The Keeper Review

Okay, this has gone on long enough. Steven Seagal ceased to be a legitimate action star somewhere in the 90s. Yet, he persists. Call it pride. Call it obstinate. Call it ignorance. The man just doesn’t realize that he never really had anything to begin with. Under Siege. That’s right. 1992’s mediocre flick aboard a submarine somehow convinced the world this man had potential. Above the Law? Hard to Kill? They were mere trifles. Under Siege began the hideous onslaught of subpar acting, poorly choreographed stunt work, and plots so thin they were envied by Kate Moss for their figure. As Seagal’s career progressed, he’d pop up on the mainstream radar here and there with films like The Glimmer Man (for being so despicably awful), Exit Wounds (for being awful, but with DMX), and then…nothing. Seagal’s career finally realized where it was and resigned to a long string of obscure direct-to-DVD features that only the most faithful Seagal fans can name. The Keeper is one of those films.

The question you should be asking isn’t “How good is it?” but rather “Should it even be?” Now, considering I haven’t seen any of the 26 films (yes, really) Mr. Seagal starred in during the first decade of this millennium, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the man ceased to be a menacing figure and turned into a sad sack with jowls. Let’s look back at the respected heroes in the film tradition with jowls. Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. But he still managed to be kick-ass, touching, and funny. Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Pathetic. And now Seagal, for however long it’s been now.

But wait, surely if he’s still engaging in new action films despite his “let go” figure, Seagal must be paying closer attention to details like plot, dialogue, or acting? No such luck. The plot is essentially ripped off from Man on Fire, except Seagal has been cut from the force for an injury (not alcoholism), the girl he’s protecting is in her 20s, and Seagal can’t manage street talk anywhere near as well as Denzel Washington. Already the film suffers horribly in comparison. Hearing Seagal attempt to speak in anything resembling gangster-talk is nauseating. You can tell he’s forcing it, and he knows it. Using “shit” as a substitute for “stuff”, “things” or “that”, Seagal sounds about as natural as Borat singing the national anthem. It never works for anything other than a laugh. To make matters worse, Seagal is playing a beat-weary ex-cop whose ex-partner betrayed him for the score from a drug bust, thus his role necessitates a gross misuse of street lingo. It’s just awful.

For the film’s meager 94-minute runtime, not much ever really happens. It’s a strange concept for a Seagal film, because if it’s not a solid spectacle of martial artistry, explosions, and stunts then who’s the target market. His entire fanbase exists because he consistently provides mindless films with non-stop action. What good does stepping back from that recipe do? He can’t act, so there’s no point in attempting to craft a drama. It’s not an original story (in any way shape or form, Man on Fire is just the most obvious victim), so why bother playing out a well-worn concept with no new panache? The Keeper has no redeeming value. There’s no subtle comedy, decent characterization, good acting or writing. It’s a stinker that even fans are going to be hard-pressed to enjoy.

Yet, the Seagal faithful, used to fielding disparaging remarks about their idolized action guru with barbs like “You just don’t get it!”, will still circle around and marvel at Seagal’s clearly aged skills with all the same reverence as when he and Tommy Lee Jones were squaring off. The talent is long gone. Seagal has become little more than a ghost of something once watchable with tongue-in-cheek amusement.

DVD Bonus Features

None. Thank God.


"The Keeper" is on sale January 12, 2010 and is rated R. Action. Directed by Keoni Waxman. Written by Paul A. Birkett. Starring Jessica Williams, Steven Seagal, Luce Rains.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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