Above the Law

AbovethelawIn Above the Law, Steven Seagal had yet to really grow into his pony tail, understandable as this was his debut.

And speaking of growth, he stars here as Nico, the world’s tallest Sicilian. He’s a Chicago cop from Palermo whom we’re introduced to by way of the war in Vietnam, and what else a but martial arts montage of epically 80s proportions where we get to hear him speak Japanese.

Flash forward to a 1988 christening and Seagal’s breaking language barriers again by showcasing his Italian in a big church and venturing over to a mandolin-infused party straight out of The Godfather.

More importantly, in Above the Law, we get our first glimpse of Seagal in the profession we’ve come to love him in in countless subsequent roles: an ex CIA man. If you were to put Seagal in King Lear, he’d be a monarch father to three daughters (and an ex CIA man).

On the Chicago PD, Nico is on the trail of a Salvadoran drug dealer. After he’s busted, they find more than they bargained for – explosives. And in an odd turn of events, the guy’s linked to a corrupt Vietnam military official Nico served with, who’s also CIA.

Nico’s partner on the force is the formidable Pam Grier as “Jacks” Jackson, and their banter here is a delight (“What is it about this place you don’t like? The element!”). It’s easy to forget that before the 2000s, Seagal was actually quick with his tongue before he began drawling ersatz Cajun* as authentic as Popeyes Louisiana Chicken.

above-the-law_SeagalMore importantly though, he’s quick with his moves.

Above the Law features a lean, very mean Steve S. in a monumental bar fight, not as good as the one in Out for Justice (“Are you da boxa?”), but pretty darn exceptional, where he whips the butt of every guinea unibrow in the Windy City.

Later, he dispenses with a bunch of Chicano stereotypes in inimitable fashion.

A fellow cop derides his “martial arts hero, chop suey crap,” but this is the man at his finest.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Ron Dean as a Chicago detective. He’s known as the tough-as-nails dad to Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club.

Top-drawer Seagal.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[*Check out our latter day Steven Seagal movies discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

Cyborg Soldier

cyborg-soldierMuch like R.O.T.O.R., which features a Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research, Cyborg Soldier has an I.S.A.A.C., or Intuitive Synthetic Autonomous Assault Commando.

But it’s not as if R.O.T.O.R. is held up as the pinnacle of originality, dismissed at the time (with ample reason) as a cut-rate Terminator or a discount RoboCop.

Cyborg Soldier, is a knock-off of a knock-off of a knock-off, and it’s a pretty precipitous slide from the aforementioned classics (and Universal Soldier too!), and the film’s hampered by a budget that’s not so much shoe-string as flip-flop.

Former UFC middleweight champ Rich “Ace” Franklin plays the cyborg.

He’s “The ultimate weapon,” and this is the ex-Ultimate Fighter’s first acting stint, playing a prototype not surprisingly, birthed from a secret government lab (where the best evil plots are hatched).

He’s a super-being, a genetically modified Ubermensch who speaks in clipped tones, and has never met a contraction apparently: “I DO NOT KNOW, I CAN NOT SAY.” Then again, that’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to robo-speak.

And he’s pretty much indistinguishable from your average human, save for a complete lack of emotion (OK, he shares that trait with sociopath humans) and weirdly, he’s never heard of Jesus: “Who is this Jesus you speak of?” You’d think that his Frankenstein creators would’ve added deities to this nano-tech automaton’s vocabulary for Christ’s sake!

cyborg_soldier_rich_franklinHe’s on the run and kidnaps a lady cop, Lindsay (90201’s Tiffani Thiessen), while evil government ops try and track him down.

It’s up to the cyborg and new ally Lindsay to find out his identity, and this leads to a bunch of exposition from the awesome Bruce Greenwood about a secret plot to turn federal inmates into cyborg warriors.

Sounds like a plan.

R.O.T.O.R. asked the question, “How do you stop a killing machine from going berserk?” And the answer in Cyborg Cop is apparently, get Tiffani Thiessen to humanize him. She does this while draped in a too-big plaid shirt, and looks like at any minute she’ll bust out a Crip walk.

Cyborg Soldier puts two words that when slapped together, should mean action movie gold. It doesn’t measure up, but has one amazing goon-kill, and some serious explosions. Plus, there’s the compulsory bullet self-removal scene.

** (out of 5)