Steven Seagal's Kill Switch is perfectly terrible, which makes it perfectly entertaining. Seagal, of course, was the block-headed, quietly menacing hairdresser-turned-martial-arts star at the center of an improbable string of profitable action flicks from the late 1980s into the early 1990s. It's been almost two decades since he had real relevance, and it's pushing eight years since the squandered intrigue of 2001's Exit Wounds, which could have helped carve out a comeback track as a gruff sidekick to rap stars wanting to "get their act on" in urban knuckle-dusters. Instead, Seagal wanted — and by all accounts, maintains — strict control of his screen image and material, which means impossibly heroic and one-note, straight-to-video action flicks that adhere to the same time-worn templates which first burnished his star. Kill Switch is the latest of these, but it's a very messy affair, one that definitely ranks toward the bottom of Seagal's filmography.
Seagal plays a Memphis streetwise homicide detective, Jacob King, dedicated to tracking down serial killers since witnessing the murder of his twin brother as an adolescent. Kill Switch finds King and his partner, Storm Anderson (Chris Thomas King), on the trail of two sadistic killers. One is a ruthless explosives expert who brutalizes and tortures victims just for the thrill of the kill. The other is a disturbed Zodiac-type killer, obsessed with the cat-and-mouse games that crime provides. Reluctantly teaming with federal agent Frankie Miller (Holly Dignard), Jacob decides — you guessed it — to take the law into his own hands, enforcing his own methods of street justice, and engaging in such delightful sidebar antics as smashing in a pimp's face at a bar.
The script here is of course derisible, but what really sinks the movie is thunderously stupid dialogue and an intertwined lack of convincing stylistic verve or even any smirky joy. Kill Switch's action sequences are a wincing reminder of the star's sartorial weight control. When not busy beating the crap out of old men and playing hand-slap games with tubby rednecks, Seagal used to actually engage in a few legitimate martial arts moves; now, he mostly likes to have guys just run into his fists and jackboot-ed feet. Kill Switch further ups the ridiculousness by indulging in repeated quick-cuts and editorial re-plays that show each bit of table-smashing action six to eight times, from several different angles. Isaac Hayes shows up in a bit role as a coroner, intoning lines from cue cards with such stilted obviousness that it sparks imaginative thoughts of a drinking game. All of this of course means that Kill Switch can on a certain level be enjoyed as a ludicrous comedy, by right-mindset action fans. Inexplicably, the movie's ending features a tacked-on sequence that reunites Jacob with his never-before-mentioned Russian wife (Andrea Stefancikova) and two kids, mainly just so some extra nudity can be squeezed in.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, and presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Kill Switch comes with a solid Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track, as well as optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. Unfortunately, apart from a gallery of previews for other First Look home video releases, there are no supplemental bonus features to be found here. Personally, I think Seagal should embrace the kitschy, so-bad-it's-good vibe that these days drives the most passionate element of his diminished and/or driven underground fan base; if not puffing himself up into ironic, mock-iconic relevance, a la David Hasselhoff or William Shatner, that means at least having smart folks who know and cherish his head-cracking ways advocate on his behalf, or even sit in critical judgment of downward-slope-of-the-hill releases like this. How else will the ritual of "Seagal Movie Nights" be passed to another generation? To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D-, and therefore, in a way, A (Movie) D (Disc)