Fire Down Below
"Get Steven Seagal to emote" -- it sounds like a fixed game in the traveling carnival like the "Ring Toss" or the "Three Balls in the Waterboat." And just like those games, the prizes suck. Be fortunate enough to haphazardly land a ring on a pole and you get a stuffed teddy bear that explodes on contact with a cat claw. Get Steven Seagal to emote and you get the satisfaction of experiencing a miraculous emotional empathy; the kind that can usually only be had in such venues as bowling alleys and monster truck-a-thons.
Seagal is perhaps fortunate that expectations of his performance have sunk to such an unbelievable low. During the course of the film he actually manages to grin and kiss Sarah Kellogg (Marg Helgenberger) prompting "oohs" and "aahs" from a stunned audience. However, such feats as catching rattlesnakes in midair and beating the crap out of people manage to elicit little more than a snicker. Of course the inhuman robot can catch snakes and kick ass, but smile and kiss a girl? Unprecedented! What's next? Seagal acknowledging his inner child? The next time you step over that blind paraplegic epileptic AIDS victim on the sidewalk, look twice -- it may be Seagal preparing for his next role.
Steven shows up in a small Kentucky town as E.P.A. Marshal Jack Taggart to find the source of some chemical dumping. Seagal, always the modest one, works undercover as a Christ-like religious carpenter, bringing the message of good deeds and environmental safety to the town. Thanks to the advantage of having soft piano music accompany his every romantic overture, he quickly woos Sarah, the town outcast, while beating the crap out of every chemical company bad guy who tries to tell him to get back in his truck and get out of town.
The ass-kicking to developmental scene ratio is way too low in this film. In other words, for every scene in which the audience has to endure Seagal trying to feign human emotion, there should be several scenes in which Seagal beats the crap out of at least twenty-five idiots who always insist on charging him one-by-one.
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