Tuesday, May 28, 2019

General Commander: The Steven Seagal Direct-to-DVD Downward Spiral Continues

Why not just call it “Vague Chief?” It is the name of an international security firm funded by a Russian heiress as a favor to a CIA veteran, but its only business plan is avenging a comrade murdered in the line of duty. Technically, the killer is already dead and his organ and gun-trafficking boss does not even know Jake Alexander and his team exist, but whatever. Steven Seagal needs to keep films flowing into Moscow theaters, so here’s another one. Alas, the once formidable action star continues to show his age in Ross W. Clarkson & Philippe Martinez’s General Commander, which releases today on DVD.

For some reason, Alexander and his ragtag team of agency “assets, not agents” were running a sting on a Southeast Asian organ harvesting operation overseen by Orsini, a Camorra renegade. One of them gets killed (along with all of Orsini’s men), so the CIA station chief pulls the plug. Of course, they all go rogue after telling her to go to Hell in the ludicrous “you-want-the-truth-you-can’t-handle-the-truth” debriefs the film constantly flashes back to.

Katarina Sokolov sets Alexander up in business because he once saved her life and because she finds him attractive (which is so gross). From there, Alexander’s right-hand man Tom Benton just has a few of his seedy contacts set-up some meetings with Orsini’s lieutenants and soon there all shooting at each other on the streets of Manila.

You have to give Van Damme and Dolph Lungren credit for aging gracefully, especially whenever you watch a Seagal movie. They still look credible kicking butt, whereas he does not. His direct-to-DVD movies definitely suffer for it, but they are also several cuts below in terms of screenwriting and production values. Keep in mind co-director Martinez previously helmed Viktor, in which Gerard Depardieu plays an art thief looking to avenge his son, when not resting and recuperating in the safety of Chechnya (seriously).

There are some watchable moments in General Commander, but they have little to do with Seagal. Byron Gibson nearly redeems the film with his high energy turn as Benton and Mica Javier shows a fair amount of action movie potential as Maria Lopez, Alexander’s motorcycle driving associate. Unfortunately, Seagal has lost his mojo, which undermines action journeyman Ron Smoorenberg’s big fight scene against him.

The flashbacks with their unsynchronized audio add an air of pretension that becomes laughable, like Clarkson & Martinez think they are paying homage to Godard and the Nouvelle Vague. Next time they should try to just make a competent action movie instead. We’ve seen worse and Seagal probably has much worse to come, but you are far, far better off watching something with Scott Adkins, Iko Uwais, or Tony Jaa instead. Not recommended, General Commander releases today on DVD.