The gift that keeps on giving
Posted On:7/07/2008 4:39pm
Style: On hiatus
Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal
(Titan Books) $14.95.
OMG OMG OMG... This is fucking fantastic. I thought it was going to be some little 50 page gag number when I heard about it, but boy was I wrong. This thing is WELL over 300 pages of pure awesome. I have only had time to give it a cursory glance but here is the review in the local rag that got me to buy it (cutting out the unnecessary crap at the beginning):
Humor Isn't Funny
But Steven Seagal Is. (Kind of.)
Nobody equates the film fansite Ain't It Cool News with good writing. AICN founder Harry Knowles famously wrote about why he sat all the way through the recent Mike Myers bomb The Love Guru: "People had to survive the Holocaust to hold those responsible, responsible. This film isn't as bad as the Holocaust. Nothing could be." So it was with a great deal of surprise that I absolutely loved reading Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal, by frequent AICN contributor and uninamed local author Vern.
I've never seen a Steven Seagal movie (his grunting machismo is about as appealing to me as watching a dog lick at an infected sore), but the sheer relentlessness of this book is fascinating. Vern watches every single Seagal movie in order—he even reviews Seagal's two records, his energy drink (Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt Energy Drink, both Cherry Charge and Asian Experience flavors), and a 2006 musical performance of Seagal's band, Thunderbox, at Seattle's Tractor Tavern—and after each review, he straight-facedly lists the number of fights in bars, how much broken glass is featured in the film, improvised weapons, and expressions of how badass other characters declare Seagal to be. (Someone in On Deadly Ground actually says, "Delve down into the deepest bowels of your soul. Try to imagine the ultimate fucking nightmare. And that won't come close to this son of a bitch when he gets pissed.")
Vern greatly admires Seagal, but he is supremely aware of the drawbacks of his canon. He quotes some brilliantly foul lines (some secret-agent code from Mercenary for Justice: "Tiger, this is Mouse. What's happening at the beehive?"), and he openly mocks the trashy idiocy of Seagal's later direct-to-video offerings. From his review of Attack Force:
"It's not uncommon for a movie to show an establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower and still feel that it's necessary to put a title on the screen to tell you that this is Paris. That's dumb, but I'm used to that. Attack Force takes it to the next level, using a title that says "FRANCE, EUROPE." So this is a movie that not only assumes we can't recognize the Eiffel Tower, it assumes we don't know what continent France is in."
There were many points in reading Seagalogy where I was suddenly laughing out loud, which is more than I could say for the smirky-at-best experience of reading SWPL and Douchebags. Part of the humor comes from the fact that Vern relentlessly pushes through the horror of these movies to try to find the real Steven Seagal, buried under all the cheese and bad dialogue. To reference another internet joke that has long since gone flat, Vern might begin the book in an ironic Chuck Norris Fact–style context, but as he moves through the Seagal oeuvre, he falls into a weird sort of man-love with his subject. It's a real narrative journey, it's informative, and it's written in a clear voice with a consistent, tongue-in-cheek tone. This is a book that I want to hold onto forever; it makes me laugh, but it also has more value than dozens of other slapped-together humor books churned out by publishers desperate to acquire some tiny, melting slice of cultural currency.
I cannot wait to get home and immerse myself in this glorious masterpiece, it truly is the best thing ever.
Posted On:7/07/2008 6:01pm
Style: On Hiatus
Vern's quite a character, his infrequent reviews on Ain't It Cool News are some of the best material on the site. His personal website is pretty swell, too:
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