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Should Steven Seagal Stick To Movies?

OMG! OMG! OMG! We’re in a show with Steven Seagal. Breath… Try and look Cool…

You’re probably familiar with the work of Steven Seagal by now; the movie star’s eclectic mix of action roles date back to the 1980s. His parts, up until this point, have only ever seen him on the big screen, but now the pony-tailed purveyor of fisticuffs is bringing his own unique brand of twirly handed drama to TV, with True Justice (debuting on 5USA on Wednesday at 9pm).

Very much like the films in which Seagal generally stars, True Justice is very action-packed. The crime drama follows the work of an undercover police team who kick rump and take names in the badlands of Seattle–yes Seattle, the same city that brought us Frasier, Nirvana and Starbucks skinny lattes. Akido-trained actor Seagal is of course the main attraction, following in the footsteps of other action icons like Chuck Norris (Walker: Texas Ranger) and Don Johnson (Nash Bridges) who successfully swapped the silver screen for the box. So if it worked for them will it work for Seagal? In short, no.

At its heart True Justice is a Frankenstein’s monster of police drama conventions all wrapped up in the trademark brutality of your standard straight-to-DVD Seagal offering. Within minutes of the opening episode we’re bamboozled by a series of cuts, fades and close ups of the city skyline (casual viewers could be fooled into thinking they’ve stumbled across an episode of CSI Seattle). But any such illusions are quickly shattered when Seagal enters the fray to beat the hell out of a small time drug dealer for no apparent reason. It sets the tone for a series that schizophrenically flits from faux investigative action to wrist-breaking beatdowns.

The script–if that’s what you can call it–isn’t much better. Rather than hire a professional screenwriter, it seems the showrunners’ decided to save the pennies for their star’s prayer bead budget by handing a child some crayons and encouraging them to join up the cop show cliches. They’re all there: The newbie who has to prove herself to her streetwise colleagues. Check. The cop getting a divorce because he’s married to his work. Check. A russian mobster. Check. Car chases. Check. Stakeouts. Check. Shootouts. Check. Seagal taming a rattlesnake. Er…Check.

The production values, like Seagal’s character Elijah Kane, aren’t much cop either. Sure they’ve delved into their software package of on screen trickery to snazzily zip us from scene to scene, but it’s all very low budget. And perhaps thanks to its star’s silver screen experience, watches more like a low rent movie than an ongoing series.

Amazingly the show hasn’t been picked up in America yet; there’s even talk that it will be shown as a dozen TV movies rather than a full 13 episode series. It’s easy to see why really. In truth it’s like Seagal never left the silver screen, as True Justice is little more than a series long adaptation of one of the actor’s pound store popcorn munchers. You know the movie by now. Seagal plays a cop / ex-CIA agent / ex-Navy Seal who’s also a martial arts expert / explosives expert / pseudo spiritualist / chef who bends the rules but gets results. And in that regard we wanted to hate it, we really did. Yet there’s something strangely compelling about True Justice.

The series is awful–though, of course, we wouldn’t say that to Seagal’s face–so TV aficionados looking to while away an hour of their evening with a piece of quality programming should look elsewhere. However, if you want to give your higher functions the night off then give it a go. After all, it’s a show that could only be less taxing if it were it shot in the Cayman islands and one which, we suspect, will find a perverse ‘so bad it’s good’ following amongst a proportion of the population.

So should Steven Seagal stick to the movies? Probably, but on the evidence of True Justice it looks like he’s never actually left them.

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