Down From the Shelf ~ Hard to Kill

The Facts

Synopsis: Mason Storm, a ‘go it alone’ cop, is gunned down at home. The intruders kill his wife, and think they’ve killed both Mason and his son too. When Mason wakes up, everyone is in danger – himself, his son, his best friend, his nurse – but most of all those who arranged for his death

Stars: Steven Seagal, Kelly LeBrock, William Sadler, Frederick Coffin, Andrew Block

Director: Bruce Malmuth

Rated: R

Running Length: 96 minutes

TMMM Score: (4/10)

Review:  Back in those carefree days known as the early 1990’s, my parents would always know where to find me if I wasn’t hanging around the house, at school, or causing some sort of mischief in our neighborhood.  They’d just have to call up to Video Vision, a mom and pop video store in a strip mall several blocks away from my house and odds are I’d be there perusing the inventory or doing a little child labor to score a free rental.  I have such great memories of those days and all the movies that would come in several times a week (this was when there was just one release day in a given week) and I’d get a look at the latest action flick hitting the shelves.

Remember, we were in a time when action films were cheap to make and could turn a big profit before word of mouth spread that they weren’t very good.  That still happens today but with all of the advance screenings and the internet anonymity to provide spoilers savvy moviegoers can find the right ones to skip…but during that period it was fairly easy for studios to get in and get out without doing much harm to the bottom line.

Hard to Kill caught my eye right away with its flashy red cover design featuring the then husband and wife duo of Steven Seagal and Kelly Le Brock and I knew that I’d have to get my hands on it pronto.  When I did (the manager knew I was a mature 10 year old) I have the vague recollection of enjoying Seagal’s butt-kicking.  When the opportunity to watch the film again presented itself recently, I couldn’t resist taking a trip down memory lane to see how Hard to Kill has stood up 24 years later.

Well, as often happens when you revisit something you enjoyed as a child, my adult taste superseded any fond memories…causing Hard to Kill to sink like a stone.  I think to really enjoy this I would have had to had some sort of forced amnesia, wiping my memory clean of Seagal’s later work and the evolution the action genre has undergone in the following decades…viewing it now there’s no denying this is really a plump juicy turkey of a film.

Though Seagal’s roles in the early 90’s all blend together to form one character with different names, here he goes by Mason Storm, introduced in a rather long prologue where we see Seagal catching on video a corrupt politician who eventually hires some gunmen to wipe out his Seagal and his family.  While his wife takes a bullet and his son escapes, Seagal takes twice as many hits as his wife but finds himself in a coma rather than the morgue.

Thus begins a series of convoluted (to put it mildly) situations starting with  Seagal’s cop friend hiding him under a false name in a rehab facility and putting his son into protective custody.  Seven years go by and Seagal wakes to a new nightmare…being nursed back to health by Le Brock.  With the film clocking in a shade over 90 minutes there’s barely time for Le Brock to remove his catheter before a bevy of indistinguishable muscle men arrive to finish Seagal off and eliminate anyone in their way.

Director Bruce Malmuth never establishes a tone for the film, jumping from one action sequence to the next with a few montages of Seagal regaining his fighting skills.  There’s a laughable attempt to instill some romance between Seagal and Le Brock into the mix and their complete lack of chemistry provides some evidence as to why their marriage dissolved six years later.

True to its title, the film finds it difficult to end with several wrap-ups that merely lead us to another opportunity for Seagal to flex his weak acting muscles while cracking skulls in a few well choreographed fights.  Limping to its conclusion, Hard to Kill makes it to the credits with little life left and you the viewer may feel the same way.

Look, there’s no denying that these films are a product of their time and have a place in the action lexicon…but that doesn’t mean we have to excuse their convenient coincidences that propel the action and the lackluster performances from the leading players.  Good memories are truly hard to kill but this one went down without much of a fight.

The Silver Bullet ~ Need for Speed


Synopsis: Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

Release Date:  March 14, 2014

Thoughts: I’ll admit the first time I saw the preview for Need for Speed I feared we had lost star Aaron Paul to the Nicholas Cage darkside of films.  The more I saw it though (and I’ve seen it a LOT lately) I’m intrigued by what looks to be a popcorn flick (ala Fast & Furious 6) wanting to emulate those grindhouse-y films from decades ago but filtered through a modern lens.  It’s hard to balance a retro-feel with an updated approach but I find myself cautiously optimistic that this will deliver the goods.  Bonus points for having the intriguing Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) and Michael Keaton (Gung-Ho, also in the RoboCop reboot) on board in supporting roles.