Blu-ray Review: Maximum Conviction

There’s a certain amount of perverse joy one can have while watching a Steven Seagal film. After his first five films happened to be solid if slightly memorable, Seagal has become the undisputed, undefeated king of bad action films. No one can match him for output or lack of quality … this much isn’t in dispute. He may be an action film star but it’s like saying William Hung is a successful music artist: it comes with a massive precondition to it.

While his film career has been relegated to people blind-buying his movies from the dollar bin at Wal-Mart he’s also creatively enhanced his life story to include stints in both an unnamed Special Forces group of the military, the CIA and a life full of street-fighting amongst the Yakuza and other assorted bad guys in his childhood home of Fullerton, California. The older he gets the more outrageous his antics get, including calling Above the Law semi-autobiographical and implying it had something to do with the Iran-Contra affair in a recent interview with AXS TV’s Michael Schiavello.

I wish I was kidding writing that but then again Seagal being a washed up has been who barely was in the first place discussing his life as a foreign born martial arts instructor would be boring compared to the black ops badass/street-fighting king he’s seemingly invented over the years. He even claimed his film-killing speech in Fire Down Below was similar to An Inconvenient Truth, positing without direct implication that Gore got an Oscar for ripping him off.

One expects that sometime in 2016 he’ll take credit for the bending bullets of Wanted as he’ll call it a “Zen Principle” he was taught by a master in a mystical way and merely lent to the film and comic book. And people will eat it up, too, because for some reason Seagal has that effect on the weak-minded mouth breathers who make up his core audience.

Throw in claiming to teach a handful of professional fighters his “deadly techniques” and a television show dedicated to his unintentionally hilarious antics as a police officer and Seagal certainly has crafted a unique career in Hollywood. Having been credited as a martial arts instructor to Sean Connery, with a high level in Aikido, he has crafted a cult following of people who are into bad action films and dinner theatre level acting meshed with a minstrel show of martial arts he calls his body of work.

Not bad for a guy who was once sued for owning sex slaves.

Now comes his latest direct to video action fare as Seagal teams up with former WWF carnie turned direct to video star Steve Austin for Maximum Conviction, a film trying so badly to be John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 that it makes the Ethan Hawke led remake look like a genuine masterpiece instead. It has a fairly simple premise. Seagal and Austin are in charge of some prisoners as a pair of military guard types. The prison is being closed and they are transferring them off base when they find themselves under siege by a gang wanting to pick up a CIA courier (Steph Song). It’s up to Seagal and Austin to save the day and find out the truth, et al.

This is your typical Seagal DTV action fare as this is essentially a wholesale ripoff of Precinct 13 except … well … without any of the good things that film did. This is a film going through the motions to make a presentable film, which the film barely accomplishes, and becomes one of those films that is so bad you can’t turn away. Seagal has mastered the art of being in films that are such colossal train wrecks that going from merely watching in horror to outright mockery is only a couple minutes away from its opening sequence. It’s a farce but no one seems to have told Seagal, who does his usual loud whispering style of acting.

Seagal is his usual self in the film, his action sequences almost to the point of absurdity these days, and his usual awful acting is disguised by the general poor level of everyone around him. Some actors inspire the best of their compatriots; Seagal has this way of bringing down everyone around him to the point where you hardly notice just how bad of an actor he is. His once vaunted screen presence is all that remains of the intriguing guy who started out his career as a new type of martial arts star. Now it’s almost sad to watch him try and fight like a younger man and have a camera cut around him as its fairly obvious his stunt workers are doing a large volume of work he used to do. Watching the unique camera angles that have to be taken to work around this, and the hard work of the stunt crew he gets to attack, is more fascinating than anything else. It’s interesting to see how hard everyone’s working around Seagal to still maintain that aura that he’s a martial arts movie star.

It’s interesting to see Steve Austin in the film because there’s a magnetic presence to him. He’s still not that good of an actor, mainly taking his pro wrestling persona and working with it, but there’s something to him that makes you think he should be in a better film than this. Granted hopefully it won’t have the convicted domestic abuser slapping around women like he did in The Expendables, of course, but Austin has enough charisma and presence that he stands out even in this film. It’s like he doesn’t belong in it; everyone around him is second rate and Austin feels like a bigger star by comparison.

Recommendation to avoid at all costs.

Not a whole to write about in terms of extras. There’s a Commentary with director Keoni Waxman and co-executive producer Binh Dang plus brief Features about the making of the film. Interviews with Steve Austin and Bren Foster are included as well.

It may not be the worst action film ever made but it’s not far from it.

Anchor Bay presents Maximum Conviction . Starring Steven Seagal, Steve Austin, Michael Pare, Bren Foster, Steph Song. Running Time: 98 minutes. Released November 6, 2012. Available at