Steven Seagal and Stone Cold Steve Austin – a dream team if I’ve ever heard one.
When you hear the names Steven Seagal and Steve Austin, you think of one of the top action stars of the 80s and 90s and one of the top wrestling stars of the 90s and 2000s, respectively. Two men who, while initially prospering in two entirely different fields, have both ended up at the same place – direct-to-DVD films.
And it shouldn’t be that way! Seagal was an absolutely brilliant performer and a brutal fighter on the silver screen until someone was dumb enough to give him creative control over his films. Over the years, his fame has gotten to his head and stayed there as his star faded and his weight ballooned. He’s also insane. And Austin, arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, is in the best shape of his life and a competent performer whose film career is still waiting to take off; until then, he’s relegated to less than stellar movies like his first collaboration with Seagal, Maximum Conviction.
This direct-to-DVD/Bluray film is an unfortunate piece of work – a collection of missed opportunities. Maximum Conviction stars the two action heroes as former soldiers tasked with decommissioning an old prison. But of course that won’t go well! A cruel bad guy, played by the villainous Bren Foster, leads his own ragtag team to extract two prisoners of interest (Aliyah O’Brien, Steph Song), forcing Seagal and Austin to fight back. You’d think this was just a great excuse to let these two guys go crazy and kick ass for an hour and a half, but the biggest flaw with the film is that these two share MAYBE ten minutes of screen time together. There are only a handful of scenes where the two interact, and the only time they get their hands dirty together is in a big shootout. No hand-to-hand, back-to-back combat! It’s almost as if both men couldn’t commit to a full movie so they each did half and met up a couple times so there could be a picture of them together on the cover.
With the biggest selling point of the entire movie out the window, what we’re left with is a story that will make you scream at the screen out of frustration. The writing is serviceable, the performances are acceptable, and the movie is presented reasonably well with an above average score. But there are so many smaller missed opportunities besides the two stars avoiding each other that it never veers into fun territory and actively made me angry.
I’ll give you another, smaller example. Early on in the film, Seagal is helping transfer a few prisoners, including a fat, sweaty black guy (fun side note: Seagal TALKS like a fat, sweaty black guy for no reason in this movie). After he mouths off to the Aikido master, the two have at it and Seagal gets the better of him because Seagal. The fat sweaty guy vows vengeance on Seagal, leaving us to believe the two will throw down again later in the film, probably resulting in Seagal ending the prisoner’s life. However, that NEVER HAPPENS, even when the prisoner resurfaces to do something despicable. Things like that are all over the movie – rivalries are built up and have little to no payoff, and dozens of chances for little one-liners, callback jokes, and character interactions are replaced with angry scowls and more angry scowls. I was left unsatisfied multiple times when I shouldn’t have been.
Even if you don’t care about Austin and Seagal, even if you don’t care about character interactions and payoff, if you JUST want to see a bunch of people shoot and punch in the movie, you’ll only be marginally satisfied. There are a handful of good fight scenes and some of the shootout segments are a lot of fun, so if you only want mindless action you’ll get your fix but there’s a lot left to be desired. It’s certainly better than a lot of direct-to-DVD action films out there, including much of Seagal’s work, but with all the squandered potential you’ll leave this movie just plain sad.
I wanted to enjoy Maximum Conviction. While Seagal is well past his prime, he still knows how to punch dudes in the face and break arms. And Austin is a wrestling legend who did the best he could in what little he had to work with. Putting these two together should have made this a fun ride, but we didn’t really get that at all. This movie should be billed as Steven Seagal OR Steve Austin. But even with that aside, the mark was so painfully missed on parts that still could have made this movie something worth putting on again on a rainy Sunday.
Unfortunately, Maximum Conviction fails to deliver. When it’s inevitably playing at 2am one weekend, it’ll be worth a go, because it is by no means bad. It just underwhelms and disappoints when it could have been better than average. The ending leaves it open for a sequel, so let’s hope if these two get together again it’s something worth watching.