Well, at least before he got fat anyway...
OK that was a cheap shot, but it is a fairly common statement among action aficionados that Seagal's waistline expanded as his movie budgets go smaller. He certainly hasn't lost any of his direct approach to martial arts action, but perhaps physically he hasn't aged quite as well as Van Damme or Lundgren and his DTV actioners are weaker than before. No matter, because we are still left with a wealth of 80s and 90s action classics that offer up solid proof that when it came to slick and spare hard-hitting mayhem, no-one could beat the whispering fists and constant on-screen invulnerability of Steven Frederic Seagal - the Clint Eastwood of martial arts cinema.
The two films I chose to comment on for this article are not even my favourite of Segal's movies (I hold a very special place in my heart for the Under Siege movies), but these are two of the best examples of Seagal's filmic style before he got the chance to play on a naval battleship. It must not be forgotten that until he got too big for his own boots with the environmental actioner On Deadly Ground (from where his star began to wane), every one of Seagal's movies turned a substantial profit - distributors Warner Brothers played it very smart when they unleashed this lethal force onto our screens!
Nico/Above The Law (1988)
"You guys think you're above the law... Well you ain't above mine."
Tagline: "He's a cop who believes that no-one is above the law..."
Plot: Italian American former CIA agent turned cop (with strong links to the Mafia) investigates drugs, corruption and illeagal arms trading on the mean streets of Chicago, using lethal Aikido skills learned as a young man in Japan...
END CREDITS POWER BALLAD: None - a poor show indeed.
(Somebody get Peter Cetera on the line!)
Out For Justice (1991)
"Yeah, but Richie ain't here! Know why? 'Cause he's a chicken-shit fuckin' pussy asshole!"
Tagline: "He's a cop. It's a dirty job... But somebody's got to take out the garbage."
Plot: Italian-American cop (with strong links to the Mafia) investigates murder, corruption and animal cruelty on the mean streets of New York, using lethal Aikido skills that were probably learned as a young man in Japan...
END CREDITS POWER BALLAD: Don't Stand In My Way (Gregg Allman)
(Seagal makes up for no power ballad in Nico by co-writing and co-producing this country-rock masterpiece - what a guy!)