Much like Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis battled for box office supremacy in the ’80s and ’90s, there seems to be a smaller, yet similar war going on right now for the DVD market. Engaged in this battle are stars that once had their own moments in the sun of big screen fame, including Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme; but if I had to pick the star that is finding the most success as of late, it would probably have to be Steven Seagal. Though currently starring in his own reality series, and keeping busy with a host of other projects (including his music), Seagal has never stopped acting, starring in no less that 21 Direct-to-DVD action films since 2003. Seagal will even make his return to the big screen in 2010, starring as a villain in Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming exploitation flick, Machete, but for those that can’t get enough of the Aikido master, his new film The Keeper offers guilty pleasures aplenty.
Sure, there’s a certain amount of shoddiness that you’re going to have to expect from one of these movies, though it gets better as the film progresses. The Keeper can’t really escape the “look” of one of these DVD actioners, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of time and care went putting together the movie’s screenplay. An opening subplot involving Seagal’s Rolland Sallinger getting betrayed by his partner while undercover seems tacked on and kind of needless when looking at the overall film’s plot. It probably also goes without saying that acting across the board is also kind of lousy.
Oddly enough though, as the second half of the movie kicks in, is able to build a certain amount of charm. The Man on Fire-style plot involving Seagal’s injured warrior protecting an heiress manages to become more engaging while they get to know each other. The movie also manages to throw in some decent action sequences, and Seagal is an actor that seems to at least know how effective his screen presence can be, and he uses it to good effect here. I particularly like an early scene where a man wielding a knife is disarmed easily by Sallinger, which is pretty classic Seagal.
Often times, it seems as if film makers are afraid to really try and make a crowd-pleasing experience with these flicks, not making them too violent or edgy even with an R-rating, perhaps trying make it as easy as possible to sell these movies to cable networks, but it’s nice to see here that the film makers tried for a more exploitative feel to this one. The Keeper has a surprising amount of nudity, and the violence quotient is acceptable throughout. This gives the movie a Grindhouse-motif that serves it pretty well and certainly makes it more entertaining than many of the similar products that have hit shelves in the last few years.
The Keeper isn’t a good movie, but it does seem to know what it is and manages to stay pretty entertaining throughout its second half. While not in the same company as Direct-to-DVD offerings such as the Ving Rhames vehicle The Tournament or Seagal’s own Belly of the Beast, The Keeper offers mild guilty pleasures and never gets as bad as these offerings often can. If you’re a fan of Seagal and have worn out your copies of Above the Law and Out for Justice, you could do better, but you could certainly do a lot worse.
There’s nothing wrong, per se, about the print on this movie. You pretty much know what you’re going to get and it delivers. The colors are pretty strong and the soundtrack is fine. Don’t expect the high def print of WALL-E or The Dark Knight and you should be pretty satisfied.
Not the best Direct-to-DVD action film I’ve ever seen, but The Keeper is mildly entertaining. Seagal does what late career Seagal does, and you pretty much know what you’re in for. This pales in comparison to his ’90s offerings, but if you’re a hardcore Seagal fan you could do worse.
20th Century Fox presents The Keeper. Directed by: Keoni Waxman. Starring: Steven Seagal. Written by: Paul A. Birkett. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: January 19, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Robert Sutton feels the most at home when he's watching some movie scumbag getting blown up, punched in the face, or kung fu'd to death, especially in that order. He's a founding writer for the movies section of Insidepulse.com, featured in his weekly column R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema as well as a frequent reviewer of DVDs and Blu-rays. Also, he's a proud Sony fanboy, loves everything Star Wars and Superman related and hopes to someday be taken seriously by his friends and family.