Reviewed by

Christopher Armsted

‘Urban Justice’, film number 5,698 on aging action star Steven Seagal’s resume, and that’s the number for this year alone, is a very important film in the legacy of Mr. Seagal.  In ‘Urban Justice’ Seagal plays a lone, ass kicking dude who is damn near invincible, squints, mumbles and mows down hordes villains and flows crappy one-liners.  You may read that and ask ‘what’s so important about that?  You’ve just described every Steven Seagal film ever made?’  Ah yes I have, but in ‘Urban Justice’ Stevie is out to avenge the death of his police officer son.  Not some twelve year old adolescent, but a grown man with a wife and a house.  They could have given his son Max (Corey Hart) a child but then that would made have made Seagal's character of  Simon a grandfather, and Steve probably isn’t ready to go quite THAT far yet, but this is landmark in that Seagal in now acknowledging that he is getting older.  And though he is still virtually unstoppable in this film, he does get shot once and even blacks out.  This is progress friends and 2008 holds that the forty or so movies he will make next year will better than the fifty or so he has or is in the process of making this year.

So as we have established that Max Bollister is a cop who is riding around town taking pictures.  Why is he doing this?  We don’t know.  But he catches a couple of cops ripping off a few drug dealers on his Olympus.  Later that day Max gets a call at home to meet some dude late at night.  Max doesn’t find it strange that earlier that day he snapped photos of dirty cops, dirty cops saw him snapping photos, Max saw dirty cops seeing him, and yet he still goes out late at night alone and gets gunned down drive by style for his foolishness.  Seems like there’s a gang war going in Los Angeles between the East side gang lead by one Armand Tucker (Eddie Griffin), and the Barrio boyz – or something, led by one Chivo (The ubiquitous Danny Trejo).  Max’s super badass dad Simon, of unknown secret kick ass origins, decides to take up residence in the hood and is going to beat up, shoot, maim and kill as many minorities as he has to, to find out who killed his son.  And quite honestly, that’s pretty much it.

To say that this is Steven Segal’s best film since ‘Executive Decision’, which was really just a film Seagal was in and not a Steven Seagal film, might not mean much, but I hold that it is still true.  No, in a career reaching its twentieth year Seagal still has yet to actually play a character.  No, I can’t tell you what colors his eyes are through his constant squinting.  No, he doesn’t seem even remotely interested in dropping a few pounds, and yes, with each successive the film the camera moves closer and closer in the fight scenes to further perpetuate the illusion that Steve is still capable of severely busting up a room full thugs.  But ‘Urban Justice’ does have some good things working for it.  Director Don E. Fauntleroy, despite the fact that I’m sure the man is close to sixty years old, is getting better as a director and I’m almost finally ready to expunge the horror that was ‘Lightspeed’ from his resume.  Almost.  Fauntleroy has completely stopped fighting the ludicrousness that is a Steven Seagal film and now simply rolls with the flow.  Keep it moving, keep the action going, keep Steven’s dialog at a minimum, peppering it with plenty of MF’s and tough guy lines, and find the absolute juiciest blood squibs on the market and put them to good use.  When dudes get shot in this film they literally exploded with blood. 

Eddie Griffin was COMPLETELY over the top with what I’m certain is his first (and probably last) bad guy role as Armand Tucker.  Eddie was slapping people, shooting ho’s (I ain’t shot a ho all week!), and going off on his typical improvised tangents in creating one of the least intimidating bad guys in recent memory.  Carmen Serrano gets the nod as this film’s prerequisite ‘hot woman of color’ that you will almost always find at least one of in any Steven Seagal film.  She also gets to shriek a typical movie line to Seagal ‘You’re as bad as they are!’  To which Seagal mumbles atypically, ‘No, I’m a helluva a lot worse’. Awesome. 

Let’s say you and your gang of fifty is saddled with the unenviable task of killing Seagal in his motel room.  Let’s say the first twenty run through the front door of this room with guns cocked and each one gets systematically mowed down as he enters the room.  As that 21st guy, are you going through that door too?   Why yes you are!  Awesome.  As a matter of fact, Seagal killed more black people in this movie than hurricane Katrina.  Now before you go all ‘Jenna Six’ on Seagal over here, he also beat the hell out of a quartet of skinheads too just keep things equal.  Skinheads who say stuff like ‘Get out of here White Boy!(?).  Awesome.

‘Urban Justice’ is typical Seagal, but since the low point that was ‘Attack Force’ I am not ashamed to say that the two that followed that awful tragedy, ‘Flight of Fury’ and this film, did manage to entertain.  It is a beautiful thing to watch the ‘growth’ of a legend.  So to speak.

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