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FOREIGNER, THE
Reviewed March 5th, 2003 by David Nusair

 

It was inevitable, but it appears as though Steven Seagal has finally gone the Van Damme route. Instead of praying for sidekick roles in lame theatrical action flicks (Half Past Dead, anyone?), Seagalís begun appearing in leading roles in straight-to-video productions Ė beginning with The Foreigner. But the low-budget atmosphere isnít even the biggest problem here; no, what sinks The Foreigner is the lack of action and impossibly complicated storyline.

Seagal stars as Jonathan Cold (no, really), an ex-CIA operative who now works as an independent contractor of sorts. Though heís looking to quit the business, heís coerced into taking one last gig involving the delivery of an unknown item. Not surprisingly, seeing that the object makes it to where itís going turns out to be slightly more difficult than Cold anticipated.

The Foreigner is saddled with the same problem that plagued the last Van Damme flick, Derailed Ė a director that hasnít got a clue how to properly shoot an action sequence. Every single scene that involves action invariably winds up a mess of slow-motion and over-the-top camera work. Director Michael Oblowitz (who, by the way, is helming Seagalís next straight-to-video effort, Out for a Kill Ė some kind of bizarre amalgam of Out For Justice and Hard to Kill, no doubt) seems to be under the impression that if he piles on the style during such sequences, itíll become all-the-more exciting. But all he winds up doing is ruining the one aspect of the film that should have been enjoyable. Trying to discern just whatís happening during fight scenes becomes a challenge, when it shouldíve been a welcome respite from the convoluted storyline.

Darren O. Campbellís script seems to be striving for an international espionage sort of vibe, but it simply does not work. Perhaps his screenplay was tinkered with after Seagal was cast Ė the action scenes do seem somewhat out of place Ė but even if that is the case, the rest of the film is so ludicrous and hard-to-follow that it really doesnít matter if the violence had been excised. An action movie should be, above all, fun Ė and The Foreigner certainly isnít that.

As for Seagal, he seems to have gotten so large that stunt doubles are needed for some of the more complicated fight sequences. Still, it was undeniably a kick watching him do what he does best, and the film even allows him the chance to break someoneís arm in half (an old school move heís been employing since the very beginning). But the man seriously needs to lose some weight Ė not to mention abandon this silly pose, involving clasping both his hands in front of him, that heís adopted as of late Ė because heís certainly not talented enough to divert from this genre.

Audio: The Foreigner is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack, and itís decent (but nothing special). The surrounds come alive during the few fight scenes, and theyíre put to good use when stuff blows up, but otherwise this is a fairly standard track. There are certain points where the whole thing sounds a little too artificial, but thatís most likely due to work done at the mixing stage.

Video: This anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is acceptable, but not great. Right from the opening studio logo, there are instances of film-related artifacts (specks and the like). Not a good sign. Given that this is such a new film, this transfer really should have been better.

Extras: Aside from some trailers (The Foreigner, xXx, etc.), nothing.

Conclusion: As far as Steven Seagal flicks go, this one is particularly bad.

 

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