My journey into the heart of darkness that is Seagalogy continued yesterday, with a film that makes Attack Force look like an unqualified masterpiece. That film my friends was Ticker. A film dealing largely with the subject of bombs . . . an appropriate metaphor for this one unfortunately. Unlike Attack Force which was just absolutely crazy from the word go (its saving grace), Ticker is lifeless with a vengeance. And worse still, it relegates Seagal to a supporting role a la Executive Decision. Yes, it’s the first film that I could actually see not recommending . . . almost. It pulls out an 11th hour save in its final 10 minutes that unfortunately makes it required viewing for budding Seagalogists. Here’s the lowdown . . .
Tom Sizemore stars as San Francisco Detective Frank Nettles, a vice cop who’s dealing with the loss of his wife and son (killed by an unexplained/unrelated to the main plot car bomb). When his partner “Fuzzy” (played by rapper Nas) is killed by a mad Irish bomber (Dennis Hopper), Sizemore turns to the bomb squad for help. The leader of the bomb squad is one Frank Glass (Mr. Steven Seagal), an unorthodox officer given to Zen explanations of his profession (e.g. he insists on referring to bombs as devices or tickers to avoid any negative connotations). Together the two attempt to track down Hopper and his crew using information from a captured accomplice (Jaime Pressly), requisite cop instincts, and Seagal’s wily know-how from his days as a former Department of Defense operative (oh you knew that was coming : ) Can they stop Hopper before he lays waste to the entire city?!?!
Basically what we have here is a REALLY boring, bad rip-off of the 1994 Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee Jones film Blown Away (which itself wasn’t all that hot to begin with). Dennis Hopper plays the maniacal Irish bomber in place of Tommy Lee Jones (slipping in and out of the Irish accent left and right), and Sizemore/Seagal team up in place of Bridges. Unfortunately for Ticker it has about 1/10th the budget of Blown Away (which at least had some interesting action sequences), Hopper (a sometimes great villain) really phones in his performance, Sizemore is Sizemore, and Seagal isn’t in it enough (but when he’s on it’s pure gold). Oh, and it’s directed by Albert Pyun, the mastermind behind such horrors as Cyborg, Nemesis, and Captain America (not the Reb Brown one). Need I say more.
The film opens with a big action sequence in which the bomb squad is called in to assist with a hostage crisis at a mansion. Seagal and team arrive by chopper, and infiltrate the mansion only to discover they’ve been duped with a decoy bomb (the real one subsequently explodes killing hostages and captors alike). As per custom with Seagal DTV films, he is doubled entirely for this opening sequence. You only see his head as he looks around – literally just his head. When he’s defusing the decoy bomb it cuts from head to double. If he’s walking down a corridor or getting off the helicopter it’s a double. I went back and reread the chapter in Vern’s book on this one, and it helped to explain why he’s doubled so much in this opening sequence – everything (save for Seagal’s head) is culled from another movie. That’s right, the entirety of footage is from a film that is not Ticker!! (Note: This isn’t a first as an armored truck chase sequence in the Seagal film Today You Die was lifted entirely from a Peter Weller/Dennis Hopper film). Hey, why shoot a new action sequence when you can steal a perfectly good one from another terrible film? Bravo Mr. Pyun.
After this breathtaking opening, we are then introduced to Sizemore and Nas as your typical buddy cop team. Nas does have a preoccupation with lecturing Sizemore on letting go of his demons however. Even after he’s shot and dying only a few minutes into the picture (which is pretty amazing given that he’s billed above Seagal), he uses his final breaths to remind Sizemore to let go of his demons. What a guy. Alas Sizemore not only doesn’t take this advice, but allows Nas’s death to provide him with even more demons (the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head yet again). Needless to say after his partner’s untimely demise Sizemore, not unlike Seagal himself, is out for justice. Unfortunately his department isn’t big on revenge, and gives him grief about participating in the investigation. Which is just fine since we all know he can’t solve the crime until he’s taken off the case. And it helps that Seagal’s Zen bomb squad leader isn’t a stickler for protocol, as he welcomes Sizemore with open arms and drops fortune cookie advice on him throughout the rest of the film during his sporadic appearances.
And really this is where Ticker runs into trouble. If Attack Force didn’t have enough Seagal, then Ticker takes it to an almost Where’s Waldo level. What you get is a lot of Sizemore acting troubled and Hopper chewing some scenery, peppered with a 3-minute or so reminder here and there that Seagal is also in the film. And most of those reminders are not outright jewels. There’s one interesting scene where Seagal teaches Sizemore how to fix his watch which is pretty amusing, but most of the rest feature Seagal operating a police robot or defusing a fake-looking bomb (which believe me never produces an ounce of tension). The one shining exception to this rule is the 10-minute or so climax where Sizemore and Seagal have to stop two bombs at City Hall. Seagal does a little aikido (even throws a guy through a window), but the real winner is when he has to talk Sizemore through defusing a bomb on his own. Here is Seagal’s amazing pep talk to Sizemore (who is nervous about his odds of succeeding):
“Now listen to me man you’re just gonna hafta go beyond hope and fear, don’t get attached to living or dying, or anything else, and understand that death is just another stage on the playground. You have to be able to feel it. And the way you’ll be able to learn how to feel is by coming to know the nature of your mind. And even if you do go today you’ll be back. So if you’re not attached to living or dying, you have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to fear you’re gonna calm down and just listen to me, ‘cause I’m gonna guide you through this. All right?”
Not quite on the level of the "superior attitude" speech from Hard to Kill, but pretty great nonetheless. It’s the few moments like that which alas make this one a must see. In fact I would like to see a standalone Frank Glass film (what a great name for a bomb squad leader), as he really is a classic Seagal character. It’s just a shame that Ticker doesn’t give you nearly enough of him. Instead we have to spend WAY too much time with Sizemore and his demons, Hopper and his on again/off again Irish accent, and a string of uninspired (or completely lifted) action sequences. If there’s a Ticker 2 where Seagal isn’t given the “and” credit, but rather top billing, count me in. Otherwise, I don’t see myself revisiting this one anytime soon. Next up on my viewing list is Mercenary for Justice (only 4 more DTV films to go). Not sure what to expect, but as it pays tribute to a classic Seagal title I have a little more hope than is probably warranted going in. We shall see!