Plot: What’s it about?
Jake Hopper (Steven Seagal) used to work deep inside foreign lands for the CIA, along with his friend and partner Sunti (Byron Mann). But all that changed in a matter of minutes, when a meeting turned violent. Jake managed to fend off the attackers, while Sunti chased down one who ran from the scene. After he dispatched that gunman, Sunti fell into some water and his vision was blurred, which caused him to mistake an innocent woman for an assailant. As he watched in horror as the woman struggled, Sunti was shot himself. Jake arrived just in time to prevent another bullet from taking Sunti’s life, but the damage had been done. Afterwards, Sunti would leave the force and look for spiritual guidance with the monks, as well as trying to make peace for all the violence he was involved in. Jake has also left his old ways behind, but a tragic turn of events will soon pull him back to his prior methods. His daughter and her friend were in Thailand, when a Muslim extremist group killed the boys they were with, then kidnapped the young ladies. The demands made are out of the question, the kind of things no one can promise, which means the girls are in serious danger, since time is starting to run out. Instead of waiting on help to arrive, Jake takes control of the situation and heads out to reclaim his daughter.
I know I am in the minority in this, but I have never found Steven Seagal’s movies to be that bad, at least not in terms of solid entertainment. I can’t argue that Seagal is even a passable actor or that his storylines are dynamic, but his films can still be fun to watch. But after some early success, Seagal took a downward spiral on the fast track, which led to some lackluster movies and soon after, a disappearance from the business. A return to the screen with a new image fueled Exit Wounds into a hit, but now Seagal is mired in direct to video limbo. Is Belly of the Beast just another lame straight to the disc picture though, or does Seagal’s presence amp it up a little? In the end, this is a passable movie in most respects, but it never rises above that average watermark. Seagal is business as usual, while the storyline and other performers are decent, but not that memorable. I mean, this could have been a complete dose of boredom, but Belly of the Beast turns out to be a decent flick, though it could have been better. Some of the action scenes are very well done, but the lack of budget is evident at times. Perhaps with a little more in terms of resources, the action could have been turned up a notch or two. All in all, Belly of the Beast would make a decent rental for action fans, but a purchase is hard to recommend.
His comeback seems concrete now, although I am sure Steven Seagal wanted to return to more than a chain of direct to video releases. At least he has consistent work however, so at least he can keep up with his bills, right? In Belly of the Beast, he plays a role we’ve seen him in before, but he is an older version. As such, he isn’t as fluid and fast with his moves, but the action scenes seem to have been tailored to his strengths. In other words, his fight scenes aren’t as impressive as before, but he works well and is up to the task. His action skills remain solid however, while his thespian skills remain less than impressive. But after all of his pictures, I doubt anyone is coming into Belly of the Beast for an award level performance. He has enough screen presence to balance out his less than superb acting though, which is about all we can ask. After all, he is known for his action skills, not his overall thespian talents. I do think he has more movies left also, so let’s hope he finds a decent project sooner than later. Other films with Seagal include Fire Down Below, Exit Wounds, Under Siege, Half Past Dead, and Out for Justice. The cast also includes Byron Mann (Crying Freeman, Tv’s Dark Angel), Tom Wu (The Wisdom of Crocodiles, Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life), and Monica Lo (Naked Weapon, To Seduce an Enemy).
Video: How does it look?
Belly of the Beast is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is not a top level visual presentation, but it looks solid. This is a new release, which means the print should be in pristine condition or at least close, but that isn’t the case here. The print has light grain throughout, as well as some debris and marks at times. These problems amount to a soft overall presence, not what we want in a new release. On the plus side, the colors look bright and contrast is smooth, so that helps balance out the visuals. I did see some minor halos however, which makes the review go out on a bad note. Even with the listed flaws, the transfer comes out well enough, I just expected a little more from such a new release.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is an action movie with Mr. Seagal and as such, you need powerful audio and in that respect, this track more than delivers. The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is a real gem, lots of surround use and a myriad of directional usage, very impressive indeed. I was very pleased with this track, as it places you right in the midst of it all, a very immersive experience from start to finish. Whether the effects are loud and booming or more subtle, this track handles them well and ensures they’re placed just right within the mix. The dialogue also sounds great, so no vocals are ever lost in the shuffle. This disc also includes English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s trailer.