What would a year be without at least one movie by Keoni Waxman starring Steven Seagal? Since 2012 they have been making one movie per year, and with 2009’s The Keeper and A Dangerous Man this marks their sixth collaboration on a movie. I won’t be too surprised if 2016 would give us another collaboration. But first it’s 2015’s “Absolution”. There is something goofy going on with the title as varies from “Absolution” (the general title) to Mercenary Absolution (the title on DVD covers) and “The Mercenary: Absolution” which was the actual title on the opening credits. How hard is it to get at least the title straight?
Absolution is the third recent movie in which Seagal plays a guy named Alexander making these movies somewhat of an unofficial trilogy. In Absolution Seagal is a mercenary who, after doing a job in Romania, encounters a prostitute named Nadia (Adina Stetcu) on the run from a mob boss (Vinnie Jones). He and his partner Chi take the girl to their safe house and want to provide her with some money to set her on her way. Jones however, has enough political ties to have the government that Alexander and Chi are working for try to take them out in order to return the girl to him. Now Chi and Alexander must fight their own employer and a bunch of Eastern European mafiosi to keep the girl safe.
Despite none of these movies being flawless, the output Waxman and Seagal seems to be getting better with each release save for the abysmal Force Of Execution. Absolution surprised me in the way it actually kept things simple. Normally these movies would always have strange and puzzling elements to them due to re-cuts or people trying to make a simple plot more complex than it should be. Seagal works best in these simple movies; Out For Justice was nothing more than him running around town trying to find a guy who murdered his friend and it worked great.
In Absolution Seagal and Mann just end up taking a girl under their protection who turns out to be a shit magnet. There’s nothing more you need to set up an engaging movie and apparently they know realize that for once. The only part that didn’t make sense was that the mob boss actually gave orders to a US agency and forces them to turn on their own men. The way it’s presented Jones is just a mob boss in Romania and nothing more. How could he have such power over a foreign agency? And not only is everybody after the girl, she also has an incriminating video of Jones so even if Jones can order the agency to retrieve the girl it would have made more sense if the agency would contact Alexander and Chi and explain that they need the tape to take Jones down. Problem solved. Without the whole agency turning on them it would have been a better movie: Seagal and Mann against a whole group of big Romanian baddies led by Jones would have worked just as well.
As a director Waxman is getting more confident. In the past he relied on so-called “Avid-Farts” to stylize his movies, but aside from the Saw-esque filter he uses on the scenes where Vinnie Jones is torturing prostitutes in a basement he has actually delivered a movie devoid of these post-production additions.
Those familiar with his recent work know what to expect from a Steven Seagal DTV movie. It’s been a long time since he has done anything really active other than Aikido-filled fist fights. In Absolution he once again walks through the movie dressed in a long black coat trying to hide his fleshy physique. He is also the one whom at the end ends up living with Nadia in America, which is getting more and more awkward with each and every movie. Somehow Seagal has to end up with the girl, but while Seagal ages with every movie he makes the girls they cast are always of the same age. At this point the age difference between Seagal and his love-interests is about 40 years.
This being a Seagal movie it’s also very obvious when he’s improvising scenes or has at least clearly written them himself. The most obvious moment is when he reminisces to Chi about how Chi ended up working for him to repay a debt. It’s such a forced and unnatural display of Seagal talking about doing some heroic stuff a long time ago and how he saved Chi’s life at one point.
A DTV movie can never go wrong by casting Vinnie Jones; the guy has a natural menacing screen presence. Maybe even more nowadays with the bald head and the weight he gained. Sadly Jones is wasted in the finale. The guy that once played the unstoppable Juggernaut in X-Men 3 now tries to chicken out of the final showdown between him and Seagal. Of course Jones never gets to lay a hand on Seagal, but I found the final showdown lacking in a movie that had plenty of relatively cool fights. Most of them are done by Byron Mann who is much more athletic than Seagal ever was.
Absolution is certainly a step in the right direction and might pave the way for at least a few enjoyable releases in the near future. At the age of 63 I’m wondering how much of these movies are left in Seagal, but then again I’ve been saying that about Stallone as well and a 4th Expendables movie is still in the pipeline at age 69 so anything is possible.