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Black Dawn (December 15/05)

The Foreigner marked Steven Seagal's first foray into the world of straight-to-video action flicks (he'd also appeared in 2001's Ticker, but was relegated to a supporting role there), and though he's appeared in almost a dozen films since, that movie remains one of his worst. It's interesting to note, then, that - out of the myriad of actioners he's made over the last couple of years - he's chosen The Foreigner as the first movie of his to follow-up since Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, despite the fact that there was absolutely nothing in the original crying out for a sequel.

Seagal returns as Jonathan Cold, an ex-CIA agent who's now working for himself and offering his services to the highest bidder. This time around, he's been hired to break a dangerous arms dealer out of prison by the brother of said arms dealer. After clumsily impersonating a doctor, Cold walks away with the prisoner with alarming ease - kicking off a storyline revolving around Chechen terrorists, evil CIA operatives, and one bonafide nuclear bomb.

As mediocre as Black Dawn is, there's no denying that it's one of Seagal's more effective offerings in quite some time (Today You Die, released just a few months ago, was about on a par with this). The movie is certainly a huge improvement over its predecessor, which featured an impossibly complex storyline and some seriously incomprehensible action sequences (courtesy of director Michael Oblowitz, who disastrously blanketed the film with quick cuts and slow-motion cinematography). This time around, Alexander Gruszynski steps behind the camera, and though his style is mostly bland (except for a bizarre, Tony Scott-inspired opening sequence), the filmmaker at least maintains a vibe of coherence.

That Black Dawn is cliche-ridden from the get-go comes as no surprise, as screenwriter Martin Wheeler peppers the film with sneering villains, double-crossing good guys, and various other action-movie accoutrements. Seagal delivers a typically lazy performance, refusing to even participate in his own fight scenes - though the big guy does employ his trademarked wrist-snapping move early on. Make no mistake, Black Dawn isn't good by any stretch of the imagination - but it's certainly a substantial improvement over some of Seagal's more recent efforts.

out of

About the DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Black Dawn with a letterboxed transfer, and - shockingly enough - a few bonus materials. There's a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a six-minute interview with Seagal (which features the actor sitting in some kind of a tropical setting, whilst sporting a purple outfit of questionable Asian design). The disc also includes previews for The Net 2.0 and Stealth.