|Out For Justice|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 18 May 1999|
Even judged by the standards of other Steven Seagal actioners, ‘Out For Justice’ is one silly movie. Indeed, viewed as a whole, it largely falls into the category of being so absurd that it’s often entertaining, though probably not in the way its makers intended.
Seagal plays Brooklyn cop Gino Felino, who still works in the neighborhood where he grew up. When local tough guy Richie (William Forsythe) whacks Gino’s best friend, everybody from the police to the Mafia tacitly accept that Gino plans to kill Richie. Gino then scours the streets looking for the thug, who continues to stay in town and brutalize folks.
It’s hard to know where to begin to catalogue the narrative and stylistic absurdities in ‘Out For Justice.’ After making a stab at intellectual credentials with an opening quote from Arthur Miller on the nature of boundaries, David Lee Henry’s script rapidly goes downhill. The film first tries to make a mystery out of why Richie suddenly flips out enough to kill a cop, then indiscriminately starts slaughtering anyone who annoys him. The causes turn out to be both prosaic and moderately implausible. Why, if Richie is so crazy, does his crew remain so loyal? Why, if Gino is such a brilliant detective, is it hard for him to find somebody who never even leaves the area? Why, since the characters are almost all Italian-American, is the soundtrack filled with rap music? The Mafia angle is almost pure window dressing, though it provides an excuse for lengthy dialogue scenes that are half in subtitled Italian and half in English, going from one to the other and back for no evident reason.
On the other hand, director John Flynn does know what his audience expects. Seagal opens a major can of whup-ass right in Chapter 1. Thereafter, he tries hard, attempting to establish atmosphere with things like Chapter 7’s fight in a butcher shop and a pool cue duel in Chapter 11. Chapter 18 has some particularly eye-widening violence in a home invasion sequence that grabs attention no matter how apathetic the viewer feels to the story so far. The sound quality overall is good, with the aforementioned rap numbers shining in Chapters 5 and 12 despite their incongruous placement. However, there’s a very odd sound mix in Chapter 11, with the impact of punches far louder than the curiously quiet gunshots.
One intriguing aspect of ‘Out For Justice’ is its spot-the-future stars casting. Julianna Margulies, Gina Gershon and even John Leguizamo turn up in small roles. Seagal does his usual give-me-an-excuse-to-kick-you glower and Forsythe is enthusiastically nasty as the baddie.
‘Out For Justice’ is technically competent and has, for its genre, a fair action-to-total-running-time ratio. Otherwise, it’s a movie to watch only when your primary desire in entertainment is to have something to pick apart, without any chance of having your intellect and/or emotions caught up in what’s on the screen.