Honestly, I've not seen the last three or four of Seagal's films. I *OWN* them, but I have fallen behind in my viewing.
I have 99% of his 40+ film collection and I want to be clear that I don't just collect his videos; I watch and generally enjoy them.
This movie, "Beyond the Law," is the latest of his releases that I've seen, and I enjoyed it.
It is, by far, not one of his typical plots, nor his typical role.
He plays the father of the primary antagonist, but it neither the "bad guy," or the protagonist. This is one of his most "passive" characters that I can recall (at the moment... his career spans DECADES).
The story is one of the more interesting and inspired.
IT IS BY NO WAY A SEQUEL TO HIS HIT DEBUT FILM, "ABOVE THE LAW."
However, like his former hit, this one plays with the title in both literal and symbolic form.
((I hate to sound all "hoity-toity film-school-studenty"... mainly because I am not... but I am an English teacher, so I apologize for some of the terminology I use.))
"Above the Law" was about people/organizations who believed they were literally above the law, and carried out their greedy, immoral, amoral plots with impunity until Seagal's character stops and exposes them.
"Beyond the Law" is a bit more inventive. I honestly had no idea where this was going until the final moments before the credits rolled. Once again, the writer(s) took the title literally and the protagonist does lots of anti-hero things to achieve his justice, then dies... and in death, he is truly BEYOND the law. That clever "twist" bumped this Seagal title into the "watch again" and "share with others" category. (I don't know if I can call it a twist because they TOLD US in the title where the plot would go.)
The setting (locations, time period, atmosphere) was good and fit the plot.
The characters were defined enough to move the plot along. They were interesting and varied enough to tell each apart and held my interest when they were on screen.
>Bill Cobb (Swilley) was criminally under used. His character mainly delivered much of the exposition. I would have listened and watched him for the whole film expounding the exploits of his friend. (So sorry for the alliteration.)
>Zack Ward (Desmond Packard) and DMX (Detective Munce) were great and carried their roles better than most.
>The absolutely delicious Saxon Sharbino (Charlotte) played the same role she always plays. She's good at it, and she was well cast here.
>The antagonist's posse was actually written with some good character and in a longer film they would have been interesting to get to know (even though they were essentially "cannon fodder," I'm glad a couple lived beyond the stupidity of the antagonist).
>Sadly, Chester Rushing's character (Chance) was forgettable, no matter how much the script fought against that. For the first half of the film, every time he was mentioned and even when he was on screen, my mind needed to reference my memory of the characters the audience was supposed to care about and often drew a blank.
>Johnny Messner (Frank Wilson) needed more development on screen about his past and what led him to where he is when we find him. Were there a couple of scenes of him and Swilley kicking it wherever that was? Maybe a couple of flash-backs to his time on the force? Maybe Swilley could remember how it was that Frank came to be there; Munce could hear more rumors from other detectives or informants; Desmond could have been warned off by the older people who were part of Adair's "kingdom" (like the remarkably performed doorman, whose name escapes me... I loved his physical reactions to Frank's arrival). Frank was a great character anyway and I was continually intrigued and surprised to see what he would do next. The failed father part needed to either be cut or expanded because I felt that it just interrupted the momentum of Frank's mission.
>There is much to say about Steven Seagal's "Augustino 'Finn' Adair." Too much. Seagal's presence in the film seemed almost forced. Honestly, aside from a few scenes, I felt that Seagal floated above the rest of the characters, setting, and plot-- he could have filmed his parts at a completely different time and location, where the cast would be transported to him on cue. I think there was some brief and forgettable exposition near the beginning of the film (could have been thrown onto the screen with a Star Wars opening scroll.) Unfortunately, I was absorbing the setting (when is this taking place? where is this happening?), processing the inciting incident (which was confusing as hell), and trying to follow and identify the characters. -- So, yeah, he pops in a few times, presses the plot forward or imparts choice bits of exposition, and generally comes off as the benevolent overlord of a realm that, frankly, I have no idea of what he is the kingpin. Still... it's Seagal, and when he appears, all is good (except, maybe, the end).
Frank has a lawyer friend who appears without much ado in the last act, to give advice to Frank and together they work out a plan that assures us that justice is served. The lawyer friend should have been there from the beginning.
There were a few scenes where the director must have stepped out and the actors read their lines from cue cards. A couple of those were pretty important moments that I probably missed because the flat performances were so distracting.
Still, I was more than satisfied by the end of this film.
There are absolutely no special features. None. That is disappointing. Given the course of the plot, the twists and sudden turns, I would have listened to the writer or director speaking on how they handled these elements and where they may have added or done things differently.
This one is well worth a viewing. I collect Seagal, so I bought the disc-- if you simply need a good, down and dirty revenge story with THE Steven, then this is the one to watch.