Movie Review: Above the Law (1988)
“He’s a cop who believes no one is above the law.”
Above the Law (1988)
Director: Andrew Davis
Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Henry Silva
Synopsis: A former Vietnam vet, now working as a police officer, uncovers a CIA conspiracy.
Steven Seagal (Executive Decision, Machete) was almost slim in Above the Law, the run-of-the-mill cop thriller which marked his movie debut. He plays Nico, a principled maverick cop who takes no smelly brown stuff from anybody. The story has something about the CIA trying to assassinate a priest who may or may not have told someone about their plans to assassinate some crusading senator who’s been giving them a hard time. It’s on the sort of level you’d expect from a Seagal movie, perhaps a little better than most of his efforts. The direction from Andrew Davis is adequate, but the dialogue is poor.
The trouble with Seagal in most of his films is that he’s usually portrayed as some kind of superhero with no character defects. Here he’s a loving family man, a churchgoer, beloved by everyone apart from his niece, who wants to get it on with a sleazy local gangster, and the police hierarchy for whom he’s too much of a loose cannon. Unless he’s tied to a chair and therefore defenceless, nobody ever gets to land a punch or a kick on those resolutely inexpressive features of his. The fights lack any kind of finesse. When done correctly, martial arts fights are like a kind of intricately choreographed, lightning-speed ballet which can take the viewer’s breath away, but in Seagal’s movies the fights are simply a succession of clumsy villains launching themselves at our hero so that he can sidestep and maim them with one block-like fist.
Pam Grier (Bucktown, Jackie Brown) is Seagal’s sidekick, but she doesn’t have much to do other than repeat his character’s name endlessly and adopt a variety of expressions that range from mild irritation to outright adoration. Nico treats her like a helpless naïf most of the time, which is kind of a waste. The wonderful Henry Silva (Cinderfella, Matchless) is the bad guy, and he’s not given nearly enough screen time.
(Reviewed 17th November 2011)