Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Countdown to Seagalogy: Day 2

Four excruciatingly short days left until our massive Seagal tribute! For this second day of the countdown, I thought I’d take a moment to comment on one of the more interesting trademarks of the DTV Seagal era. If you’ve never seen a Seagal DTV era film, perhaps the most jarring thing you’ll notice is how the movies introduce seemingly important plot elements that are dropped almost immediately without explanation. This occurs so frequently that after a while you don’t pay attention to it anymore . . . it becomes part of the charm. However there are a few films that stand out in this regard no matter how many times you’ve seen them, and without question at the top of the list is the 2005 film Today You Die. The film stars Seagal and Treach as fugitives racing to find a stash of stolen loot. Well, that’s sort of a simple interpretation. You see there are no less than 4 separate plots to this film (that I can detect), and it may be that I’m missing some. Here is what you have:

Plot#1: Seagal is a modern day Robin Hood (sort of like the Dukes of Hazzard but not really), who robs criminals and gives the money to the poor.

Plot#2: Seagal’s wife suffers from prophetic dreams, and keeps noticing mystical symbols from the dreams in her daily life.

Plot#3: Seagal is an ex-modern day Robin Hood who attempts to go legit by taking a job with an armored car service run by Kevin Tighe (Road House), who we later surprisingly find out is some sort of voodoo priest who was “born with the devil inside him.”

Plot#4: Seagal is an ex-modern day Robin Hood framed for a heist gone wrong, who has to team up with rapper Treach to find the stolen money in a wacky mismatched buddy comedy.

Seriously, I do think there are other plotlines I’m missing, but you get the idea. I was rewatching Today You Die the other night to get primed for Saturday’s Fantasmo, and I had forgotten just how crazy this one is. The film opens and makes a big deal about the wife’s premonitions, but they are never explained or related to the events that take place. In fact, their presence just serves to muddle the works and suggests that the screenplay must have been significantly reworked. Further adding to that assertion is Kevin Tighe’s character. He’s introduced as sort of a sleazy businessman in an opening scene and then we don’t see him again until the last ten minutes of the film where we find out he’s some sort of voodoo priest! He gives this big villain speech about how he won’t use his powers to kill Seagal as that would be “jejune,” and then just throws some henchmen at Seagal who promptly get shot.

While I would say that the Kevin Tighe/voodoo business is the craziest thing going in the film, the ending is equally puzzling albeit (apparently) voodoo free. The final reel has Seagal drive up to a home for sick children and give a little blond girl a mysterious medallion. This comes out of nowhere. And to make things even nuttier, the policewoman who has been tailing him through the film arrives after Seagal and hugs the girl and tells her a) what a nice medal it is and b) that she’s very lucky. Then Seagal’s wife turns to him and says the little girl is going to be alright. End film.

To be sure there are other movies in the DTV era in which the plot has been reworked, but something about the 11th hour voodoo angle is just beyond the pale. And to follow that with an ending that makes no sense in the context of what we’ve seen for the past 89 minutes evidences a thought process that bears not even a passing resemblance to good judgment. Having said that, I think Today You Die is brilliant entertainment and a lot of fun. The disjointedness of the proceedings contributes to that, but at the heart of the film is the relationship between Seagal and Treach. At the end of the day (you die) that is what makes this one work like gangbusters.

As a side note, one other moment of insanity occurs early in the film. On his first day on the job working at the armored truck company, Seagal finds himself in a high speed chase. When I initially watched Today You Die I was surprised at how impressively mounted the chase sequence was. After watching so many DTV efforts I had become accustomed to a lower standard in terms of big action sequences. Mostly they tended to be of a smaller scale, and often relatively short in length. So to see a full blown spectacle of the type on display in Today You Die was a bit of a shock. But the shock did not stop there. After reading Seagalogy I found out that there was a reason the sequence was so well done – it was actually lifted completely from a Peter Weller/Dennis Hopper film. I would say this was unbelievable, but the entire opening action sequence of Seagal’s Ticker was lifted from another film. By comparison a truck chase doesn’t seem nearly so egregious.

So there’s some observations on Today You Die for your daily dose of Countdown to Seagalogy. As promised, I also mentioned there would be a very special announcement today regarding an Under Siege 2 recipe contest! One of the fun things that Vern points out in Seagalogy is that you can pick out some interesting details by using the pause and zoom buttons on your DVD player. One very fun bit he found was in Under Siege 2. By pausing when Seagal is looking on his PDA, one can clearly see the recipe for Casey Ryback’s Fruit Salad with Crystallized Ginger. So for those of you who are handy in the kitchen like Chief Ryback, Team Fantasmo is challenging you to a cook off! The budding chef with the best tasting fruit salad will receive an exciting prize . . . not to mention the respect of their peers!

Fruit Salad with Crystallized Ginger

2 cups Granny Smith apples
2 cups papaya cubes
1 cup kiwi slices
1-1 ½ cups poppy seed dressing
¼ cup crystallized ginger
1 cup raspberries
¼ cup seedless grapes
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh mint leaves

Mix fruit in large bowl, add dressing. Serve in dessert cups, sprinkling generously with ginger.

Normally I would say don’t tinker in the slightest with Chief Ryback’s directions, but given there will be a hungry crowd you might want to forego the dessert cups in favor of a larger serving dish. However presentation is always important so use your best judgment. May the best chef win! Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of Countdown to Seagalogy where anything can happen and probably will!


andy said...

I think this was also the movie that had a guy crash out of a window, but had completely different clothes on when the camera showed an outside shot of him crashing through. Easter egg genius.

Jim Blanton said...

I believe you're right about that. Truth be told, I've found that Seagal's films (particularly the DTV entries) are a gold mine in terms of Easter eggs. As Vern mentions in his book on the subject, having a pause and zoom button on your DVD remote has opened up a world of hidden treasures!