On Deadly Ground (1994)

On Deadly Ground

Directed by Steven Seagal

Tagline: “His battle to save the Alaskan wilderness and protect its people can only be won…”

Run Time: 102 min

Other Titles: "Rainbow Warrior", "Spirit Warrior"


On Deadly Ground directed, produced, and starring Steve "Kick Yo’ Ass" Seagal, is a perfect example of a movie star’s ego gone wild. In 1994 Seagal was enjoying an admittedly well deserved 15-minutes of fame after starring in the successful Above the Law and its sequel Hard to Kill, not to mention a pair of luke-warm formula films Marked For Death and Out for Justice, both of which milked the standard One Good Cop vs. The World of Evil paradigm for a few more bucks…and hell, why not? These were to golden years of action-hero movies with such names as Van Damme, Willis, Stallone, and of course, Schwarzenegger.

Seagal hit it big starring as Casey Ryback, an ex-SEAL turned cook (!!) in the entertaining 1992 action flick Under Siege. (And before you ask: yes, I like that movie.) "Under Siege" grossed over $150 million world-wide and propelled Seagal to Super Action Hero status…at least for the time being.

Unfortunately for Steven’s career, he decided to leverage his stardom with the studios and agreed to star in Under Siege 2 only if he was allowed to direct his "own" action flick: On Deadly Ground. Warner Bros., possible just as intoxicated with Seagal’s success as he was, agreed to the deal and that’s why you are reading this right now.

On Deadly Ground tanked at the box office; grossing little over $38 million compared to the $50 million to make it. Ouch. The movie itself can’t seem to decide if it’s a Movie With A Message or an Action Film. Steven aimed for both and missed on both counts: There’s far too much violence for a family film and too much goofy spirituality for hard-core action fans just wanting to see Seagal snap some arms. (Although there is plenty of violence, there’s too many interminable ‘Spiritual’ scenes sprinkled into the story…you’ll see.)

Amazingly, Seagal saw fit to tack on an 11 minute (!!!) speech at the end of the film deriding oil companies and Big Business; Warner Bros. was forced to step in and trim the speech to 3 minutes after test audiences kept walking out of the ending…and believe it or not, my father and I walked out of the 3-minute version as well…talk about pain!

Co-starring as Seagal’s evil Texan antagonist is Michael Caine, who plays Aegis Oil CEO, Michael Jennings. (Seagal wisely provided the viewers with a visual clue as to Jennings’ origins: he wears a bolo tie. Otherwise, you might forget where Jennings is from given Caine’s tendency to drop his Texan accent and fall back to his normal Cockney dialect throughout the movie.) Caine is in good form in this movie, chewing the scenery as he tends to do when the director won’t, or in Seagal’s case, can’t, reel him in. (Check out The Swarm and Jaws 4 for some lovely examples of Caine’s goofiness.) Oh, and keep your eyes open for a (at that time) relatively unknown Billy Bob Thornton.

Our film opens with a credit sequence overlaid on top of beautiful shots of the Alaskan wilderness, at least that’s where I’m presuming it was shot. (A quick IMDB check revealed that only 1 of the 4 shooting locations where actually in Alaska where the film is supposedly taking place…the others where in Washington State and a refinery somewhere in California…oh well.)

The relative serenity of the opening shots is cut short as we jump to an oil-well fire where frantic firefighters struggle in vain to contain the flames. (I had to wonder what kind of an environmentally friendly movie this is when I saw the oil rig mock-up spewing enormous clouds of oily black smoke into the sky for the scene…and this wasn’t stock footage, so I can only assume that the fire was created just for Steven’s grand entrance…nice.)

As the camera pans across the fire we notice a helicopter coming in for a landing. (A rousing blast of trumpet fanfare confirms that Our Hero has indeed arrived.)

On Deadly Ground

The Environmentally Friendly Movie

The first man out of the helicopter is, naturally, Steven Seagal who plays Forrest Taft (!!!), the Aegis oil company’s #1 Goto Guy when things go to hell. (At least that’s what his job appears to be; he’s never shown doing much of anything else…you know…like work.) Seagal treats himself to a leisurely camera pan up his back side (so to speak) in order to make the patented Star Turn, as if the audience was intended to say, "Hey…who is that with those black boots…it’s…it’s…he’s turning…it’s STEVEN SEAGAL!" Unfortunately the horror is taken up a notch quite early in the film as we immediately notice that gone is Seagal’s trademark full-length black coat, and in its stead is leather "Indian" jacket complete with beads, turquoise and all the other accoutrements that screams out Social Awareness With Bad Taste.

On Deadly GroundForrest’s long time friend, Hugh Palmer, rushes up and explains that the fire was caused by faulty equipment purchased by Aegis CEO Michael Jennings (Michael Caine). In a fairly hamfisted "Gotcha" moment, Jennings throws open the helicopter door as Palmer continues to berate him…oops! Hoo hoo! I bet Palmer is embarrassed now!

(Being completely in love with himself at this point in his career, Seagal often includes stomach-turning dialog praising Forrest for being So Damned Good at pretty much everything. A good case in point is when Forrest scans the situation while a smarmy off-camera voice shouts "Forrest’s here! That fire’s as good as out!"…uggh. For the duration of the film I’ll denote clumsily foleyed lines with square brackets, i.e., ( ).)

A brief clot of exposition reveals that Jennings forced Palmer to use faulty "preventers" on the drill resulting in the fire. Why would Jennings rig his own drills with faulty equipment? Hell, I don’t know, but I Bet We’ll Find Out Soon. As the frantic men look own, Forrest grabs a heat shield (made of a piece of corrugated aluminum!…is that what they really use?!), and stomps up to the edge of the inferno. Jennings and a pair of Evil Henchmen look on with bemused interest.

After a perfunctory look at the blaze, Forrest orders everybody to back up so that he can extinguish the blaze by detonating an explosive charge. Realizing the danger involved in this last ditch maneuver, the firefighters all run back and hit the ground. Jennings, being a bad ass, stands tall and stares Forrest in the eye as the explosives, well, explode, into a gigantic fireball. (Give yourself a couple of points if you guessed there’d be a shot of Seagal, standing tall, silhouetted by an enormous fireball…It’s just this sort of pointless Macho bullshit that makes me cringe in disgust. OK, Forrest, you’re a bad ass. Fine. But what are you trying to prove here? And to whom?)

On Deadly Ground

Oh yeah, baby,…I’m bad, I’m bad!

I had to chuckle at the next scene showing Forrest triumphantly sauntering towards Jennings accompanied by a chorus of foleyed cheers and applause…too bad that none of the extras are applauding! Whoops! Well, I guess we needed to see how Appreciative the Common Folk are for Forrest’s unparalleled ability to push a button rigged to a pre-positioned pile of pyrotechnics.

As you might expect, now that the sides of Good and Evil are clearly drawn, the movie has no other choice but to trudge onward to its predictable climax, and if I have to sit through it, then so are you.

Cut to a local dive bar full of oilrig workers. If you guessed that we will be forced to sit through Ye Oulde Bar Fight scene then give yourself two points. As generic country music blares out of a tinny jukebox, a drunken Native American is verbally and physically assaulted by a particularly abusive worker. Forrest sullenly watches from a nearby table until the script indicates that Enough Is Enough.

"Whatcha looking at, cupcake?" wisecracks the soon-to-be-pounded ruffian.

"Nothing much," Forrest wryly retorts as he strides over to Tough Guy. (TG).

("Fuck ’em up, Forrest!")

Forrest calmly walks by and makes his way to the bar.

("Ya got lucky, Fuck Head!" another disembodied voice remarks from somewhere in the bar.)

TG and his drinking buddies return to their seats while shooting insults towards Forrest who has plopped himself down on a barstool.

As luck would have it, Palmer walks into the bar and suggests to Forrest that something is amiss with the faulty "preventers". (Don’t ask me…I guess they "prevent" fires or something.)

"If you still can’t figure out why Jennings made me use (the faulty preventers) anyway," Palmer murmurs, "check out the requisition file on Aegis One…check it out…then we’ll talk."

OK, why can’t Palmer just tell Forrest the reason? Oh…then the plot would be short circuited and the movie would be over. (Not a bad idea, actually.)

"I left my day pack and some weapons up at your place," Forrest abruptly remarks, "I think I’m going to pick them up and go up into the hills." (A day pack and some weapons? WTF?)

"They’re in the closet," Palmer exposits, deftly smacking us in the forehead with a Plot Point.

Palmer exits the scene as abruptly as he entered, clearly the way for the inevitable Bar Fight that we’ve been waiting for. (Ok, Tough Guy is named Mike. That will make things slightly easier to type when he gets his ass kicked.) Mike continues to abuse Native American Guy (NAG), culminating with tossing a beer into his face.

("That guy’s an asshole!" Female Foleyed Voice #32 trenchantly observes.)

I’ll just cut to the chase and say that Forrest quickly engages the rowdy workers and starts whooping their asses in that trademark Seagal technique of arm-breaks, body-tosses, and genital-crushing kicks and punches.

("MY NUTS!!!" one unfortunate combatant shouts as Seagal crushes his jewels in a steely grip. I’d just like to point out that, as any male can tell you, the first reaction after ANY type of testicular injury is not to shout "My nuts!"…it’s trying to breath, scream, cry, crawl, roll, and vomit all at the same time.)

("MY BALLS!!!" another one shouts literally 3 seconds later after having his precious pair destroyed by a savage kick from Forrest’s cowboy boot clad foot.)

After dispatching a rather large number of attackers, the scene winds up with Forrest and Mike standing face to face, ringed by a crowd of eager onlookers.

On Deadly Ground"We’re going to play the Hand Slapping Game," Forrest says. (The "Hand Slapping Game" is simply a testosterone-rich , brutal version of "Bloody Knuckles": you miss, the other guy gets to punch you, and vice versa. ) Needless to say, Forrest sadistically pummels the crap out of Mike after only 3 rounds.

In one of the truly oddest scenes of the film, Forrest asks the bloodied, gasping Mike, "What does it take to change the essence of a man?"

Mike, broken nose, crushed nuts, and gasping for breath, tears up (!) and says, "Time…I need time to change."

"I do too," Forrest whispers as the silently crowd watches in awe. With Native American-ish music playing, Forrest gives Mike a knowing pat on the shoulder and gives the previously abused NAG a ride home.

"You’re about to go on a sacred journey," NAG tells Forrest, because, you know, all Native Americans are highly spiritual and in touch with nature. (Oh…BROTHER!)

UPDATE Jan 26: Thanks to Spooky from the forums for sending a link to a video of this entire sick hand-slapping game! Thank you so much!

The Hand-Slapping Game

Meanwhile, Jennings stalks through the marbled halls of Evil Corp. while a flock of underlings fills him in on the latest news. Due to the recent fire (in the opening scene), the EPA has launched an investigation and a lot of bad PR has been spreading. The remedy? Jennings is to film a quick commercial touting Aegis’ concern for the environment and their unremitting devotion to safety, all taking place in front of a forest mock-up. At the end of the piece, Jennings vehemently complains about the "stinking" caribou that adorned the set while the commercial was being filmed, because, you know, he’s evil and really doesn’t care about the environment. See? He’s an Evil Capitalist. Wow, makes you think, doesn’t it?

Anyhoo, Jennings storms off the set and back up to his cavernous office. When word reaches him that the finishing of the crown jewel of Aegis production, the Aegis-1 oil platform, is going to be 3 weeks delayed, Jennings explodes in a fury and exposits that if the rig is not operational in 13 days, then the oil rights revert back to the Eskimos.

Yeah, you try to figure that one out.

To further complicate matters, an "unnamed source" within the company has been leaking information to the EPA about "substandard equipment." It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the informant is good ol’ Hugh Palmer (otherwise Jennings would have never figured it out), and when he Jennings realizes that the entire Aegis-1 project is at stake (with potential revenues of "billions of dollars a week"…A week?!!), he tasks his hired killer, MacGruder (John C. McGinley), with dealing with the "problem."

On Deadly Ground

Aegis-1…you betcha. I hope a strong wind doesn’t come along…

The next day Forrest makes his way into the <cough> Control Room to investigate the requisition forms that Palmer mentioned the night before. Using a handy computer terminal already logged into exactly the server on which to find requisition forms, Forrest accesses the information with a total of 7 key strokes: indeed, the Blowout Preventers that Jennings has installed have failed nearly every quality control test.

On Deadly Ground

Oh no!!! Not…Wait for next shipment!

As Forrest accesses this putatively important information, an alert goes off informing Jennings of the file access. Since this is a bone-headed movie, the only solution to this "problem" is just as bone-headed: kill him.

Now, how about some alternative solutions:

1) Change the access codes.

2) Revoke Forrest’s access to the computers.

3) Remove the stupid files from the file server.

But no, Jennings orders Forrest to be liquidated. (You really have to wonder how many other CEO’s assassinate employees for rummaging around computer files. Seriously, if you didn’t want anybody to see them…then don’t put them on the computer. Hell, why don’t you just fire him?! Sheesh.)

Cut to Palmer at home, busily downloading Aegis files as well off the network.

I want to take this opportunity to point out that I’m a computer geek, therefore I love taking screenshots of movie computer screens and having a good laugh. Case in point: Here’s Palmer’s download screen:

On Deadly Ground

Download to the "A" drive?!

(Warning: Computer geek talk beginning)

It would appear that after doing a video card and file check (…a SuperMac card, no less!), Palmer proceeds to download the entire Aegis data store to the A: drive, which is a floppy disk! Yeah, I guess he’ll be disk swapping for the next, oh, 23 years.

Anyway, the entire download takes, and I kid you not, 2 seconds to reach 100%. (!!!)

Being the smart guy that he is, Palmer quickly initiates a "wipe" of his hard drive. (Hilariously, the prompt reads: "Type password to continue…Any other key to cancel". Now, if you are going to type your password, how does the program discern that the first key stroke is part of the password and not an attempt to cancel? (Or visa versa?)

(Sorry all non-computer geeks, this is a long, dull movie and I’m grasping at anything to assuage the pain.)

Returning to our movie in progress:

Jenning’s contract killers, MacGruder and Otto, show up at Palmer’s place and try to retrieve the incriminating records that Palmer was planning on handing over to the EPA. Palmer refuses and is gorrated, beaten, and finally tortured to death in a surprisingly lengthy, bloody, and brutal scene (including the charming finale involving getting his leg sectioned with an industrial pipe cutter).

(Really, just who did Seagal think the target audience was?)

Meanwhile, Jennings is holding a press conference explaining how Aegis is working hard to contain and clean up the oil from the latest spill. The local Eskimo tribal leaders, after years of Aegis abusing the environment, are bellicose and gleefully looking forward to when Aegis loses the regional oil and mineral rights in a mere 12 days. Jennings quickly shoots back that his company will not lose the rights because the Aegis-1 platform will be operational within the deadline. (I’m not sure that mineral right contracts are that simple, but there you go.)

On Deadly GroundJust as Jennings is leaving the press conference up comes a local Eskimo activist (and designated ‘cutie’) named Masu (played by Joan Chen). As the angry crowd pelts Jennings with verbal abuse (once again, you have to wonder how any company could remain profitable with that much local opposition), Masu glides up and tosses a cup full of crude oil on Jenning’s chest. ¨

"The blood of our people is upon you, Mr. Jennings," Masu adds for good measure as the oil runs down his suit.

Out in the hallway, Forrest confronts Jennings regarding the substandard preventers. To get to the point, since the shipment of new preventers is delayed 90 days, Jennings is forced to use the crappy ones in order to make the deadline so Aegis doesn’t lose the oil rights.

"How much money is enough?" Forrest asks, because, you know, making money is bad.

Anyhoo, Jennings sends Forrest out into the wilderness to presumably fix another oil leak. Little does our hardy hero realize that he’s being lead into a trap. (Jennings accompanies him in the helicopter out into the Alaskan forests. Man, doesn’t Jennings, as head of a major oil corporation, have anything, you know, to do during the day?)

Forrest hops into a fire-repellant suit and carefully enters the pumping station. As he plays his flashlight beam across the oil soaked floor, he’s shocked to discover Palmer’s mutilated body along with the bloody pipe cutter used to murder him. Forrest finally figures out what’s happening when he spots a bundle of dynamite taped to a nearby pipe. (Well, duh!)

From the helicopter, MacGruder detonates the dynamite via remote control as Jennings watches with glee. Assuming that Forrest is fatally fricasseed, the Bad Guys fly back to headquarters. Alas, they didn’t notice that Forrest was thrown free of the flames by the blast itself. (A concussion that would have killed any mortal man, but not Seagal.)

On Deadly GroundAs luck would have it, a group of Eskimos happens to see the smoke from the explosion and rescues our frightfully wounded hero. "The spirit of the Man-Bear lives in the smoke," the tribal chief exclaims. Yes, Forrest is the "Man-Bear."

You may throw up now.

Back in the Eskimo village, Forrest is nursed back to health. Did I mention that Masu, the Oil Throwing Activist, Just Happens To Live in the Village? Oh. Well, she does. Who would have ever thought that? Oh, and her father is the tribal chief. What are the odds, eh?

Back at Aegis headquarters, Jennings is holding (yet another!) press conference.

("What kind of crap are you going to feed us now, Jennings!")

("Just answer the questions, you weasel!")

(…and this is the local press? Man, that’s a tough crowd.)

As the crowd gasps with disbelief, Jennings explains that the latest oil spills were acts of sabotage carried out by former Aegis employees Forrest and Palmer.

("That’s a crock of SHIT!")

Believing that Forrest is dead, and with the blame placed on his and Palmer’s shoulders, Jennings leaves the conference room content that there will be no more problems. The only wrinkle is that the cleanup crew hasn’t found any sign of Forrest’s body yet so Jennings sends MacGruder and Otto out in a helicopter to scan the area.

"There’s no sign of him yet, sir, and I can assure you we’ve been over every inch of ground," MacGruder reports from the chopper. (What…every inch of ground in Alaska?) Not impressed, Jennings orders them to continue searching because, er, Forrest’s body wasn’t found so that can only mean he’s still alive somewhere. (A bit of a false dichotomy I’d say, but there you have it.)

On Deadly Ground

The rarely seen Alaskan Man-Bear.

Meanwhile, back at the Eskimo village, Forrest has recovered enough to sneak out of the sleeping house (in a perfectly fitting, brand new fur coat none the less!). Without awakening the slumbering villagers, he stealthily sneaks through the doorway and attempts to abscond with one of the dog sleds. In a wonderful scene, the sled dogs promptly attack Forrest. Unfortunately, they do not rip him to shreds and end the movie. (One dog does appear to bite him in the nuts…regrettably Forrest doesn’t shout "My NUTS!" like I would have liked. Now that would have been pretty funny.)

On Deadly Ground

My NUTS!

The all too enjoyable sight of seeing Forrest being torn to shreds by a pack of viscous dogs is brought to an all-too-early end when the Eskimos rush out and pull the dogs off. Standing up, and with his clothes in amazingly perfect condition after having been ripped up by dogs in the previous scene, Forrest explains that he was just trying to get away because he’s a hunted man and his presence in village is a threat to everybody. (Sort of like any movie with Steven Seagal’s presence in it is a threat to your mental health.)

(I will be fair and point out that some of this movie was filmed in Alaska where the scenery is absolutely beautiful, so there is at least one redeeming factor…but it’s far from enough to actually make On Deadly Ground actually worth watching. )

Anyway, the wise Village Elder, Masu, and a bunch of extras decide to accompany Forrest on his journey back to civilization. Hopping into a couple of dogsleds, the gang takes off over the snow and ice. After a day or so (?), they take a break which affords Seagal the opportunity to include an absolutely sickening scene where the village Chief tells Forrest some Eskimo legends. Now don’t get me wrong, the legends are cool, but Forrest, so smug in his fur coat sitting in rapt attention, along with the cliche New Age synthesizer Native American music is just too much for my stomach to bear. To make matters worse, the legend revolves around the creation of The Bear and how he is to be the protector of the land. As the tale comes to an end, and I shit you not, Forrest nods in silent understanding of his quest because he is…the Man-Bear!

Really. I’m not kidding. Could I ever have made up anything so corny?

Oh God…the Chief wasn’t finished…he pulls out a feather, taps Forrest on his head whereupon he swoons and faints (!!), and sends him on a, <gasp>… Dream Quest!!!! Ayeeeeeeee!

Forrest’s spirit flies through some run-of-the-mill special effects shots of water, ice, and other crap, interposed with close ups of a bald eagle. His avatar finally arrives in the midst of an Eskimo ceremony, complete with topless Eskimo babes dancing around and being quite jiggly, if you get my drift.

Let me quickly point out that this is not a Gratuitous Booby Scene because it’s part of a religious ritual which reveals the sovereign nobility of the indigenous people. (A very perky people at that…heh heh. Ok, I know, I’m going to hell. But really, who did they think they were fooling?)

After watching a bit of topless dancing, we cut back to see Forrest’s spirit fight and kill a grizzly bear, which seems rather ironic since he’s supposed to be the land’s protector. Oh, sorry, he only stabbed it once before the bear tosses him into an icy river. (So he leaves the bear behind to bleed to death?)

After floating to the end of the river (or floating until the special effects budget ran out), Forrest-Spirit arrives inside a magic hut. Seated inside are 2 women: One an old, wrinkly woman sitting in the middle of the dirt floor, the other a sexy naked woman writhing on a plush bed, beckoning to Forrest with a curl of her finger. Now, anybody who’s ever seen any Sword-n-Sorcery type film will immediately realize that the correct choice is the old woman…never, and I mean, never choose the hot babe in a situation like this.

Forrest wisely chooses the old woman and begins speaking to her in fluent Eskimo. (Forgive me if I don’t know the actual name of the Eskimo tongue. I know it’s like saying "he spoke fluent Native American…I know. I know.) Anyway, the old woman tasks Forrest with saving the land and teaching the intruders to "fear the bear".

In a shot too corny to describe, Forrest’s spirit is "reborn" from the waters as an Eskimo Wise Elder howls (!) and looks on.

On Deadly Ground

<Monster Shack management apologizes for the lack of a caption, but it was not humanly possible to describe how corny this scene was>

Anyway, with Forrest’s <cough> rebirth <cough>, he’s off to battle evil corporations, protect the environment, and kill a gazillion people in the process.

Back at the Eskimo village, MacGruder, Otto and a couple of other Nogoodnicks show up and search their camp. The villagers look nervously on with stone-tipped spears as the M-16 armed bad guys ransack their huts while searching for Forrest.

Now really, I know these Eskimos are in Touch With Nature and are noble and what not…but still…stone-tipped spears…in the 20th century? So they’ve never heard of firearms? Give me a break. I mean, this is Alaska for God’s sake, not the middle of deepest, darkest Africa in the 1800’s.

Blah blah. As you might have suspected, Forrest’s upcoming lethal rampage requires some sort of moral justification otherwise Seagal would simply be wasting a lot of people just to show what a bad ass he is. (And Seagal would neeeeeeeever do that, would he now?) The putative source of his wrath is when Otto discovers Forrest’s charred protective suit. (Now just why would they bother keeping that around? Oh…so it can be found. Of course.) An argument breaks out…things happen, people say things and viola, MacGruder ends up shooting the village chief. With the angry villagers looking on and shaking their spears (whatever!), MacGruder and the others retreat to the helicopter and take off.

Where, oh where, is Man-Bear when you need him, eh?

Oh here he comes…racing across the frozen waste in a dog sled. (Where the hell did he learn to control one of those? Oh, that’s right, Forrest is now a Spirit Warrior…oh BUH-rother!) Rushing into the dying chief’s hut, Forrest kneels at the side of the fading elder. Masu translates her father’s dying words for Forrest: "You’re the Spirit Warrior, the Gods have already decided your fate…Eagle and Bear are your spirit guides."

Yes, you may throw up now. I’ll wait for you here.

Finished?

Ok, good, let’s continue.

Meanwhile, back at the Aegis-1 oil platform, Jennings (who has decided to be there in order to oversee the final days of preparations) chews out MacGruder for his failed mission:

"You didn’t find Taft, but you managed to kill an unarmed Eskimo in front of a dozen witnesses."

MacGruder blames it on the Eskimos, saying that they "attacked" him…oh blah blah, yes MacGruder, we get it: you’re Eeeeeeevil. Forrest will be dealing with you soon.

Meanwhile, back at the Eskimo camp, Masu gives Forrest the keys to the tribe’s snowmobile…"It’s for emergencies," she mentions. (Emergencies like…oh…the village chief being shot? Why didn’t you rush him to the hospital with it, you idiots!) Forrest hops on the vehicle and rushes off to Aegis-1 to deal with Jennings and the others. Oh, and Masu tags along because…ummm…you got me.

After who knows how long, Forrest and Masu swing by Palmer’s house to find it completely ransacked. (You remember, what seems about a million years ago, when MacGruder and Otto killed Palmer and tried to find the computer files he had downloaded?) Forrest makes his way upstairs and digs out his backpack that he had stashed in Palmer’s upstairs closet…you remember…the one full of his weapons that he was going to take with him on his trip into the forest. You don’t remember? Well, don’t bother rewinding. Just go with it.

Back outside, Otto is still flying around in a helicopter trying to find Forrest. If you stop to think about it, it’s pretty freakin’ absurd, isn’t Alaska like…oh…half the size of the continental United States??!! Be that as it may, he miraculously manages to find the snowmobile parked at the edge of a snowbank.

The helicopter pilot looks around and sagely notes, "It looks like the must have gone on foot from here!"

Uh…no shit, Sherlock. Man, there’s nothing getting past you, eh?

Anyway, Otto deduces that Forrest is probably back at Palmer’s cabin. How he figures that? Who knows, but at least it sets up the first of many Justified Showdowns where the bad guys will get their due.

So…yes…Otto and a couple of Evil Henchmen suddenly appear outside Palmer’s cabin. Just how they got there so quickly, where they got their weapons from, and why there are suddenly more of them than were in the helicopter in the previous scene is beyond me.

"Oh, it looks like my friends are here to play," Mr. Spirit Warrior glibly remarks when he spots a bunch of bad guys moving up to the cabin from the forest. I’ll spare you the next minute or so of runtime and just say that after a boring Spray-And-Pray gun fight, Forrest manages to kill everybody. It was actually a little disappointing because there wasn’t very much of Seagal’s, admittedly fun to watch, trademark hand-to-hand fighting in this scene. However, Forrest did ironically dispatch Otto with the same whale-bone item that he (Otto) earlier used to torture Palmer. Man…now that’s deep.

Back on Aegis-1, Jennings, MacGruder, and an Evil Corporate Hench-Woman are stomping around the corridors of the still unfinished refinery.

"Just who the hell is this guy?" MacGruder queries.

On Deadly Ground

Jennings stops short and begins:

"Delve down into the deepest bowels of your soul. Try to imagine the ultimate fucking nightmare, and that won’t come close to this son-of-a-bitch when he gets pissed."

Mr. Jennings, I would agree 100% if you’d been referring to this film.

After a brief discussion, Jennings agrees to MacGruder’s offer of hiring "outside resources."

"You mean mercenaries?"

Bingo.

Obviously, these "mercenaries" are simply Forrest fodder to fill the remaining runtime until the Final Showdown. I betcha can’t wait, can you? (If you go against my advice and actually see this movie, make sure to keep an eye out for young Billy Bob Thorton as mercenary Homer Carlton.)

Meanwhile, the wily Forrest stops by a friend’s house, Johnny, in order to look at the computer disk that Palmer had stashed in his backpack before he died. You remember? The 3-1/2 inch floppy that holds the entire Aegis-1 document store? Forrest pops in the disk and an odd DOS-based spread sheet immediately pops up on the screen.

"These are the pressure readings from Aegis-1…the whole place is a goddamned time bomb!" Forrest expounds. Another page of the spreadsheet indicates that Jennings and his "dog-shit empire" (Forrest’s words, not mine) are up to other evil activities involving pumping toxic gases back into dry wells then trying to sell them off as full wells or some crazy shit. Sorry. I’ve really just about had it with this movie.

"It’s just like I always say," Forrest says as he makes his way to the door, "we have to blow it…and we have to blow it now."

(That’s something he always says? Maybe he’s referring to his latest movies. <rimshot>)

Masu isn’t quite in agreement: She’d (wisely) rather let the authorities handle it.

"Have you forgotten everything my father has taught you?" she implores.

"Do you think that hocus-pocus stuff is going to help us now?" Forrest answers in an incredible about face after his mystical Dream Quest he just experienced early that very same day!

"You see," Forrest continues, "I love the spirit world and I loved your father…I didn’t want to resort to violence, but I didn’t have a choice!"

Boy, that’s some mighty fine writing there, pardner.

As you might have guessed, this is Forrest’s BIG SCENE…which, unsurprisingly, falls flat on its face under the burden of its own conceit.

After delivering his scene which ostensibly will excuse him from all the violence his is soon to perpetrate, Forrest pushes a hidden button (!) and a wall swings open to reveal a room absolutely full of weapons.

On Deadly Ground

Don’t laugh. This is a serious movie.

Oh, and here’s one of my favorite lines: As Forrest smugly peruses his secret armory he says to Johnny, "Give me this F-8 shotgun with all the magazines and ammo you got…gimme one M-14, a couple of .45’s, and the SSG…and…I think that will do it."

Gee Forrest , are you sure that will be enough firepower to take out a corporate suit and a few rednecks? Good grief.

(I still chuckle when I think of that line.)

I digress.

After loading up his weapons, Forrest and Masu mount a couple of horses and begin their journey to Aegis-1.

"You ride good?" Forrest asks. (Shouldn’t that be "You ride well?")

"Of course," Masu replies with a grin, "I’m a Native American!"

(I included that last line in order to show you just how revolting this film truly is. I mean, what were they thinking when they wrote this script?)

And, oh, just why in the hell is Masu coming along?

On Deadly GroundHigh above, the mercenary leader, Stone (played by R. Lee Ermey…better known as The Drill Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket), MacGruder, and some other Bad Guys are flying around looking for Forrest.

Think about this for a second: They’re flying around in a helicopter looking for somebody in an area the size of ALASKA!!! Granted, they’re pretty sure he’ll be somewhere around the Aegis-1 refinery, but still…come on! So we’re still talking about an area of what?…50 square miles of densely forested, mountainous terrain? Yeah, good luck.

Anyhoo, Stone asks about Forrest’s background in order to get a better idea of the man they are hunting. MacGruder admits that Jennings and Co. really don’t know anything about him. However, one of the mercs has done some research and informs the others that there is no record of Forrest…anywhere.

"That means he’s CIA…maybe even NSA." (Gasp!)

(I never knew the National Security Agency had a military wing, but there you go.)

Meanwhile, Forrest rides with Masu to an old, rickety shed out in the middle of nowhere. Inside the shack Forrest proudly reveals a gigantic stash of explosives: land mines, hand grenades, C4…you name it. Just where in the hell Forrest got all this is beyond me. Even if he did work for the CIA (NSA?), it’s not like you can opt to have your severance package paid out in explosives…can you? Yes, yes, I know. This is of course a lazy (and Seagal favorite) plot device to give a thin veneer of plausibility for Forrest being able to get whatever material he needs to Get The Job Done.

OK, where was I…oh yeah. Seagal. Crap. Movie.

Forrest quickly sets up some electronic doo-dad to send out a "signal" so that the mercenaries can find him…so, you know, he can kill a bunch of people.

All in the name of the environment, naturally.

The Bad Guys immediately pick up the signal on their own Evil Electronic Device and send in a bunch of guys on horseback to the location.

(Really now, isn’t Alaska, uh…big?…oh, forget it.)

Anyhoo, Forrest rigs up a gigantic wad of C4 to somehow explode exactly at the same moment the helicopter is just beside the run down shed.

Bye bye, helicopter.

(Since my head hurts, I’m not going to even go into how impossibly unlikely it would be to actually time something like that…let alone if it even would have affected the helicopter at all because…ouch…my head hurts.)

Forrest and Masu mount their horses and ride off for the Final Confrontation along with enough explosives to level half of Mount Everest. Nevertheless, in hot pursuit, is none other than MacGruder and the Mercenaries now also on horseback, which is odd, because I thought they were on the helicopter that was just blown up. I’ll go ahead and give this film the benefit of the doubt and say that I must have blacked out somewhere along the line and missed the way in which these guys magically transported from the helicopter to the horses.

On Deadly GroundAnyway, on the horses now, MacGruder and the others spot Forrest at the top of a ridge and storm off to capture him. Lucky for them, they quickly discover a booby trap the Forrest had hastily constructed.

"I thought this guy was gonna be good…" a Soon To Be Dead nameless mercenary scoffs.

(Billy Bob Thorton makes his appearance at this point. Mr. Thorton: If you are reading this review, I forgive you for being in this movie: You are one of my favorite actors…and I loved Sling Blade!)

Oh wow. The booby trap was just a diversion. Who woulda thunkit? Scratch a pair of careless Nameless Mercenaries that fall to the real booby traps.

Excitement!

Forrest and Masu (once again…she’s tagging along because…?) ride off with MacGruder and the others in hot pursuit. Give yourself a few more Beer Points if you guessed that Forrest and Masu would be forced to stop short at the brink of a Gaping Chasm. Oh dear. Are they going to jump it? My heart! My heart! What will happen next?

On Deadly Ground

Yes, Forrest lights the fuse on a satchel charge, drops it on the cliff ledge, and hops over the chasm.

Masu follows suit because, well, she’s so vital to the plot at this point.

After Forrest and Masu safely leap to the other side, the satchel charge detonates and blows off the tip of the right-hand ledge, leaving the gap somehow impossible for the horses to leap over now that it’s about 2 feet wider than it was before.

"This guy is good!" Nameless Mercenary #4 remarks upon seeing Forrest’s handy work.

On Deadly Ground

Nope…can’t jump it now…waaaayyy to wide now. Nosirree.

With that insurmountable gulf separating them from the bad guys, Forrest and Masu magically make their way onto the refinery grounds proper.

"You stay here while I blow the generators," Forrest tells Masu because it’s just that easy to do.

Yeah, well, I guess it is: Forrest manages to sabotage the main generator and the backup generator because…he’s just that damned good. Oh, and he’s shoots a guard in the head.

But he was a Bad Guy so it’s ok.

Meanwhile, Jennings finds out that Aegis-1 is due to go online in about 3 hours. (Seeing that there’s only 30 minutes of runtime left, I’m assuming that’s not going to happen.) Oh, and for good measure, Jennings has called in the FBI Anti-Terrorist Unit to bolster the refinery’s defenses against "that maniac" Forrest.

I gotta tell you, this movie is really dragging right now. (Probably like this review…I hope not.)

Moving right along…Forrest continues sneaking around the refinery killing random unlucky henchmen and mercenaries, which seems pretty cruel…Take for example, some random guard goes to take a leak and Forrest strangles him. I mean, how did Forrest know he was one of the mercs?

After about 5 seconds of sneaking around finally , Forrest reaches some sort of work area full of, well, workers. (Man..I gotta buy a thesaurus.) Anyway, Forrest simply shouts "Get out of here, it’s gonna blow!" and the workers immediately drop their tools and flee. Boy, that Forrest, huh? What an authority figure.

Things finally start happening when the generator that Forrest sabotaged finally goes kaput.

"The power’s out! We’ll have to reboot all the computers," a Nameless Nerd reports to Jennings.

"How long’s that gonna take?"

"Four or five minutes top!" (Yep…he’s using Windows.)

Forrest decides to set things in high gear and starts remotely detonating bombs that he’s placed at various key locations around the refinery. If you watch the explosions carefully you’ll see multitudes of workers fleeing for their lives which, in my eyes at least, makes Forrest guilty of being an irresponsible asshole and very close to being a murderer.

Blah blah.

The Mercenaries run around trying to shoot Forrest who busies himself setting up bombs at key points on the refinery structure. This scene gives Seagal yet another opportunity to pat himself on the back about what a bad-ass he is. This time via a pair of mercenaries discussing Just Who They’re Dealing With:

"He’s the kind of guy that would drink a gallon of gasoline so he could piss in your campfire."

(Ummm…I’m not sure what that means but let’s just go with it.)

"You could drop this guy off on the Arctic Circle wearing a pair of bikini underwear and without his toothbrush and tomorrow afternoon he’s gonna show up at your poolside with a million-dollar smile and a fist full of Pesos."

(That sound you just heard was me retching at the thought of Seagal in bikini underwear…oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.)

Initiate perfunctory Gun Fight Scene.

Wow…that was exciting.

As word gets around that Forrest is on the loose busily rigging the refinery to explode, the Aegis-1 employees and crew flee for the hills. In a charming scene, MacGruder makes his way to a waiting helicopter where Forrest is lurking. MacGruder tries to get away but Forrest grabs him and starts shoving him into the helicopter’s rear tail blades. Sensing that this could kind of suck, MacGruder tries to cut a deal, then attempts to attack Forrest, I think, it’s dark and I’m sick of this film. Anyway, it results in Forrest shoving MacGruder, face first, into the twirling blades…cut to a lingering shot of blood splattering over the tail of the helicopter.

On a side note, Jennings’ Right-Hand Evil Corporate Hench Woman tries to make her escape as well and ends up driving a truck directly into a gasoline pipe. Trapped in the cab, she can only watch as the pool of gas spreads to some flames and engulfs her in a gigantic fireball. Now seriously, she really didn’t do anything to deserve that. OK, sure, she’s part of an Evil Corporation…but being burned to death in a gasoline explosion? Mr. Seagal, I think you need some counseling.

On Deadly GroundMeanwhile Jennings leaves the control room and heads over to Aegis-1 in order to engage in some sort of process so that he can officially claim that Aegis-1 is "online", thus keeping his mineral and oil rights by beating the deadline.

(At this point in the film there is a brief scene with Billy Bob Thorton chatting with another mercenary, and it’s just painfully obvious that Thorton is in a completely different league than these other hack actors.)

Forrest continues the slaughter by immolating a trio of mercs who were merely standing around by a door. Yes, even though he could have quickly dispatched them with a flurry of bullets, Forrest instead chooses to open a pipe to pour raw gasoline over them, then ignite the hapless guys by making a spark with a bullet. Nice.

After killing a gazillion hapless mercenaries, Forrest and Masu reach the (unguarded) control room where our hero begins shutting down/flooding critical areas of the oil rig. (One scene explicitly shows a pipe spewing huge clots of crude oil sludge out onto the floor and presumably eventually out into the ocean…nice one, Forrest.) Down in some dark contrived set, Forrest covers his ass by noting that he’s setting up some sort of doo-dad in order to prevent an oil spill, since, you know, he is an ECO-HERO. (Never mind all the oil pipes his opened i the previous scene.) How he can now prevent an oil spill after rigging the entire platform to explode is beyond me…but then again…he’s just that good!!! Oh, and he also kills the main mercenary guy who was hiding in a gigantic pool of oil (Now that just can’t be good for the complexion), because he Just Knew that Forrest would be there, at that computer console, out of the bazillion other consoles on the platform.

Realizing that things are going to blow, and soon, Forrest and Masu try to escape but are trapped inside a room full of explosive container. (You know the kind.) Obviously, the bad guys can’t shoot because, well, the whole room would go up, so they have to try and take Forrest out hand-to-hand. Naturally, this gives us yet another opportunity to watch Seagal beat the living shit out of a bunch of overweight extras, because, you know, you just can never get enough of watching that. (Including a super-slow motion shot of a nerdy looking merc in glasses getting his head smashed with a lead pipe. What a humanitarian that Forrest is.)

Finally, and I do mean finally, we come to the (sort of) climax. Forrest somehow magically comes across Jennings (the script said so) and forces him against a wall with a pistol.

"You’re a piece of shit…You’re scum of the Earth!" Forrest trenchantly remarks.

(Shakespeare, watch out!)

Anyway, Jennings calls Forrest’s bluff and turns to leave. Being a man of honor (yeah, right), Forrest somehow whips up a wire lasso (From what?! Where?!) and captures Jennings; leaving him hanging by his feet from a huge crane hook. (Don’t ask…it’s as idiotic as you’re imagining right now.) Jennings, realizing that his goose is cooked, one way or another, shouts insults at Forrest who, after getting fed up with the verbal abuse, shoots the wire that Jennings dangles from, thus dropping him (or a stuntman thereof) into an miraculously convenient pool of crude oil.

Oh….the irony.

(I’m curious, do oil rigs really have gigantic open containers of oil just sitting around for people to fall into? Apparently so. I mean, this movie has been pretty realistic so far…)

More Pyrotechnic Pornography as Seagal runs through gigantic explosions in Super Slow Mo. (Masu manages to keep up as Forrest…er…"makes a path" for her…his words, not mine. Yup, "making a path" through a fireball.) Forrest and Masu steal a truck and zip out of the refinery just as it goes Kaa-blowey. Yeah. What a surprise. And man, that was exciting. I wasn’t really sure if they were going to make it or not.

Cut to the Alaskan state capitol where Forrest delivers his jaw-dropping 3-minute monologue about the evils of greedy oil corporations, foolish environmental policies, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

(Remember, the original version lasted TEN MINUTES!!!)

So here you have it in its entirety. I had to watch it all, and you know what…you’re going to enjoy it too!

“I’d like to start out by saying, thank you to all the brothers and sisters that have come here today representing this cause. I have been asked by Mr. Itok and the tribal council to speak to you and the members of the Press about the injustice that has been brought against us by some Government Officials and Big Business. How many of you out there have heard of alternative engines? Engines that can run on anything from alcohol to garbage or water . Or carburetors that can get hundreds of miles to the gallon. Or electric or magnetic engines, that can practically run forever. You don’t know about them because if they were to come into use, they’d put the oil companies out of business. The concept of the internal combustion engine has been obsolete for over fifty years. But because of the Oil Cartels and corrupt government regulation, we and the rest of the world have been forced to use gasoline for over a hundred years. Big Business is primarily responsible for destroying the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They have no care for the world they destroy: only for the money they make in the process. How many oil spills can we endure? Millions and millions of gallons of oil are now destroying the ocean and the many forms of life it supports. Among these is plankton, which supplies sixty to ninety percent of the Earth’s oxygen. This supports the entire marine ecosystem which forms the basis of our planet’s food supply. But the plankton is dying. I thought, well, let’s go to remote state or country. Anywhere on Earth. But in doing a little research I realized that these people broker toxic waste all over the world. They basically control the legislation, and, in fact, they control the law. The Law says, “no company can be fined over $25,000 a day” For companies making $10,000,000 dollars a day by dumping lethal toxic wastes into the ocean, it’s only good business to continue doing this. They influence the media so that they can control our minds. They have made it a crime to speak out for ourselves, and if we do so we’re called “conspiracy nuts” and we’re laughed at. We’re angry because we’re all being chemically and genetically damaged, and we don’t even realize it. Unfortunately, this will effect our children. We go to work each day and right under our noses we see our car and the car in front of us spewing noxious poisonous gasses that are all accumulative poisons. These poisons kill us slowly, even when we see no effect. How many of us would have believed if we were told twenty years ago that on a certain day we wouldn’t be able to see fifty feet in front of us. That we wouldn’t be able to take a deep breath because the air would be a mass of poisonous gas. That we wouldn’t be able to drink out of our faucets, that we’d have to buy water out of bottles. Our most common and God-given rights have been taken away from us. Unfortunately, the reality of our lives is so grim that nobody wants to hear it. Now, I’ve been asked what we can do? I think we need a responsible body of people that can actually represent us rather than Big Business. This body of people must not allow the introduction of anything into our environment that is not absolutely biodegradable or able to be chemically neutralized upon production. And finally, as long as there is profit to be made from polluting the Earth, companies and individuals will continue to do what they want. We have to force these companies to operate safely and responsibly, and with all our best interests in mind. So that when they don’t, we can take back our resources and our hearts and our minds and do what’s right.”

The End

Dennis Grisbeck (Jan 2008)

Afterthoughts

A confusing jumble of conflicting elements: Was this aimed at tree-hugging liberals (like myself?), or the beer-chugging blood-n-guts bucket-o-action crowd? (I guess I’m sorta in there too…)

Let’s take a quick look at the elements of this movie:

Blackmail, bar fights, nut-crushing, Dream Quests, oil spills, mercenaries, massive explosions, torture scenes, and a 3-minute (!) monologue to wrap things up. Who could have possibly made all this work? Certainly not Steven Seagal.

Oh, and Mr. Seagal, I did like you in Hard to Kill and Under Siege, so if this review pisses you off, please don’t hunt me down and crush my nuts. Ok?

Read more about On Deadly Ground at

IMDB

3 comments to On Deadly Ground (1994)

  • Seagal has stretched himself to reach new heights of acting skill. Well done, though a little bit tediously long.

  • guts3d

    “Do you think that hocus-pocus stuff is going to help us now?” Forrest answers in an incredible about face after his mystical Dream Quest he just experienced early that very same day!

    I saw this stinker at the local theater, as the ads for it leaned heavily toward the action flick side. I grudgingly went, even though I knew that old Steve would probably use the “take shotgun from attacker and shoot him with it” move. When he grunted the above line, I remember clearly laughing out loud, wondering if it was just me who thought that was one hell of a contradiction. Nice review!

  • The4thStooge

    HOLY CRAP!

    After reading (and loving!) this recap, I just realized I won tickets to see this on a local radio station my senior year of HS. (The question I answered, after literally 93 wrong callers, was: Who was Harry Horwitz and what high school did he graduate from? Trick question–Moe Howard, and he didn’t graduate from Erasmus Hall) The catch was that I would have to go on a Wednesday night at 8:30 at a specific theatre. I wasn’t going to be bothered going to see a cheezy movie on a school night–that stuff’s for the weekend!–and the thought of going to THAT theatre was worrisome. It wasn’t a bad part of town…it was an EMPTY part of town.

    I guess in hindsight, it was fitting.

    Love the reviews!

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