On Deadly Ground

On Deadly Ground ★★★

As the lone film directed by Steven Seagal, this is his purest mission statement—an action movie where Seagal protects a native Alaskan population from the corrupt oil company that’s destroying their land, it’s unlike any action movie I’ve ever seen, with a pedigree and sense of scale far beyond its insular concerns. Where Seagal’s earlier movies had talented directors to manage Seagal’s presence and all of its attendant quirks, this is extremely sloppy by comparison, awkwardly alternating between serene nature shots and the bloody carnage familiar from Seagal’s other movies (including an awesome bar fight where he utterly embarrasses a patron for making fun of a Native American man, a hilarious scene full of the “You think you’re a tough guy?” type dialogue that Seagal always delivers with his own unique eloquence). For all the movie’s many flaws, Seagal’s passion for the material is clear and surprisingly compelling. This might be why the movie’s rousing climactic speech—a righteous (and timely) diatribe against the financial and governmental interests that are knowingly destroying our planet for monetary gain—is actually more exciting than any of the action parts.

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