Above the Law (1988)

Edgy cop/Aikido master/Special Forces guy/Mafia guy/Firearms Expert/Family Man Nico Toscani is investigating some drug goings-on in his neighborhood, along with his partner Jax. Jax is just about to retire from the force or something and Nico protects her the only way he knows how: by constantly putting her in danger by bringing her along on his illegal surveillance missions. I guess she finds that preferable to the constant sexual harassment she is subject to from the gross old fat guys she works with.

Soon, Nico finds mysterious connections between the drug pushers he is investigating and the CIA and he is put on leave and thus has no choice but to further endanger Jax by going on even more illegal reconnaissance missions.

Being as how I have an interest in Japanese martial arts, it was only a matter of time before it came to this: an investigation of Steven Seagal. I have chosen to do this the only way that makes sense; that is, by buying all his movies on DVD (except the direct-to-video ones), watching them, and passing judgment on them (and him).

As is clearly stated on the movie poster, Steven Seagal is a master of Aikido. Aikido is the martial art famous for being used by Steven Seagal in his movies. So we take that as exhibit A. Less importantly, Aikido is also the martial art created by Ueshiba Morihei, who was a badass guy who went around dojo storming until he found religion and decided that the key to victory was not badass fighting, but love. And then he died and so here we are. Exhibit B.

Above the Law begins confusingly, with made up nonsense about what an amazing guy Nico is, mixed with shots of actual authentic Steven Seagal photographs. Then we flashback to Nico being a hero back in some special ops mission in Cambodia and wouldn't it be totally weird and ironic if the bad guy in this movie- the one responsible for the drug dealing in Nico's hometown- and the bad CIA guy torturing some Cambodian guy were one and the same!

We finally finish our whirlwind tour of Steven Seagal- I mean Nico Toscani's life and now here we are in present day 1988 watching cop Nico busting up some guys with no warrant or anything. But it's okay because those guys were scumballs. They even give you some bizarre exposition in passing about one of them being a child molester so you don't feel uncomfortable in the slightest that Nico is just walking into bars and murdering guys for sassing him.

This basically sets the pace for this movie. The Aikido is pretty cool in that it's brutal and violent when in reality Aikido is the opposite of both brutal and violent. I am surprised Aikido didn't become the next Karate after this movie (instead, Tae Kwon Do became the next Karate).

So overall it's not bad as far as later 80s action films go, though not nearly as violent as true classics like Rambo and Commando. There is still hope though because there are like seven more of these to work my way through.


Sean said...

Is he just modifying the aikido techniques so they actually look hurty, or is he using some other arts as he breaks people's arms and crushes their windpipes?

newtmonkey said...

Actually, I think he is reverting them back to the parent art, Daitoryu. We learned the same exact technique he uses at the end of this movie (to break the guy's neck) in my Daitoryu class.

Veronica said...

HAHA what a doofus this guy is. It was so fun to watch it with you guys!

newtmonkey said...

I wanna be the 21st century Steven Seagal. :(