It wouldn’t be too fair to undervalue the notable efforts exhibited in director James Cullen Bressack’s new crime thriller, Beyond The Law, for its meager potboiler existence in a market still primed for not-so-high-art action titles.
The film does draw on some of its more solid aspects to construct a worthy and watchable thriller thanks in large part to its workable story, and performances led by Johnny Messener, DMX, Steven Seagal and Bill Cobbs. Next to its requisite action-scenic moments, that’s about as far as the compliments can reach in general, while it’s only necessary to admit the painfully obvious.
That point will get a spotlight a little later in this review. I will say, however, that its importance is underscored in simply watching the films and judging for yourself if the film’s foremost title seller still bares any relevance to the genre he’s helped shaped in more than thirty years.
Messener leads the cast for Beyond The Law as Frank, an ex-cop with a seedy career past. His idyllic rural existence away from city life is uprooted when his old buddy, Detective Munce (DMX) informs him that his son, Chance (Chester Rushing), just ate a bullet. Frank sets out to find Chance’s killer in a story that soon ties in to former crimeboss-turned-businessman named Augustin “Finn” Adair (Seagal) and his continued struggle to develop a proper relationship with his son, Desmond (Zack Ward).
Fathers and sons are at the crux of this particular cat-and-mouse tale, one in which the aforementioned Cobbs gets to seize several moments of his own in a supporting capacity. The rest of the film’s characterizations tend to fall by the wayside unless they’re villains being taken out by either Frank or Adair, and though the film’s major plot twist feels like lazy writing in a sense, at the very least, it contributes to an otherwise convenient effort to tell a story from start to finish.
As far as this critic is concerned though, one of the biggest mistakes that anyone could make is to think that this film is in any way watchable because Seagal is in it. Indeed, he’s got his fanbase, and his resumé still stands the test of time with early credits that hail some of the most memorable action classics of the late 80s and early/mid-90s. That was before Seagal started making mediocre action films and riding the coattails of way more talented action stars like Bren Foster, Steve Austin, Byron Mann, Louis Fan and Reel Deal Action.
Ultimately, that’s where the Beyond The Law fails in what’s supposed to be its big payoff finale, with a perfunctory fight scene that is razor thin in substance and delivery, and does the preceding eighty eight minutes very little justice for what the film is worth. All this, of course, next to his incessant monologuing which is supposed to add to the film’s dramatic mood – which, for a time or two, it does.
Still, you could remove Seagal from the equation Messner would eventually sell this film much better opposite a more worthwhile actor playing the villain – particularly one who could exude more from the creativity of fight choreographer Narayan Cabral. Unfortunately, as deserving as action fans are, that’s not what they get.
There’s definitely an audience here for Beyond The Law that probably doesn’t ask too much other than what it offers. It’s got action, a feasible crime story packed in a quality production, and you don’t have to think too much or at all about what is on screen in order to enjoy it. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters, unless you have different tastes and standards than what you’re being sold by the film’s keyart, which does a less-than approving job of highlighting who the star of the film is. Not exactly a first for a title with Seagal in it.