Steven Seagal has evolved from once A-list action to star, to D-list oddity. His erratic tendencies and strange personality are well documented, but even if most of his work these days goes direct-to-DVD/VOD, there’s still a demand for his distinct screen presence — even it pales to what it once was. While his audiences have dwindled significantly since his heydays in the ‘80s/’90s, Seagal still knows how to get a few producers to open up their wallets. Based on his growing resume, it’s apparent that someone out there is still renting his movies from their local Redbox. But why is that? How did Seagal become a star anyway? Why do people keep coming back, and why did audiences show up in the first place? Those are the questions tackled in “What Was the Appeal of Steven Seagal?,” the newest video essay from YouTube editor Rossatron.
Taking a look at his early successes like “Above the Law,” “Hard to Kill,” “Marked for Death,” “Out For Justice” and “Under Seige,”to determine his initial appeal, the video traces how we got to the washed-up, but still somewhat oddly bankable, star we have today. Now aged 64-year, the current movies featuring the martial artist favor tight framing, larger jackets and more scenes requiring him to sit down to hide his “matured shape,” as the video editor puts it kindly, these days. Back in the day, however, Seagal presented an everyman appeal, one that ignored the bombast of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but still nevertheless gave action-hungry audiences a dependably ass-kicking, no-nonsense rogue that promised to take down his enemies with cheesy one-liners to spare. But more than that, Seagal worked with experienced, interesting directors surrounded by compelling, developed and fun-to-watch character actors, which made his first few films engaging and entertaining to watch, beyond their interchangeable plots and indistinct titles.
But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. Rossatron unabashedly looks at Seagal’s earlier work with an always-critical but understanding eye, and he offers a firm, impressive and genuinely well-reasoned defense for Seagal’s one-time success, especially for someone like me. Truth be told, I’ve never watched a full Seagal movie, not counting cameos in fairly-recent tongue-in-cheek affairs like “Machete” and “The Onion Movie.” As someone who always looked at Seagal from an outsider perspective, wondering how in the hell he became the guy he is today, while still retaining the smallest bit of credibility to his damaged name, this new video essay is persuasive stuff.
Are you still following Seagal’s career or have a soft-spot for his movies? Let us know in the comments section.