You’re probably aware that martial arts icon Steven Seagal stars in two or three movies direct-to-DVD every year, which are, if nothing else, a reliable dose of action for his international fanbase. Maximum Conviction is his latest film, in which he co-stars with wrestling star and a direct-to-DVD action hero in his own right, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Cross (Seagal) and Manning (Austin) are the leaders of a private security force which is tasked with transporting a group of prisoners from a top-secret military prison. However, a group of mercenaries led by Chris Blake (Michael Paré) show up and are targeting a female inmate, Samantha (Steph Song), who is carrying important CIA secrets. Cross, Manning, and the rest of their team — including young gun Bradley (Bren Foster) have to fight off the mercenaries and get Samantha out alive.
It’s the smart move for Seagal to share co-billing with Austin — something that never happens — since only Seagal’s biggest fans are still shelling out money to see his movies. As you probably know by now, Seagal has seen better days and it takes a lot of movie magic to make his martial arts believable (including strategic angles, tight shots, and over the shoulder shots of stunt doubles). However, Austin is obviously getting more comfortable in front of the camera, and he gets most of the good fight scenes and the clever action hero quips. Obviously the hand-to-hand combat is a lot better than the shootouts in which nothing happens except for the wasting of bullets, but they are pretty well choreographed, and even Foster gets a good fight scene right before the climax. Obviously it’s not on the level of the Bourne movies or even The Expendables, but it’s a solid dose of action despite it being generic.
Writer Richard Beattie and director Keoni Waxman have performed in the same roles on Seagal’s TV series True Justice, and Waxman has directed Seagal in A Dangerous Man (which he also wrote) and The Keeper and Austin in Hunt to Kill. So the filmmakers know what they’re doing, and it shows: the film looks and plays a hell of a lot better than Austin’s Tactical Force, one of the most awful films I’ve ever reviewed. It ends up being better than what you’d expect a direct-to-DVD action movie to be — lots of tight, dark corridors to cut down on set costs — rather than falling in the trap of being even worse than you’d expect. Because of this, as much of working with Austin was a good move for Seagal, working with Seagal’s team of seasoned professionals is a good career move for him also.
And I think it’s pretty funny that everybody calls Seagal’s character Cross and he’s listed as such in the credits but the back of the Blu-ray packaging calls him “Steele.” Ah, direct-to-DVD movies!
Like most other releases these days, the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack has the same features on both discs.
Audio Commentary — The audio commentary features Waxman and Executive Producer Binh Dang, who has produced more than a dozen Seagal movies over the past ten years. It’s an extremely well done commentary, especially since Waxman and Dang have no problems with pointing out some of the production’s failings and how they cut corners and use CGI to make the film on a budget. It’s actually really informative about shooting an action movie on a budget, and would probably be a good listen for aspiring action movie filmmakers.
Behind the Scenes — A ten minute feature on the making of the film, which is sort of like the Cliff’s Notes of the commentary, with Austin and Seagal and some of the crew talking about how much they enjoyed making the film.
Maximum Conviction: Steve Austin — A two minute interview with Austin in which he talks about his approach to acting. Of course, Austin isn’t the best actor and he realizes that, so he talks about the challenges of still learning as he goes along. Austin seems down to earth, and he’s just happy to be kicking ass in movies as opposed to every night in a wrestling ring.
Maximum Conviction: Icons — A two minute feature on the challenge of making a film with two action heroes. Waxman talks about balancing the action sequences and the story (i.e. talking) sequences. In a great moment, Seagal calls himself the “King of Improv.” Seriously. I mean, he’s not necessarily wrong because he’s essentially played the same character on screen for twenty-plus years, so he just does what he does because he knows that “Steven Seagal” character so well. I don’t think he means he wants a guest spot on Whose Line is it Anyway?
Maximum Conviction: Bren Foster — A really brief minute and a half moment with Foster, in which he talks about how excited he is to utilize his martial arts skills on screen (after all, he doesn’t get much opportunity to do so on Days of Our Lives).
Movie Rating: It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s a good action film to put on in the background between football games (4/10).
Disc Rating: With some really strong features for a low-budget disc, this actually puts some of the big studios to shame with their skimpy features (6.5/10).
Maximum Conviction will be released on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on November 6 from Anchor Bay Films.