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STDVD: Black Dawn

July 8, 2009

This will be a short review, because I didn’t finish Black Dawn. That’s rare for me. I’ll sit through almost anything, but this product — I hesitate to call it a film — was so horrible I switched it off around the 3/4 mark.

The plot, in a nutshell: Steven Seagal is former CIA agent Jonathan Cold, who is caught up in a dangerous game of something or other involving people in black clothing, and nobody knows where his allegiance lies, or something. I know, I know, you got to “Jonathan Cold” and zoned out. I did, too.

Actually, what did it for me were the cheap-ass opening titles, which looked like they were done in MS Paint and run off on a colour copier. The first five minutes are incomprehensible, until Seagal shows up, at which point things just get stupid.

Kudos, though, to director Alexander Gruszynski, who uses a variety of techniques to disguise the fact that Seagal is no longer the sleek, svelte action star he was for a day or two in the 1980s. Seagal, who used to be notable for being skinny in an action world of Arnolds and Sylvesters, now looks … a fair bit different. Solution? Put him in a lab coat! Have him stand behind things! Shoot him in shadows! Bring in a body double who looks nothing like him!

Another problem for me is the presence of Matt Salinger. For those of you with taste in films, Matt played Captain America in the stupid 1990 live-action movie of the same name. For whatever reason, Matt decided Captain America was a bit of a Nancy, and that horrendous acting choice has haunted him ever since. His name in the titles immediately drops a movie 10 points in my book. Wait, make that 20.

I talked about Black Dawn on an old episode of Weather Station 3, so I’m going to recycle the joke here: There’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD. And there’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD that you’ve never heard of.

What makes this movie such a disaster is not its confusing, boring story, or its terrible acting, or Seagal’s generalized state of ridiculousness. It’s just a really badly made movie. Throughout, you see behind the curtain, noting bad crash test dummies, plot holes, effects that don’t work … I swear I even saw the crew in a lot of the scenes. Cheap, sloppy and boring is no way to go through life, Steve.

If you really feel you have to see some Seagal, stick with the first three or four, in which he plays a lone wolf who uses his martial arts skills and ponytail to strike back at the bad guys who’ve targetted his family. I like the one where he wakes up from a seven-year coma, ready for action, and immediately gets with his nurse.

From last time around, a refresher on STDVD:

This is the latest in an occasional series I’ll be bringing you. I have this stack of bizarre movies, DVDs given to me a few months back. You may have heard me go through some of these on Weather Station 3, but that was more of a review of their stupid covers and stuff. Now I’m really watching them.

Most of them are STDVDs. You know, bad movies that get passed from person to person, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes on purpose, with a deliberate hint of malice. It might also stand for straight-to-DVD, I guess.

There are a few definite signs of an STDVD. Remember these, as I will refer to them often:

  1. You’ve never heard of it. This becomes a bigger problem if it features well-known actors, but you still haven’t heard of it.
  2. It looks like a recent theatrical release, but something’s off. “Wasn’t it called Snakes on a Plane?”
  3. It stars siblings of famous actors. “Wow, this movie has Don Swayze in it!” Worse: He’s promoted on the cover by his last name only.
  4. It has a wrestler in it, not counting The Rock. He cracks me up.
  5. It has Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. I have about a half-dozen Jean-Claudes, and they’re at the bottom of the pile.
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