October 9, 2008

DVD Review: Kill Switch

How do you make a serial killer movie more interesting? Easy, add a second serial killer. It works so well for superhero movies, just take a look at Batman & Robin, add more villains and you add more fun. That is what happens on this bland little direct-to-video flick. We've already seen a ton of movies where a single serial killer is the focus, and writer Steven Seagal (yep, same) felt the need to add a little extra spice to his Kill Switch tale. With one serial killer, there is only one way to go with the story, and I assume that with the script part way complete it was realized that it was not going to be long enough to be a feature, so a quick re-write later we have two serial killers and a sufficiently lengthy screenplay. The only thing left is to make Steven a credible bad ass detective, a feat of some magnitude of late.

Let me first say: "Mr. Seagal, what happened? Where did you go? What have you become?" Seriously, I know its been awhile since I dove headlong into a Seagal film, but this really takes the cake. Earlier this year Seagal was seen spoofing his image in The Onion Movie, where he was featured in a trailer within the movie for an action flick called Cock Puncher. Now there is an idea, that would make a killer full length. Looking back, it seems like the moment he took a supporting role (in 1996's Executive Decision) his career took a downturn until it landed in the land of direct to video.

Back to the movie at hand.

Kill Switch (aka A Higher Form of Learning) is hard to watch. The first twenty minutes or so are excruciating as the the movie searches for itself, slowly finding its pace and groove. Too bad it was too little too late. By the the time the plot catches its stride I am beyond caring. Though, I have to admit, while it is definitely by the numbers, it is not wholly terrible, just overbearingly bland.

As the movie opens we get flashes of a young Jacob King (Seagal) and his brother, it is a birthday party, we see the brothers amongst some trees and then one is dead, his throat cut. Transition to the present, a woman is laying on the ground, a bomb wired into her chest. King leans over, tells her it will be all right and proceeds to go into a nearby apartment, find the bomber and beat the truth out of him. This action typifies the legend of Jacob King, brutal and efficient in getting to the heart of the matter. Granted, his violent methods would surely result in all of his cases being thrown out of court and his badge taken away, but so what, this is a movie.

King's violent methods serve him well as the plot progresses. This is only enforced by the numerous side characters who often comment on how great King is. The lone voice of opposition comes from Agent Frankie Miller (Holly Dignard), brought in to "observe" and be the outsider voice of opposition to King's fame. The two both work the case until solved, and if you don't think the bad guys will get it in the end, you need to watch more of these types of movies.

I do have to say something about the ending, it is a giant "what the....?" moment. With the case solved, we watch Jacob go to a home, enter to find a blonde and two children. They speak to each other in Russian, he gives them presents, they call him Papa, then the woman takes him upstairs and disrobes, he smiles and closes the door. Sorry if that spoiled it for you, but believe me when I say it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Who knew he spoke Russian or had kids? It feels like a leftover from another movie.

The main attraction here is Steven Seagal, and he is nothing if not captivating on the screen. What makes this role different from so many of his other performances is the introduction of a new voice. Picture Seagal's hushed whisper delivered in the worst Creole accent you've ever heard. I literally laughed out loud when I first heard that voice and realized where it was coming from. Now, Seagal has always been known for his fighting ability, his expertise in aikido and kendo are well known, however, he is not terribly adept at pulling them off in his current physical condition. Many of his fight scenes are shot from behind, in far profile, or in shadows to try and disguise the considerably lighter stunt double. When you do see him, it is usually his head and shoulders with a scrunched up face as he waves his arms in front of himself. Not very good if you ask me. This comes from a guy who loves his older films like Marked for Death, Out for Justice, Hard to Kill, and Under Siege.

On top of his legendary performance, this Jeff King helmed feature suffers from an editor who clearly loves his job and will take every opportunity to cut that he can. Witness the first fight between Seagal and the mad bomber, everything is chopped up and jumpy, if this was VHS you would likely check the tracking. Even when it isn't called for, not that it ever really is, there are little speed ups and jump cuts all over this film. Be on the lookout for the safety of your eyes. I would suggest making it a drinking game, but you would likely die of alcohol poisoning before you get halfway through.

Audio/Video. Tech specs are decent, although the image seemed to be overly dark at times. Besides that, there is little to complain about, no defects or other image anomalies. The dialogue is always clear, so long as you discount Seagal's mumbles. Video is anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and audio is Dolby Digital 5.1.

Extras. Nothing, aside from a handful of trailers.

Bottomline. Good for a night of beer, pizza, and a desire for a movie to make fun of. It is also suitable for your average Seagal nut and completist.

Not Recommended.


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