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November 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

The Keeper
cast: Steven Seagal, Liezl Carstens, Steph DuVall, Luce Rains, and Arron Shiver

director: Keoni Waxman

90 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
Steven Seagal is amongst the more successful of those actors who have made a career from their fighting skills rather than their acting skills. Year after year, he churns out formulaic action movies in which he beats up baddies and gurns his soft-spoken way through a story in which he stars. It is a career, you would imagine, with a finite lifetime. Sexagenarians, after all, make poor action heroes. Seagal, of course, is not quite that old - he was born in 1952, so he has another three years yet (although his hair appears to be somewhat younger). But he's certainly past his prime. And in The Keeper, it shows. Despite this, Seagal has one talent which none of his peers possess - he can beat the shit out of someone and patronise them at the same time. He does this to fine effect throughout this film.

In The Keeper, Seagal plays Los Angeles cop Rolland Sallinger. He is shot and left for dead by his partner during a drugs bust, but manages to hang on until the emergency services arrive. In the hospital, his partner tries to finish the job, but Seagal kills him instead. There then follows a bizarrely slow sequence in which Seagal pops pain pills and tries to regain his previous portly fitness. In vain, it transpires, as the police force retires him on medical grounds. At which point he is contacted by Connor Wells (Steph DuVall), a friend from his days in SWAT training in Texas. Wells is now super-rich and a pillar of the community. A local criminal bigwig and business rival, Jason Cross (Luce Rains), recently made an attempt to kidnap Wells' daughter, Nikita (Liezl Carstens) - which, as even Elton John knows, is not a woman's name - and so Wells wants Sallinger to be her bodyguard. So off he flies to Santa Fe.

While the opening of The Keeper has strayed an inch or two from the template, the remainder of it stays firmly on track. Sallinger revamps Wells' security, takes a dislike to Nikita's boxer boyfriend (Arron Shiver), and has a run-in with Cross' men, while a growing closeness between Sallinger and Nikita begins to flower... And then she is kidnapped.

This was not exactly hard to predict. But, in order for it to occur, the story has to break, which is not exactly difficult to predict either. Sallinger is Nikita's bodyguard. He's also the hero of the film. So he's either a crap bodyguard, or Nikita leaves Wells' secure mansion without Sallinger, despite being told repeatedly not to do so. It's the latter, of course - Seagal is not about to undermine his character's credibility (even if his physical stoutness does). But when a film's plot can only progress due to the stupidity of one of the characters, because one of the characters has done specifically what they were told not to do, then you know something's wrong with the story.

Because, without Nikita's stupidity, there would be no final confrontation with the bad guys; there would be no shootout, and no opportunity for Seagal to save the day and resolve the plot. But never mind. En route to that point, there's plenty of macho posturing, lots of fighting (with heavily overdone sound effects), and encounters with characters only recently unboxed from central casting. The feisty Latina girl: check. The sneering thuggish bad guy(s): check. The runt sidekick: check. The unreliable boyfriend who doesn't deserve the female lead and subsequently sells her out: check. (And he's a pathetic boxer as well - we're supposed to believe he wins all his bouts, but he can't even defend himself from a meathead thug.)

For all that, The Keeper is undoubtedly aimed squarely at Seagal's fanbase. No one else is going to buy it - unless perhaps they found it in a 99p bin in their local supermarket. So the logic of the story, the plausibility of a portly near-sexagenarian beating the crap out of assorted bad guys (after being near death months before), the sheer predictability of it all... well, that's not going to bother them. They probably expect it. Perhaps they should set their expectations a bit higher.

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