Chinese Tongs nad not respecting the old Yakuza. Seagal’s old CIA boss calls him in as an expert in these matter since he grew up in a rough neighbourhood and then dispatches him to do…well I’m not sure but his rookie partner, Agent Mack, is along for the ride. Then some bad shit happens to someone Seagal loves and to someone he doesn’t love but is associated with, so finally he goes and kills a bunch of people with a sword. Boom.
This is one big long movie of Steven Seagal fucking about. The movie gets set up in the first ten or so minutes (despite it’s horribly self-important title sequence: ooohhh asian letters…on fire!) and then for the next hour, the entire fucking hour, we get to see either Seagal or his partner or the Yakuza assholes fuck about doing absolutely nothing and then there’s a big sword fight. That’s a bit unfair. There are a couple of other action sequences. There’s an admittedly pretty good fight in a market and there’s an old-school over in five seconds sequence where Seagal goes in and kills a bunch of people in an apartment with a sword and a fight with a Tong Lieutenant who ends up going out the window. So that’s four action sequences, which you might say isn’t bad for straight-to-DVD stuff, and it isn’t, but it’s the fact that everything in between is so inane that makes the fights disengaging.
I really can’t stress how much I didn’t care about what the fuck Seagal was doing in this movie. He goes about and talks to a bunch of different people and we’re supposed to figure out who they are, how Seagal knows them and how they figure into the gang war that’s going on between the younger Yakuza/Tongs and the older Yakuza. He talks to some old Chinese motherfucker that maybe trained him? He gives him a young Chinese girl who’s going to be his shield. Later on I think he brings a message from Seagal to someone and is never seen again. In one following scene it’s implied that he’s fine, but in another he doesn’t seem to be. He talks to a different old Japanese motherfucker who’s connected to one or both factions of the Yakuza in some way, it’s never really explained because he isn’t directly involved in the ultimate Yakuza counter attack. That’s a group of old Yakuza led by some old dude who won’t act but then he gets killed by the young ones for no other reason than for the younger (but still old) lieutenant to take over and strike back. Seagal talks to both of these guys at different points. There’s another Japanese dude that seems to meet Seagal at a club and who he trusts but I don’t remember meeting him and I had no idea who he represents. On top of this Seagal has a young inept partner arbitrarily assigned to him by his CIA boss (the reporter from Die Hard 1 & 2) who serves no purpose other than to provide bad comic relief and get himself killed. Then there was also that Senator getting killed. That was never resolved, nor was the fact that Chiaki Kuriyama seemed to be his daughter. And I defy you to make any goddamn sense out of the entire sequence leading up to Agent Mack’s demise.
If all that seems confusing then good, because I have no idea what the fuck happened in this movie and I’ve got lots of other things to watch before I consider giving this any more of my time. It’s better than The Foreigner, though because at least the people here have identities instead of “The Package” or “a conduit”. Fuck, there’s also a tattoo artist who is apparently Seagal’s link to the Yakuza (he just does their tattoos so he isn’t a criminal, nothing shady) but he meets with at least the super-boss before he goes anywhere near this guy so I don’t know what’s happening. I liked the character, though, and so must the director because he randomly gets included in the climactic battle where it’s suddenly revealed that apparently one of the young Yakuza guys killed his family. This is never mentioned before. They just needed to crowbar in some motivation for him. There’s a lot of subtext about young versus old and lack of respect and the next generation always moving to greater extremes but it’s all lost in an incoherent plot. All of this bullshit adds up to the movie committing the cardinal sin of any bad movie: it’s dull. A movie can be as bad as it wants as long as there something there to make you want to watch. This film drags like a motherfucker. It’s interminable. By the time the final fight happens you just want it to end so you can watch Submerged and I can think of no greater indictment than that.
The only thing that stops the bullshit is the fact that a club owner who Seagal gets information one is killed, seemingly because she seems nervous around the boisterous, armed, unpredictable Yakuza boys in her club. If they know she’s talking to Seagal then we sure as fuck don’t know they know. But the thing about this club owner is that apparently she’s Seagal’s fucking fiancé. He seems to like her (why not, she’s pretty hot) and says things like “I love you, babe”, but it always seemed that he was saying it more like Kojak, but no he actually meant the he loved her loved her, like in stories. Because in the middle of all this fucking about we suddenly end up in a park with Seagal proposing to this girl and I would have been completely surprised if I didn’t already know it was coming from Seagalogy. Then they have some really awkward sex. Back at her place, not in the park. Anyway, she gets killed and then Seagal finally does something, yay.
There are some really annoying transitions, presumably due to mink(small m)’s history as a music video director and there’s a huge technical problem the UK DVD at least. There’s a lot of Japanese and a lot of Chinese spoken in this movie. Sometimes there are exchanges where Seagal’s speaking English and someone else is speaking one of the other languages, but on the DVD track I couldn’t find a subtitle track where only the non-English languages were subtitled. If it’s there it’s definitely not the default one. I don’t like watching people speak in English with English subtitle because you end up reading ahead of their delivery and missing the performance. I always turn them off in video games and I did not appreciate having to keep them on if I wanted to try to have some semblance of what was happening. To me this is a huge problem and someone needs to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
It’s not all bad. The movie looks nice and the fights are technically pretty good. I can’t remember the bit in the market very well but the sword quick kills were pretty cool (although they happen before Mrs Seagal to be gets killed, I think, and I don’t know what gives Seagal the authority to just go and execute a rabble of Yakuza) and the fight with the Tong Lieutenant actually sees Seagal take a hit. He ends up going through some glass that turns out to be a 15th story window, with was a complete (and welcome) surprise. The last fight’s a bit weird because the little Chinese girl is by far the most engaging and impressive to watch, so when Seagal shows up and does his thing it’s a little underwhelming. Tattoo guy seems to only be there to get battle-damaged (but I don’t think they made action figures for this movie) and I can’t even remember how Seagal does the last guy in. Although to be fair I can’t remeber that from Belly of the Beast either. All of the sword fighting is nice since we don’t see much of it (except when he’s slicing arrows OUT OF THE FUCKING AIR) but since the rest of the movie is so dull I’m never really invested in the characters or engaged in their fights.
It was nice to see Seagal back in his old stomping grounds in Japan and he seems to be enjoying being there and it translates into his performance but not the film as a whole, which is utterly joyless. I quite liked a lot of the supporting cast, particularly the old-young yakuza who seems to have broken away from the old guard and is enjoying excess for the first time in his life at a much older age. He’s delightfully slimy although ends up saying a lot of weird sexual stuff before mini Chinese girl kills his ass. There are also some weird, but killer lines in there, like “What the fuck is an American doing swing a sword around?” or “I couldn’t sleep well knowing I hadn’t chopped off your balls yet” or “Battles are not decided by skill or technique, but by whoever has the most furious mind”.
With a more carefully planned script, some clear reason for why a scene is taking place and some better pacing this could have been a much better film, but as it stands it’s a dull, forgettable entry that looks nice with a few good sword fights and some great lines.
Originally posted 28 September 2009