Alright, onto this week. Once upon a time a boy named Steven Seagal stumbled inadvertently into fame after giving an aikido demonstration for a bunch of Hollywood talent execs hopped up on cocaine (probably). They thought it was totally kick ass and immediately allowed him to star in five major motion pictures, culminating in Under Siege (a wild success). After reading The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump (probably) he was all like “I have leverage” and was like “I totally won’t do Under Siege II unless you let me direct my next film.” The execs were horrified. They needed the sweet, sweet Under Siege II dollars to fuel their obsessive speedboat collecting habits. So they said yes and he made a little movie called On Deadly Ground and everyone in the world lived happily ever after. That’s the story of our next film. The only directorial effort by the late, great Steven Seagal (Patrick’s Note: Steven Seagal is not dead). He apparently decided not to direct again because how can you improve at something you’ve perfected? We now get to watch his perfection. Let’s go!
On Deadly Ground (1994) – BMeTric: 62.8
(BMT University Alert! Months ago I postulated that an adjustment to the BMeTric needed to be made, a Genre Adjusted BMeTric (GABMeT, the first part of an adjusted BMeT+), in order to account for the fact that Horror films have a small bizarrely devoted fanbase who watches everything and is perfectly willing to throw out ratings on IMDb. It artificially inflates the BMeTrics of Horror films and leaves us baffled. I’m going to say it now: Seagal is the same. His straight-to-video film from 2015 has 2000 votes on IMDb … 2000! How?! Who watches these things?! Baffling. So this is probably like … a 40 in my Seagal Adjusted BMeTric (SABMeT). Book it.)
Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – After the critical/popular success of Under Siege, Seagal was allowed to direct this fast-fader about the raping of Alaska’s interior by an oil company run by evil Caine. Spiritual mumbo-jumbo halfway through look like an outtake from The Doors, and the star’s anticlimactic final speech (and the obligatory wrist-snapping) had fans bolting for the exits. Caine looks as if he’s undergone cosmetic surgery by Dwight Frye.
(Leonard should have just stopped at “evil Caine.” No need to say more. I’m in. He then descends into film nerd jokes that only he would get. I do not understand either The Doors reference or the Dwight Frye thing. Finally, I can’t wait to enjoy Seagal’s anticlimactic speech. I feel like BMT was built on anticlimactic speeches.)
(I wonder if this is the only case of the White Savior trope being used in reference to the inuit people? Probably. Love, love, love the line “I’m gonna reach out and touch somebody here.” Bwhahahahaha.)
Director(s) – Steven Seagal – (BMT: On Deadly Ground Notes: For Razzie info see below. His lone directorial debut. It is said that he got to do this because he agreed to be in Under Siege II: Dark Territory. This was a small production until Seagal was attached at which point its budget ballooned.)
Writer(s) – Ed Horowitz (written by) – (BMT: On Deadly Ground; Exit Wounds; Notes: Nominated for Worst Screenplay, On Deadly Ground (1994); Teaches at UCLA and is known for his work with Segal in addition to writing for La Femme Nikita.)
Robin U. Russin (written by) – (BMT: On Deadly Ground; Notes: Nominated for Worst Screenplay, On Deadly Ground (1994); Teaches as University of California Riverside and the author of Screenplay: Writing the Picture.)
Actors – Steven Seagal – (Known For: Machete, Executive Decision, Under Siege, The Perfect Weapon, Above the Law; BMT: On Deadly Ground, The Patriot, Half Past Dead, Fire Down Below, Ticker, The Foreigner, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Into the Sun, The Glimmer Man, Exit Wounds, Maximum Conviction, Hard to Kill; Notes: For Razzie info see below. We all know Seagal. We rode that sweet high-octane martial arts wave from the late eighties, through the 90s, and (like many a-wave rider) became a parody of himself in the 2000s. He is still making movies, but basically straight-to-video stuff. His fanbase does appear strong though judging by the number of IMDb votes his recent movies receive (that I’ve never heard of, let alone seen). Make yo money Seagal, haters gonna hate.)
Razzie Info for Segal: Won for Worst Director, On Deadly Ground (1994); Nominated for Worst Actor, On Deadly Ground (1994), Fire Down Below (1997), and Half Past Dead (2002); Nominated for Worst Supporting Actor, Executive Decision (1996); Nominated for Worst Original Song, Fire Down Below (1997) For the song “Fire Down Below” (!!!!!! He genuinely helped write that song!)
Also stars Michael Caine!
Budget/Gross: $50 million / $38,590,458
(Oooooooooooof. Why does this movie cost $50 million? Why would they give that to Seagal for his directoral debut? How much of that budget went to ‘splosions? Hopefully a lot. In reality Seagal probably gave most of it to Caine and himself and then laughed all the way to the bank.)
Rotten Tomatoes: 10% (3/30), No consensus yet.
(Bah, I’m going to give it a consensus. Not even evil Michael Caine can save this disastrous directorial debut. Explosions galore, but ultimately underwhelms.)
Poster – Bob Ross-esque (B-)
(There is something mesmerizing about this poster despite it being a bit crowded. I like the title font and really like the tones. Seagal’s giant orange face mixes nicely with the burning building and the sunrise and all that fades picturesquely into the darker background. It’s like a painting that Bob Ross would have painted. I can’t stop staring at it. This means something…)
Tagline(s) – His Battle To Save The Alaskan Wilderness And Protect Its People Can Only Be Won… (D)
(… On Deadly Ground. Let me just finish that little guy for you. Way too long. Almost a perfect example of informative, but boring. And stupidly incorporating an already stupid title into the tagline, just not a good look all around.)
Notes – The final scene when Forrest Taft gives the speech about the oil companies and air pollution, was originally 11 minutes long. Audiences complained that it was overlong and preachy. The scene was re-edited before release. (fuck you audiences, do you think I can find this?)
There were allegations that Michael Caine and Steven Seagal didn’t get along. However, in Caine’s memoir, The Elephant To Hollywood, he stated that he liked working with Seagal and the crew, but hated filming in Alaska, even joking that “On Deadly Ground” was an apt title. (This has been settings facts, brought to you by Jamie’s weird obsession)
Steven Seagal agreed to appear in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) if Warner Bros. allowed him to direct this film. (good deal bro)
After Warner offered Steven Seagal the directorial reins for this film, then titled Rainbow Warrior, the budget blew out when bigger and more explosive action scenes were written into the screenplay. Warner turned to indie production company Largo Entertainment to share some of the cost. In return, Largo would get the international rights to the film. However, after Under Siege (1992) opened, and performed beyond Warner’s expectations, Warner decided to fully finance the film themselves.
On Deadly Ground was not Steven Seagal’s first choice to make his directorial debut. He was initially offered the mafia drama “Man of Honor” as a starring/director/writer vehicle by Twentieth Century Fox and Morgan Creek Productions, but cost overruns, and Fox’s unwillingness to plonk down $30+ million dollars for the film, forced the pic to shutdown, just weeks away from filming.
Razzie Awards 1995, Won for Worst Director, Steven Seagal
Razzie Awards 1995, Nominated for Worst Picture
Razzie Awards 1995, Nominated for Worst Actor, Steven Seagal
Razzie Awards 1995, Nominated for Worst Actress, Joan Chen
Razzie Awards 1995, Nominated for Worst Screenplay, Ed Horowitz, Robin U. Russin
Razzie Awards 1995, Nominated for Worst Original Song, Mark Hudson, Klaus Meine, For the song “Under The Same Sun”.