DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

ABOVE THE LAW (director/writer: Andrew Davis; screenwriter: Steven Pressfield/Ronald Shusett/John Eskow/story by Andrew Davis and Steven Seagal; cinematographer: Robert Steadman; editor: Michael Brown; music: David Frank; cast: Steven Seagal (Nico Toscani), Pam Grier (Delores Jackson), Sharon Stone (Sara), Joe D. Lauk (Senator Ernest Harrison), Daniel Faraldo (Salvano), Henry Silva (Zagon),  Ronnie Barron (Bartender), Michael Rooker (); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew Davis/Steven Seagal; Warner Brothers; 1988)

"A jejune actioner that has pretensions of making a political statement about such things as drugs, smuggling and illegals."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Andrew Davis ("The Guardian"/"Code of Silence"/"Stony Island") helms this extremely violent thriller, a jejune actioner that has pretensions of making a political statement about such things as drugs, smuggling and illegals. The no-nonsense, Sicilian born, brooding, Nam vet, and ex-CIA man Nico Toscani (Steven Seagal, his acting debut) is seen 15 years after quitting the CIA as an aikido-chopping cop on a one man crusade to clean up the Windy City. He partners with the always likable Pam Grier, who plays the supportive cop Delores Jackson. She spends most of her screen time in a coma.

It's based on a ridiculous story by Andrew Davis and Steven Seagal. The writers include Davis, Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett and John Eskow. They don't hold back tagging the CIA as the bad guys on the 'war on drugs.'

While Seagal takes down a bunch of street thugs by martial-arts kicks and by crushing them with his bare hands, the story then turns its attention to an assassination plot against the US senator (Joe D. Lauk) who threatens to expose a drug network infiltrating Central America and bringing drugs into Chicago. The cartel is led by former CIA operatives the hero cop knew as an agent, when they had the power to thwart his accusations.

Henry Silva is entertaining as the villain. He's a creepy psychopath sadist CIA operative, who gets pleasure in torturing those he questions while drugged-out on heroin. Sharon Stone has a thankless small vacuous part playing Seagal's emotional wife.

That the wooden-acting hero action cop uncovers dirty work by the CIA and does it by not following the book, gives this unoriginal film (the hero merely a knockoff of former movie heroes like Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne) a decided anti-establishment stand. But that challenging stance of calling out the CIA as above the law is not enough to make this questionable film any more appealing than all the other gratuitously violent films that try to bolster its box office in such tawdry ways.

REVIEWED ON 4/8/2015       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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