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Hard To Watch: The Films Of Steven Seagal And Missing The Action: The Films Of Chuck Norris

    Ian Jane

  • Hard To Watch And Missing The Action (Bear Manor Media) Book Reviews

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    Edited by: David C. Hayes
    Published by: Bear Manor Media
    Released on: September 14th, 2022
    Purchase From Amazon

    Recently published through Bear Manor Media are two books edited by David C. Hayes sure to appeal to the action movie fan that doesn’t need to take things too seriously – Hard To Watch: The Films Of Steven Seagal and Missing The Action: The Films Of Chuck Norris. Hayes provides an introduction to each of the two books, explaining how he came to know and love each of these two titans of B-grade action moviedom, and then from there we get chronological reviews of pretty much everything in their respective filmographies, each review penned by a different author.

    Hard To Watch clocks in at 212 black and white pages and it covers all of his feature films, starting with Above The Law as well as his Saturday Night Live appearance and the Steven Seagal Is… The Final Option video game which was never officially released but which was leaked in the early 2000s, described here by William Tea as “a fairly standard keep-walking-to-the-left-and-hitting-people game. Writer Greg Wright had the unfortunate luck of having to cover Seagal’s appearance in an episode of Roseanne titled Roseamebo, noting quite rightly that both Barr and Seagal started out their careers as fairly progressive, leftist types before embracing far right conspiracy theories and general overall weirdness (and in Seagal’s case, really embracing Russia and Vladimir Putin’s oppressive regime).

    As the book moves forward into Seagal’s career, leaving the generally well-regarded entries of his early filmography in the dust, covering middling efforts like Fire Down Below and The Patriot before writer Aaron Carruthers covers “The final movie Mr. Flappy Hands made under Warner Brothers,” that being Seagal’s venture into team up territory where he’s paired with none other than DMX. Tom Arnold shows up in this one too, and it’s just as odd as it sounds. Seagal’s team up with rappers would continue in 2001 with Ticker, where he’s paired with Ice-T, along with Jaime Presley, Tom Sizemore and Dennis Hooper. Hal CF Astell notes that Hopper was only on the set one day, so don’t get too excited by his presence in this movie, which Astell describes as “a Steven Seagal movie in which he doesn’t swear much and tries not to move.”

    As the DTV era of Seagal’s career comes into focus, Tea covers 2003’s Belly Of The Beast, noting that it’s director, Siu-Ting Ching took home two Golden Horse Awards in his native China and three Hong Kong Film Awards and that he was quite well regarded before directing this picture that is described as an attempt for Ching to break into the US market the way directors like Ringo Lam and John Woo did before him. Montilee Stormer notes that 2005’s Into The Sun is the only Seagal film they plan to watch and openly base their impressions of the man and his work only on that movie that Seagal rewrote and which he, oddly enough, doesn’t really belong in. Tony Doug Wright offers an interesting assessment of how the conflict that arose between Seagal and director Anthony Hickox on 2005’s Submerged affected its final cut while Kevin Moyers goes into detail on Seagal’s 2006 commercial for the man’s own Lightning Bolt Energy Drink. Joshua Knode rightly notes the absolutely amazing level of sheer laziness on display in 2006’s Shadow Man while Jeff Dolniak notes that he had to try it a few times and imbibe a bit before finishing it but that he did actually enjoy 2006’s Attack Force.

    Seagal’s appearance in The Onion Movie is covered here by Michael Cieslak while a poor bastard named Jeff O’Brien seems to have voluntarily opted to provide a track by track critique of Seagal’s 2008 album, Sounds From The Crystal Cave and his follow up, The Mojo Priest, and his penchant for using the word “punani” a whole lot in his song, Strut.

    As the years go on, the movies get worse but Paul Counelis kinda-sorta recommends we all binge watch Seagal’s ‘reality TV show’ Lawman, where he gets to be a cop in Louisiana, and he’s not wrong, there’s something fascinatingly off about all of it. John Bruske, sadly, has less fun with the two seasons of True Justice that aired between 2010 and 2012. Mike Vaugh writes a sonnet for 2013’s Force Of Execution, which is more than the movie deserves, and Ron Ford provides a pretty fun comic strip attempt at exploring all that is 2016’s Asian Connection.

    Missing The Action is 156 pages in length, and like Hard To Watch, it gives a chronological look at its subjects career. After the introduction from Hayes, we start off with Norris’ first credit appearance way back in 1968 in a lesser known film called The Wrecking Crew, staring Sharon Tate and Dean Martin! Paul Counelis writes more about the film’s connections to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood than the movie itself but he makes it work, eventually noting that Norris is only in it for ninety seconds or so and that he sports a “Beatles Meets Moe Howard Haircut.”

    From there, Chuck’s star starts to rise after appearing in 1972’s The Way Of The Dragon with Bruce Lee, covered here by Kurt Belcher who notes Norris’ part in the movie as minimal, since he really just shows up to get his ass kicked by Bruce. He isn’t wrong. In 1973 Norris showed up in a sexploitation picture called The Student Teachers, covered by Stephen Kessen, who points out that Norris may not have actually known he was cameoing in a sexploitation film when he shot his scenes. The next year, Chuck made Slaughter In San Francisco, where Chuck receives top billing but is actually a bad guy in the movie. Hal CF Astell, who points out that Norris’ body hair was at its peak in this film.

    From here, the bigger roles started to move in as Chuck cashed in on the success of movies like Smokey & The Bandit with 1977’s Breaker! Breaker!, and then made his way into action movie headliner territory with 1978’s Good Guys Wear Black, covered again by Astell who is confused as to why the movie was as hit, noting that it’s actually rather dull in a lot of ways. He follows this up by covering A Force Of One, describing it as “the first real Chuck Norris movie” because it allows him to really ramp up his fighting abilities in the story. A.P. Sessler covers The Octagon, a personal favorite, humorously describing watching the movie with his family as a kid.

    The movies get bigger as do the budgets as the eighties roll on. 1982’s Silent Rage, covered by Jeff Dolniak, is noted as unique because of the way it blends horror and action together fairly effectively. Joe LaLonde writes a great piece on 1984’s Missing In Action, pointing out six awesome leadership lessons you can take away from watching the movie. William Tea gives Invasion U.S.A. some love, accurately describing it as “one of the shiniest, schlockiest jewels in Norris’ filmography.” John Bruske covers 1986’s The Delta Force, noting how the movie weirdly plays with the viewers emotions in ways you definitely do not expect a Chuck Norris movie to do. That same year, TV’s animated Chuck Norris And The Karate Commandos hit small screens around the world, and Joshua Knode writes an effectively nostalgic reminiscence of a cartoon that wasn’t very good but which was a lot of fun.

    As the nineties arrive, Norris starts to move into decidedly more family-friendly fare with 1990’s Sidekicks, which Jon Arking openly admits to having trouble reconciling his affection for. And that makes total sense. 1993 saw the debut of Chuck’s long running TV staple, Walker: Texas Ranger debut. It ran until 2001 and Kristina stencil dutifully dedicates six pages to covering some of the series’ highlights, summarizing it in an interesting way by pointing out that the series, in a lot of ways, is really just about equity.

    Things get weirder from here as Stancil then covers Norris’ 1994 WWF Survivor Series appearance and Ron Ford covers Hellbound, made that same year, a movie wherein Norris fights the devil in his last picture for Cannon Films. Michael Cieslak has the unfortunate task of covering 1995’s Top Dog, where Norris teams with a dog to take down a white supremacist group. From here, various writers cover a lot of lesser known Norris movies, a lot of which are fairly forgettable DTV efforts, but Stephen Kessen does the world a favor by covering Chuck’s appearance on a 2004 episode of a TV sitcom called Yes Dear. His appearance in 2012’s The Expendables 2 from 2012 is dutifully covered by Montilee Stormer in the form of a faux classified email, which is a fun way to do it.

    Dave Herndon covers Chuck’s appearance on a 2015 episode of The Goldbergs quite favorably, while Kevin Moyers writes about the man’s infomercials for his Total Gym exercise machine, talking up Chuck’s dry delivery in such a way that you almost want to watch it. Almost. Last up is his appearance on a 2020 episode of the Hawaii 5-0 reboot, which lasts all of about forty-five seconds. William Tea finishes up the book with a piece on Chuck’s legacy, going into the ‘Chuck Norris Facts’ phenomena that was so popular a few years ago.

    Both books are a lot of fun. Given that there are a whole bunch of different authors involved here, it makes sense that some reviews will connect with some readers more than others, but for the most part, the humor here is pretty effective and on top of that, most of these pieces also offer up some interesting insight and trivia. This isn’t MST3K style lampoon in book form, and overall these make for not only enjoyable reading, but also decent reference books.
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