Of all the amazingly bad direct-to-video (DTV) films that Seagal churned out from 2001 until recently, Renegade Justice (or Urban Justice, as it’s known to our State-side cousins) is one of the better ones. Firstly, it fails to contain any of the awful automated dialogue replacement (or ADR) that plagued nearly all of Seagal’s previous video releases. His voice is often dubbed by a sound-alike voice actor (two of the worst examples being Out Of Reach and Attack Force), who never the less sound less like Seagal and more like a geriatric with laryngitis.
Secondly, Seagal finally does all of the fights and stunts (apart from in one suspect long shot) and this shows him to be one brutal mo-fo. The story is your typical revenge thriller in the style of Death Wish, except with more bloody gunshot wounds and an overwhelming number of kicks to the groin. Simon Ballister’s (Seagal) son is gunned down late one night. Sensing that it wasn’t an accident, Simon decides to move into the rough neighbourhood and do some of his own detective work. Along the way he also finds police corruption and a gangster (played by Eddie Griffin) who likes Scarface a little too much.
As has become standard for later Seagal films, he chooses to either mumble or grunt and wheeze between bursts of swearing. Several embarrassing moments occur (for the audience at least) where Seagal slips into bouts of gangster-tinged dialogue like, “Tell every motherfucker on the street they’re not safe ’til I find the motherfucker who killed my son”.
That’s just one of the many colourful expletive-filled phrases that Seagal uses over the course of the film, helping to make this DTV experience all the more watchable. It’s clear, though, that the film’s budget is laughably low (as is the case for all of Seagal’s DTV efforts). This becomes especially obvious during the car chases, where the green screen is not-so-expertly used. But this is a minor flaw in an otherwise overlooked little Friday night rental.
Renegade Justice also contains some interesting, brutal stand-offs between Seagal and various gang members. Legs are broken, wrists are snapped, knives are shoved into throats and testicles are ritualistically kicked to a rhythm that even dance troupe Stomp could make a beat to. There is one instance in which Seagal kicks a guy at least 17 times. Some would say that’s a tad excessive. I, on the other hand, found myself laughing uncomfortably at the sheer brutality of it all.
As mentioned, most of the poor blighters that get gunned down explode with blood. Each gunshot wound is so gloriously over the top as to verge into anime-esque violence. The best way to describe it is to picture a whole bucket of fake blood being thrown at the screen. It absolutely defies medical science. But it makes it all the more interesting, because without the over-the-top violence this would be just another DTV film you’d stumble on and then turn off a few minutes later.
It’s not high art. Nor is it even well made art. But what it does, it does well: back to basics action filmmaking, with copious amounts of violence and an added Danny Trejo cameo. If you came stumbling in from a drunken session this would be the perfect late night movie. It’s a passable piece of Seagal nonsense and certainly better than most of his more recent efforts. Personally, I feel Seagal should make a Christmas film; something along the lines of Steven Seagal is The Nutcracker. In the meantime I guess this will have to do.