Having started backwards through Seagal’s nigh neverending filmography I’ve always managed to find a hook, a blip, or an absurdity to cheer me up. All too often I’ve got hung up on some oblique choice of direction, some incoherent narrative leap, or just the terrifying ineptitude of production. Sometimes the degree of our man’s involvement is a sight to behold, especially in what might loosely be described as ‘action sequences’. More than a few of his films have gone to print being far short of what you might call ‘complete’, and the often numerous short comings are an insight to the pressures of independent film production beyond the arthouses. Barely a rung above the porn industry in terms of budget and artistic integrity, the blunt commercial interests of the direct-to-video sector is just a microcosm of the larger forces at work in any Hollywood production. An uncanny parallel, a dark mirror, just something to put it all in perspective.
Pistol Whipped manages to go one further by spectacularly failing to elicit anything. Pure and undiluted apathy in cinematic form. To say it’s boring would be to credit the film with a form of emotional impact it still falls short of.
Lance Henriksen’s in it. You know, Bishop from Aliens, he’s in absolutely everything these days. At one point you see the camera crew reflected in the very shiny door of a car, and that made me laugh. At another Seagal starts drumming on a car window with his knuckles, brushing dangerously close to improvisation, at least in musical form. A priest turns up a couple of times in a cod-confessional scene to help flesh out Seagal’s character, and we get a bit of exposition too. He gets killed at the end, and that’s a bit of a shame, even if he did seem to have come straight off the set of a 90s Werther’s Originals advert. And coincidentally, it has been widely observed that at no point does anyone in the film get whipped by a pistol. This might very well be the only notable thing in the whole film.
I’ve dragged myself through the film twice, rewatched bits, and that’s the sum of all I can muster in recalling the film. The DVD cover is filled with poker and gambling bits and bobs, which I guess is one way of tapping into a big obvious market. Just Googling this film leaves me with a deluge of ads trying to sign me up to Cool Lonely Manly Solitaire with Built-in Money Loss. Of course there’s not much actual poker in the game. Seagal plays a bit at the beginning and fails spectacularly, which is perhaps ironic considering the man is afflicted with a permanent poker-face. Perhaps the wind changed sharply one morning.
So, Seagal sucks at poker; he accrues a lot of debt; being an effective hitman is good way of dissolving such fiscal obstacles, and therein a plot. There are sub-plots too, but have a guess as to what they might be and you’re probably right.
I’m tempted to say that Seagal just seems contemptuous of even having to be present in this film, but again that might suggest some undercurrent of tension in the film. Which there isn’t. It’s a complete and utter non-entity. It isn’t even bad. It isn’t anything. The whole thing is just a gaping void. I’m sorry to even have to mention it, let alone dwell on it, but this voyage wouldn’t be complete without it.