Thursday, December 17, 2009

Out of Reach (2004) - by Mark Oswald

In Out of Reach, Steven Seagal plays Ex-CSA, and apparently psychic animal rescuer, William Lansing (more on that psychic part later). For what must be some time, he has been corresponding back and forth with a European orphan girl named Irena Morawska. He sends her Indian friendship bracelets and puzzles and tells her of his days wandering through the woods in leather trench coats, looking for injured wildlife. She tells him all about living in an orphanage. They are Pen Pals…and very close ones at that.

Alright, I have to preface something here before I go on. I truly am a Seagal fan and have enjoyed his older films since I was a kid, but I’ve never had any interest in checking out his later films beyond Fire Down Below (1997). What changed this was the authoring of a little book entitled, “Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal” by Aint it Cool News contributor and self-styled “Outlaw Film Critic”, Vern. There was just something very appealing about a person dedicating a lengthy amount of time to the works of the often-mocked Steven Seagal. I do understand the criticism of Seagal’s films and I have often been a part of it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what the guy has to offer. I even think that in his earlier films, his acting was somewhat dynamic; Especially when he utilized an absurdly over-the-top Brooklyn accent in Out for Justice. Sure it was ridiculous, but I definitely think it added something to the picture beyond pure silliness. So anyway, since I bought a copy of Seagalogy, I’ve been making sure to watch all of the films I’d never seen before reading their respective chapters in the book. It’s certainly been rough sitting through some of the later pictures, but following them up with the chapters has been the light at the end of the tunnel.

One such viewing was of Out of Reach and I have to say it’s one of the more incompetent Seagal pictures I’ve seen lately. Towards the beginning, a former associate of Seagal’s, Agent Shepherd, shows up while he is eating lunch at a local establishment. According to Shepherd, Seagal has saved his life more than once in the past, but it seems something happened since then because Seagal is reluctant to talk much to him or accept a new assignment. Shepherd and other government goons “surprise” Seagal at his home, where they proceed to get their asses handed to them in typical Seagalian fashion.

Now these men aren’t the villains of the picture, although they do join up with the main bad guy later on for reasons I honestly don’t believe were ever explained. Hmm…yeah I guess that does make them villains. I just wouldn’t refer to them as main. The actual main a-hole here is a familiar face if you are an action movie aficionado like myself. His name is Matt Schulze and played the central baddie in The Transporter, apparently named Wall Street. I always referred to him as The Creep, since he was, but whatever. Schulze plays Faisal essentially the same way in this movie accept now he is sporting slicked-back blonde hair, looking more like a young Don Johnson/George Michael half-breed than anything else.
His main offence in the film is trafficking young girls via the Internet. It’s never fully explained what they are specifically being trafficked for, but we must assume it’s something bad. Not that trafficking humans can ever be good, but…yeah. He of course gets his most recent batch of little ladies from you guessed it, the orphanage where Seagal’s star-crossed puzzle-whiz is staying. Now I said I’d explain the whole possibly psychic aspect of Seagal’s character, and so here we go. The reason I make this assumption is that in his most recent letter from Irena, she tells him how she will soon be too old to stay at the orphanage anymore. Shortly after this he goes to the post office to pick up his mail, dressed in a fur coat and sporting a 5 o’clock shadow while referring to himself as “Mr. De la Croix”. You see he’s got a lot of aliases in this movie, which is fine and all but why would he use a semi-disguise like this to pick up his mail that is clearly addressed to “William Lansing” and not “Mr. De la Croix”, and the post master has no problem handing it over. Sorry for rambling, but come on. So ok, Seagal gets this response letter from the school saying that Irena can no longer be reached there. Now wouldn’t most people assume that her previously saying that she wouldn’t be staying there much longer, and then her not being reachable there mean that she probably just moved out? Well maybe, but as you’re all well aware, Steven Seagal is not most people.

Other instances of psychic activity include a voice over by Irena which indicated that she is somewhere without writing utilities, being cared for by men she is suspicious of. This is all played over a shot of Seagal riding in a car, nodding along as if he is hearing every word. It might explain how he always knows where to go and where to look for her, but other than being a bizarre plot device, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It seems our requisite villain, Faisal, has psychic powers too, albeit not as impressive as Seagal’s, but still admirable. He somehow knows that the person who is causing him heaps of trouble in his operation is an American Ex-CSA animal enthusiast, even though he isn’t ever given any specific reason to jump to such a ballsy conclusion. Both characters may even have some sort of psychic link to each other. After all, they do share another possible link in their frequent over-dubbing. Now this may be a bold claim, but I swear to Christ that the voice-work for both characters is done by THE SAME PERSON!!! Now whoever it is does a pretty decent job on Faisal, but he in no way, shape, or form sounds anything like Seagal! This is an immediate distraction in the film because all of Seagal’s letters to Irena are spoken in voice-over. So there you are in the very beginning of the film watching montages of Seagal walking around and writing letters, while hearing a blatantly non-Seagal voice read them aloud. Now the big guy has had some bad voice-over work done for him in his past couple movies, but it’s never been quite this laughable. An extra bit of icing on this cheese-cake is toward the end of the film when Seagal’s yelling is over-dubbed during a gun fight by what I swear was a totally different person than before. This new guy sounds more like someone’s drunk southern uncle and even less like Seagal than the guy who had done the previous dubbing.

Another little oddity in the picture is Seagal using a stunt double for the highly dangerous execution of a somersault. I mean how much effort does it really take to do a somersault? Seagal even did one in his previous film, Belly of the Beast, where the camera was specifically positioned so that the viewer knew it was him doing it. He clearly had a lot more to prove in 2003 than he did in 2004.

All in all, Out of Reach was fairly entertaining for the reasons specified above, but for those unfamiliar to what Seagal is all about, I would definitely recommend his earlier pictures like Above the Law, Marked for Death, or Out for Justice. And yes, most Steven Seagal films have three words and/or syllables.

There’s a lot more I could go into, but this review is long enough already. If you want more insight, check out Vern’s book. While I do consider myself a practicing Seagalogist, that man is the Professor. I would definitely recommend watching the films before reading the chapters, but I understand if you are not up to the task.

Body Count: 12 (kind of low for most action movies)

Broken Limbs: 1 (very low for most Seagal movies)

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