Above The Law (1988)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/2/00
Director: Andrew Davis
Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone

Upon the recommendation of a generally reliable source, I decided to check out the film debut of aikido expert Steven Seagal. In it, Seagal plays a hard-ass cop named Nico Toscani with a shady CIA background. He stumbles onto an assassination plot set up by his old CIA buddies, and from there on out his ass is in the fire. Fortunately, he's got backup in the form of feisty and sexy Delores Jackson (Pam Grier). Jackson researches the case while Nico kills and maims everyone in his way. This is an unassuming and entertaining action pic with a moderate budget, and a perfect vehicle for Seagal's fledgling action persona. Much like Bruce Willis's John McClane character, Seagal brings a real down-to-earth honesty to the screen. We don't have to like him, but we understand him, we feel for him, and we ultimately believe in him. Like many actors who have not yet been blinded by success, you can see how genuine, and how scared, he really is. A young and pretty Sharon Stone also shows up in a small part as Nico's wife, and her performance lends even more credibility to the film and in particular, Nico's character. Unfortunately, for an action film it's a little slow and there's not nearly enough hand-to-hand combat on display for my tastes. However, the three or four short skirmishes that Seagal gets into are surprisingly well filmed and edited. He must have taken some tips from his Hong Kong counterparts. The only other complaint I have about the film is that Steven Seagal runs like a sissy. And the hair. I can't stand the hair. Otherwise, it's pretty good stuff.