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The Foreigner (March 4/03)

It was inevitable, but it appears as though Steven Seagal has finally gone the Van Damme route. Instead of praying for sidekick roles in lame theatrical action flicks (Half Past Dead, anyone?), Seagal's begun appearing in leading roles in straight-to-video productions - beginning with The Foreigner. But the low-budget atmosphere isn't even the biggest problem here; no, what sinks The Foreigner is the lack of action and impossibly complicated storyline.

Seagal stars as Jonathan Cold (no, really), an ex-CIA operative who now works as an independent contractor of sorts. Though he's looking to quit the business, he's coerced into taking one last gig involving the delivery of an unknown item. Not surprisingly, seeing that the object makes it to where it's going turns out to be slightly more difficult than Cold anticipated.

The Foreigner is saddled with the same problem that plagued the last Van Damme flick, Derailed - a director that hasn't got a clue how to properly shoot an action sequence. Every single scene that involves action invariably winds up a mess of slow-motion and over-the-top camera work. Director Michael Oblowitz (who, by the way, is helming Seagal's next straight-to-video effort, Out for a Kill - some kind of bizarre amalgam of Out For Justice and Hard to Kill, no doubt) seems to be under the impression that if he piles on the style during such sequences, it'll become all-the-more exciting. But all he winds up doing is ruining the one aspect of the film that should have been enjoyable. Trying to discern just what's happening during fight scenes becomes a challenge, when it should've been a welcome respite from the convoluted storyline.

Darren O. Campbell's script seems to be striving for an international espionage sort of vibe, but it simply does not work. Perhaps his screenplay was tinkered with after Seagal was cast - the action scenes do seem somewhat out of place - but even if that is the case, the rest of the film is so ludicrous and hard-to-follow that it really doesn't matter if the violence had been excised. An action movie should be, above all, fun - and The Foreigner certainly isn't that.

As for Seagal, he seems to have gotten so large that stunt doubles are needed for some of the more complicated fight sequences. Still, it was undeniably a kick watching him do what he does best, and the film even allows him the chance to break someone's arm in half (an old school move he's been employing since the very beginning). But the man seriously needs to lose some weight - not to mention abandon this silly pose, involving clasping both his hands in front of him, that he's adopted as of late - because he's certainly not talented enough to divert from this genre.

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