Into the Sun (February 6/05)
Despite a budget of around $35 million and a decent supporting cast, Into the Sun is just as ineffective as the majority of Steven Seagal's last few flicks (ie Out for a Kill, The Foreigner, etc). The film is saddled with the same sort of convoluted storyline that's plagued all of his recent efforts, when all one really expects out of a Seagal movie is a lot of arm-breaking and twirling kicks.
Into the Sun casts Seagal as Travis Hunter, an ex-CIA agent now living in Japan. After the governor of Tokyo is murdered in a daring public execution, Hunter is called back into action and saddled with a green partner (played by Matt Davis). In the course of his investigation, Hunter finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a deadly conflict between warring Yakuza factions.
Aside from a distinct lack of martial arts mayhem, Into the Sun's downfall can be attributed to a palpable sense of tedium; films about the Yakuza are a dime-a-dozen nowadays, which makes it especially difficult to craft an interesting movie around the subject. This is the sort of thing that's been done countless times before (ie in virtually every single Takashi Miike flick), making the need for creativity all-the-more important. But screenwriters Joe Halpin, Trevor Miller, and Seagal (!) instead infuse the film with a series of cliches that will undoubtedly leave most audiences rolling their eyes (something that's particularly true of the out-of-control Yakuza with dyed-blonde hair, a character that's essentially become a staple of these movies).
Into the Sun has been directed by mink (no, that's not a misprint), who - at the very least - does an effective job of bringing coherency to the few fight sequences (it sounds like a no-brainer, but there's been a real sense of disjointedness present in the majority of Seagal's last few films). But it quickly becomes apparent that this aspect of the film is an exception rather than the rule, as there's a current of sloppiness running through every other aspect of Into the Sun (including the fact that Hunter has conversations with Japanese characters in which he speaks English and they speak Japanese; huh?)
And while Seagal does utilize his trademarked break-a-guy's-arm-in-half move (technically, it was a wrist, but that's a minor quibble), the film just never manages to engage or thrill the audience. This is despite a third-act showdown that sees Hunter and two associates infiltrate a known Yakuza hangout, armed with nothing but samurai swords. About the only thing that can save Seagal's career at this point is a simple, back-the-basics sort of film (ie what Jean-Claude Van Damme has done with his latest effort, Wake of Death), because as it stands, his films seem to be getting progressively more and more tedious.