Out For Justice

 

 

Out_for_justice

Out For Justice

Release Date: April 12, 1991

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Director: John Flynn

Writer: R. Lance Hill (as David Lee Henry)

Starring: Steven Seagal, William Forsythe, Jerry Orbach, Jo Champa, Shareen Mitchell

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

 

Whether you like Steven Seagal or your hate him, you can’t deny his accomplishments. He is a seventh degree black belt in Aikido and became the first American to teach the martial art in Japan. He’s been a Deputy Sheriff for Jefferson Parish in New Orleans for more than twenty years.  Lately, he’s been in the press as a Russian liaison to the United States and Japan working on improving relations between the countries. Of course, most of us will know Steven Seagal as an action star. Since he appeared in his first film “Above The Law” in the late 80s, Seagal has become a recognizable face in the action cinema world. He rose to fame in the early to mid-90s as a man who would always be asked who would win in a fight between him and his action peers such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean Claude Van Damme. I haven’t reviewed an action movie in a while and looking through my movie collection, I noticed a bunch of Steven Seagal movies. I decided to review one but didn’t know which one I should review.  I took up an online poll to see which Steven Seagal movie I should write about. After a 24-hour survey, the overwhelming majority of votes went to his 1991 crime thriller “Out For Justice.” So, with that ladies and gentlemen, here is the review for “Out For Justice”.

Seagal plays Gino Fellino, a NYPD detective from Brooklyn where he has close connections with his neighborhood. After he and his partner Bobby Lupo are involved in a botched drug raid which leads to Gino intervening in an incident across the street where a pimp is assaulting one of his girls, Bobby is gunned down shortly after by Richie Madano, a mobster who grew up with Gino and Bobby. Richie is addicted to crack which has made him psychotic and act out on his homicidal urges which includes killing a woman at a traffic stop all because she asks him to move his car. After receiving clearance from his boss to track down and apprehend Richie, Gino uses his connections within the mob to find out where Gino is. The mob warns Gino not to get in their way, as they plan to take out Richie themselves. Gino is now in a race to find Richie and get to the truth about why he killed his partner before the mob can get his hands on him.

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The movie received mixed to negative reviews when it was first released. Despite those reviews, “Out For Justice” debut at Number 1 at the Box office and grossed a little over $40 million. As time has gone by since its initial release “Out For Justice” has developed a cult following.

The film takes place in Brooklyn and there’s plenty of moments in the film where Seagal is cruising around town talking to various citizens. Brooklyn is not like Manhattan with its giant skyscrapers, lights and exciting atmosphere. It’s a quiet and close-knit community. The movie gives it a neighborly feel as everyone seems to know each other by name. It’s a great montage to the ethnic diversity and history of Brooklyn.

Seagal is decent in his lead role as Gino, a cop with connections all over the neighborhood and uses those connections to track down Richie’s whereabouts. He also struggles with the duality of his job and his family. He has numerous “families” throughout the film. First, he has his own family in which he and his wife are going through a divorce and splitting custody of their son. Their relationship is strained in the beginning of the film but as the story progresses, they rekindle that love they have for each other and that whatever problems have been going on they can work it out and come out even stronger. The other family is his mob family. He is well known by the mob family led by Don Vittorio. Gino can easily come to him for information and have a mutual respect. The middle man between Vittorio and Gino is a man named Frank, whom also grew up with Gino in the neighborhood and become close friends. Frank keeps his eye on Gino not because his boss tells him to, but to also save him from making any mistakes that could trigger a retaliatory response.  The last families of Gino include consoling both his partner’s family and Richie’s parents. There is a powerful scene where Gino confronts Richie’s parents trying to squeeze any information they have on their son. His father, played by Dominic Chianese (Junior of “Sopranos” fame) tells the story of how he came to America with nothing and worked to provide for his family and give them a roof over their head and that Richie has been taken away from him by drugs. It gives you sympathy for the parents for what they are going through.

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The award for Best Performance in this movie I give to William Forsythe as Richie Madano. As I mentioned in the synopsis, Richie is a mafia enforcer who has become psychotic due to his addiction to crack. He is paranoid, suspicious of people and reckless. Forsythe portrays Richie as someone who has succumbed to his addictions that he can’t see straight. His crew is trapped with him and no amount of reasoning can convince Richie to control his impulses. People are fearful of Richie that they surrender to his will, especially when he shows up uninvited to the home of a girl who was once his hooker. He kills a woman in broad daylight in front of everyone when she honks the horn at him telling him to move his car and kills a friend of his in a wheelchair when he is questioned why he killed Gino’s partner and believing that he called the cops on him. His own family are fearful for their lives as you see in many instances throughout the movie. Richie Madano is a relentless character who the audience can easily despise and hopes that his day of retribution is coming.

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There’s plenty of action and violence to salivate the typical action movie fan. You can’t go wrong with shoot outs and hand to hand combat courtesy of Mr. Seagal. Seagal demonstrates his masterful Aikido skills in perhaps the best scene of the whole movie is when he interrogates Richie’s brother who owns a joint run by Richie, a bartender and its patrons. It’s amazing to see how fast Seagal’s hands move when taking down those who wish to do harm on him. Seagal is also a master sharpshooter in real life and you see that in several instances in the film including when he defends his family when members of Richie’s crew break into Gino’s apartment looking to terrorize his wife and son.

The only gripes I have with the movie is the lack of plot and character development, especially with Seagal’s family. You really don’t know what caused them to start going through divorce proceedings other than Gino’s job on the force has taken away from spending time with them. You don’t know much about Gino’s son except for his name. I also believe the title of the movie is misleading. There are also some small continuity errors due in part to the poor re-editing. Apparently this movie was even longer that dealt more with Richie and how he got into drugs, but Seagal had the Editor take a big chunk out because he felt that Forsythe was “overshadowing his great performance”. That’s why during the music montage you see a scene where Gino is talking to Frank and you don’t know what they’re saying because the audio has been drowned out by the music. The last gripe I have is with the theme of the movie. The title is “Out For Justice” but this is more of a revenge movie. Except for telling Richie’s parents that if they see him, he needs to turn himself in, his goal is to kill him, not arrest him and stand trial for the murder of his partner and other crimes he has committed. Yes, Gino is dealing with a personal tragedy, but in the real world the cops need to ascertain the suspect alive. You only kill the suspect is if he is engaged in attacking the officer.

As Steven Seagal movies go (before they went downhill starting in the late 90s), “Out For Justice” is up there among the best of his movies. This is in my Top Five Favorite Steven Seagal movies. It’s a fast-paced movie with plenty of action, violence, a balanced widescreen framing and a good cast to give it lasting appeal. It’s a movie that is relatable to the audience with its close community feel. This is perhaps the last movie where Steven Seagal is in prime form.

 

TRIVIA

  • Gino fights a character called Sticks in the bar, played by veteran martial artist Dan Inosanto. He was one of Bruce Lee’s best friends and one of the three people Bruce let train others in Jeet Kune Do. He is also a master stick fighter and has studied multiple disciplines like Escrima and Silat and was the person who taught Bruce Lee to use nunchaku.
  • According to William Forsythe, Steven Seagal told Forsythe, “You really need to work on your Brooklyn accent.” Forsythe, a Brooklyn native, replied, “Trust me, YOU do.”
  • The only Steven Seagal movie between 1988 and 1998 to not feature a single explosion.
  • Steven Seagal declared in an interview that the movie’s bar brawl was his personal favorite among all fight scenes he’s done.
  • Whilst on the production set, Steven Seagal claimed that due to his Aikido training, he was ‘immune’ to being choked unconscious. It has been alleged that at some point Gene LeBell (who was a stunt coordinator for the movie) heard about the claim and gave Seagal the opportunity to prove it. LeBell is said to have placed his arms around Seagal’s neck, and once Seagal said “go”, proceeded to choke him unconscious. After refusing to comment for many years, LeBell confirmed the story in 2012 and said that after Seagal fell unconscious, he proceeded to defecate and urinate himself. Whenever Seagal has been asked about the incident, he has constantly denied the allegations.
  • Julianna Marguiles was cast specifically by Steven Seagal for her role in this film, but she didn’t enjoy working with him at all. She later said in an interview that she used to see Seagal working on projects for Warner Brothers while she was a regular on “ER”, and he would always say “Marguiles, come over here and show me some respect”. She bluntly said, “He’s not someone I keep in contact with.”
  • The movie was originally over 30 minutes longer, which included some more plot details and character development. Steven Seagal cut some of William Forsythe’s scenes because he felt that Forsythe was upstaging him. Also, editor Michael Eliot re-edited the original cut of the movie. He did the same job with some other Warner Bros movies. Some scenes were deleted and some others were cut down for pacing. This is why there are two montage scenes with no dialogue in the finished film. Re-editing also caused some minor continuity mistakes.
  • During the filming of the showdown between Gino and Richie, Steven Seagal broke William Forsythe’s front tooth when he shoved his face into a brick wall.
  • To date, this is the only Steven Seagal movie shot in New York.
  • Steven Seagal was difficult to work with during filming. At one point, he was driven to tears on set when a light went out in his trailer. He attempted to blame the mishap on a Teamster and have him fired, but was unsuccessful.

 

AUDIO CLIPS

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Retrograde

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Retrograde

Release Date: January 14, 2004

Genre: Science Fiction, Action & Adventure

Director: Christopher Kulikowski

Writers: Christopher Kulikowski (Story), Tom Reeve & Gianluca Curti (Screenplay)

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Silvia De Santis, Joe Montana, Gary Daniels, Joey Sagal

 

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

 

Before his movie career, Dolph Lundgren was a world karate champion and received his Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in Australia. Shortly after his graduation he moved to New York City to become an actor. He made his film debut in a brief role in the James Bond film, “A View to a Kill.” He reached immediate stardom playing the iconic Russian champion Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV”.  Since then, Lundgren’s career has been up and down. You can still see him on the big screen in Sylvester Stallone’s “Expendable” movies, but other than that he’s appeared in more straight to video movies than another martial artist turned actor Steven Seagal. One of his films that went straight to video (with the exception of a theatrical release in South Korea) was the 2004 Sci-Fi Action film “Retrograde”.

In “Retrograde” Lundgren plays a military man from the year 2204. He is assigned with time traveling back to the year 2004 to intercept a research ship in Antarctica from obtaining a meter frozen in the ice which contains a biological agent that has wiped out the majority of mankind in his time. He soon finds out that the crew assigned to him has their own agenda for obtaining the meteor.  The research vessel named the ‘Nathaniel Palmer’ witnesses something falling from the sky (Lundgren’s ship) and goes to investigate it. They come across not only Lundgren unconscious in the snow, but they see chunks of the dangerous meteor that has been dug out of the ice due to the crash. One of the researchers obtains a piece of the meteor for research and heads back to the ship. The ship begins to experience quakes which rock the boat due to the magnetization field of the spaceship and the researcher cuts his hand on the broken glass containing the meteor. The material in the meteor mixes in with his blood and he becomes the first victim of the pathogen which sets in motion what will become of the human race in their time. Lundgren with the help of the surviving crew are now faced with containing the infected and stopping the opposing crew.

Before I go in depth with the review, I’m going to give you another disclaimer:  This is a really bad movie! There’s no question about it. Now you’re going to ask me, “If it’s a bad movie, why do you like it?” I like it for the fact that it is a bad movie and it’s a movie you can poke fun at with your friends. This is a movie that would be a great Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. I learned about this movie through a podcast that talked about bad movies. After listening to the episode, I searched for a copy. Thanks to eBay, I purchase it for $3 (Free Shipping!). So without further ado, let’s get further analyze this film.

The film takes elements from John Carpenter’s Sci-Fi classic “The Thing”. It takes place in Antarctica, there is a crew there, there is something buried in the ice, the crew gets infected, etc. Even two of the characters are named after the surviving characters in “The Thing”. For example, one of the Geologists in the film is named Mackenzie. This is similar to MacReady, the hero of the iconic Sci-Fi flick played brilliantly by Kurt Russell. Another character in the film is named Keith. Keith David appeared in “The Thing” as Childs. Unlike the iconic film of the 80s, when a crew member gets infected you don’t get to see a massive special effect transformation. Instead, the infected start to seizure, jump up and destroy every inanimate object they come into contact with, their skin is pretty much the same color except for all the veins popping out and their eyes are the color of light blue contact lenses. All of this is due to the budget they had.

Speaking of the budget, this film was shot with a reported $2 million dollar budget. I’m sure the majority of that money went to Dolph Lundgren and his hair stylist (He has platinum blonde hair that shines bright in the dark frigid arctic). According to the Trivia (posted below), the film was shot in eighteen days, edited in about 2 weeks and mastered in one day (which I don’t see how that is possible) and it shows. Everything in the movie screams out cheap. The CGI scenes of the ship look straight out of a PC game. Other than that there’s no other special effects for a film that is supposed to be a Sci-Fi futuristic film. You would think they would have laser guns or aliens or have practical effects when a human is changing from being infected from the virus. Nope, none of that. The outfits they wear throughout the film is nothing more than motocross gear (see the Trivia). The sets are cheaply designed as you can see from the control panels on the ship which look like they tore off the front of a rotary phone. There are several scenes where you see an explosion of rock coming from Antarctica. You can easily tell that it is stock footage. You would think they would have some money in the budget to travel somewhere that is covered with snow that looks like Antarctica. I did enjoy the music. Allegedly the music was all done on a Casio Keyboard. The main theme that plays throughout the action sequences is a hum tuner and I think fits well within the concept of the movie.

With the exception of Lundgren the acting is laughably bad. The first scene in the movie is a shot of Los Angeles in the year 2204. It’s a fiery wasteland with bodies sprawled all over the streets. There is an opening narrator describing what has happened to the world in the most obvious script reading voice you could imagine. At one point in the narration it almost sounds like he ran out of breath. The next scene is a council meeting where they are briefing each other on the upcoming time traveling mission. All the characters speak in a deep voice and enunciate every syllable spoken out of their mouths.  Same with the crew of the Nathaniel Palmer. There were so many bad accents I couldn’t figure out what nationality they were from. Every person on the ship was a trope from the concerned scientist to the greedy businessman who funded the expedition. I have to give the award for Best Worst Actor goes to Joey Sagal who plays Schrader. Schrader is a businessman who funds their mission and expects to obtain a profit from their discovery. Sagal gives an angry, agitated and annoyed deadpan delivery of every line. His acting reminds me of Christian Bale’s Batman.

Going back to Dolph Lundgren’s performance, I think he did the best he could with the material and the supporting cast he was given. From his body language and tone of his speaking I could tell that he was depressed. I’m sure he was asking himself, “How did I end up in this mess?” He maintains a sense of professionalism in this movie as an experienced actor would do. The supporting cast in this film could’ve taken a lesson from Lundgren about performing.

I believe this film encompasses the theme of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review”. It’s a movie that is bad, but you can have fun watching it. You have to go into this movie with very low expectations. If you go into it with high expectations you’re going to turn it off within the first ten minutes. If you have friends over and are extremely bored and have nothing to watch, pick up “Retrograde,” share a bowl of popcorn and prepare to laugh at its goofiness.

TRIVIA

  • Filmed in only eighteen days, edited in two and half weeks and mixed in one day.

 

  • The futuristic suits the time travelers wear are actually Hein Gericke leather motorcycle pants and jackets. You can see the Hein Gericke logo on the back and on the neck line.

 

  • Gary Daniels was initially cast in the role of the lead villain, but was downgraded at the request of Dolph Lundgren.

 

AUDIO CLIPS