Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Asian Connection: Steven Seagal as a Bad Bad Guy

Evidently, the FDIC insurance in Cambodia is rather lacking. Otherwise, drug lord Gan Sirankiri should not be so upset when a couple of expat ne’er-do-wells keep robbing the banks that hold his deposits. Frankly, it looks like the same bank getting held up over and over again, but whatever. Of course, it is no accident they know where his dollars are stashed. They have an inside source, albeit a rather manipulative one in Daniel Zirilli’s bargain basement Asian Connection (trailer here), which is now playing in New York.

Jack Elwell is determined to build a better life for his Thai girlfriend Avalon, so he and his stoner buddy Sam cruise over the border to pull a bank job. Much to their surprise, they hit the jackpot, snagging about two hundred grand from the vault (frankly, it looks more like a supply closet, but whatever). That was Sirankiri’s money and he wants it back. In a case of good news/bad news, Sirankiri’s not-so trusted lieutenant Niran tracks Elwell down and offers him a deal he can’t refuse. From now on, he will instruct Elwell and his partner where and when to hit the banks stuffed with Sirankiri’s money. They keep fifty percent of the take and get to keep living. Obviously, it is not a sustainable existence, but they do not have much choice in the short term.

In some ways, Connection represents fitting karma for Steven Seagal’s disgusting puckering up to Putin in Russian propaganda. However, it is still sad to see Casey Ryback reduced to this. Granted, you do not need a perfect body type to be a martial arts star, as Sammo Hung proves every day. However, Master Sammo has more screen presence than Seagal ever did and he has a huge reservoir of accrued good will (whereas Seagal has pretty much frittered away whatever he had). Regardless, it looks like the mumbling Seagal needs an intervention for an addiction to Nyquil.

Although his name is prominent in the credits, if you blink you might miss Michael Jai White (and he probably hopes you will). Pim Bubear is pleasant enough on-screen, but the film bizarrely makes no use of her martial arts skills. Without question Sahajak Boonthanakit (who was also pretty good in No Escape) best acquits himself as Niran. On the other hand, John Edward Lee is just a creepy excuse for a leading man.

Connection aspires to be pedestrian, but it falls embarrassingly short. The film just looks and sounds cheap. There are a few passable fight sequences, but you will find better in any film chosen at random from Well Go USA’s back catalog. It is also highly problematic to watch our supposed good guys gunning down Cambodian cops, who are legitimately trying to enforce the law. Not recommended, Asian Connection is now playing in New York at the Cinema Village, but probably not for long.