There are some films for which it’s entirely possible to write a fairly accurate review before watching. It is not unfair to say that any new Steven Seagal movie will sit quite snugly into that category. Gone are the days when the ripped Aikido master drop-kicked and throat-slashed his way through boatloads of Russian baddies, now largely preferring non-combat middle management roles within his own renegade crime fighting units. The only twist in The Asian Connection is, hold on to your hats guys and gals, that this time Seagal is the baddie.
Small time bank robber’s Jack (Edward Lee) and Sam (Gibson) accidentally pilfer cash from local crime lord Gan Sirankiri (Seagal) and are told in no uncertain terms that to make amends they must execute a number of heists on his behalf, sharing the proceeds with the firm. Jack’s new girlfriend Avalon (Pubear) discovers what he is caught up in and surprisingly accepts the situation on the basis that it will soon all be over and they will live happily ever after on the ill-gotten gains. Head minion Niran (Boonthenakit) has his own plans however and starts to direct the robberies to his own ends, risking the wrath of his boss while making sure that our heroes debt is never fully repaid.
The acting and dialogue is of pure sixth-form drama production quality. Gibson’s accent is a baffling jumble of English, Australian and Chim-Chimminy-era Van Dyke. Edward Lee seems to have based Jack on a sweary version of Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman without the charm. Seagal is hardly in the movie at all, occasionally exposing his nostrils above water like a retired Kung Fu Hippo to deliver nebulous orders to the plagiaristic collection of oriental minions while stroking his wordless leather-clad girlfriend like a cherished pet gimp.
Jack consistently finds himself in situations where a quick conversation or sit-down would possibly settle all matters for good, yet an unnecessary ‘Fuck You’ and we’re all back to fighting mode again. The audiences anguished cries of ‘Why didn’t you just tell Seagal about that, you’d be off the hook?’ and ‘Just put the gun down, he’s offering you a way out’ are abound and get rather frustrating before the realisation dawns that the movie would actually be over at that point and it’s only ten minutes in. Narrative arcs commonly require more than one item of Y datum and generally don’t just contain “Shouts ‘Fuck You’ loudly” but then that’s why Seagal and Kubrick rarely co-authored movies.
The last twenty minutes is foot-to-the-floor unbridled bunkum with about the most unrealistic, unimaginable set of circumstances arising, but at least Seagal picks a gun up for a bit. He doesn’t actually stand up but does move his arms in a semi-aggressive manner and swear, which is as close to whoop-ass he’s going to manage these days.
It feels that Seagal deserves to be a verb; to lend its name to something that wouldn’t otherwise get financed due to being derivative of every low budget action movie from the 1980s. Ah, but hang on, that’s to Vin Diesel isn’t it?
The Asian Connection is basically rubbish but then it achieves exactly what it sets out to accomplish. If you’re anticipating complex Russian art-house Sci-fi then more fool you for watching it. It is surprising there’s still an audience out there for this type of thing but if low-budget, low-attention, out-dated action movies are your thing then The Asian Connection will quite gladly pass ninety minutes of your day.
2 / 5
Dir: Daniel Zirilli
Scr: D. Glase Lomond
Cast: John Edward Lee, Byron Gibson, Pim Bubear, Sahajak Boonthenakit, Steven Seagal
Prd: Damiano Tucci
DOP: Orlando Herrera
Music: Ali Halnwein
Run Time: 90 Minutes
The Asian Connection is available on DVD from 4th July