Vern knows more about Steven Seagal movies than Steven Seagal himself, which probably isn't saying much since we're not entirely sure Steven Seagal has yet achieved self-awareness. Below, he takes you through the greatest jobs ever held down by a Seagal character. These jobs might not logically explain his ability to snap your leg like celery. Hell, they might not technically be real jobs. But they are what Steven Seagal thinks are real jobs. And because of that they are awesome.
In studying the works of Steven Seagal, I have noticed that his characters are almost always a cop, an intelligence agent, an ex-intelligence agent, an ex-cop or an ex-intelligence agent cop. So whenever he replaces or combines those with some other way of paying the bills, it's a refreshing change of pace. It's also usually hilarious:
Seagal's most famous character is probably Casey Ryback, an ex-Navy SEAL who was demoted to a Navy cook after punching out his commanding officer. In Under Siege, this provides Seagal with the perfect cover to stalk killer terrorists and whisper, "I'm just a cook," to anyone who will listen. You might think the cook stuff is just an excuse to wear a funny hat, thus making the experience of getting your leg snapped by Steven Seagal that much more embarrassing. But by the time Under Siege 2 rolls around, he has his own restaurant called The Mile High Cafe.
Unfortunately there are some signs that Ryback's heart isn't really in the food game anymore, beginning with his unimaginative restaurant moniker. He is writing a memoir between thwarting terror plots. On the train headed for his brother's funeral, he works on his book Ryback's Tactics on his Newton.
Using the magic of the pause button, we learn that chapter one in Ryback's Tactics is titled "Don't Be a Hero." We're not able to see excerpts to gauge his skills as a writer. We can however get a hint of his talents in the kitchen by trying out his recipe for fruit salad with crystallized ginger.
Putting out deadly fires is obviously courageous. But in On Deadly Ground Seagal wasn't satisfied with such pedestrian badassery. And so in his directorial debut, he gave himself the job of fighting oil fires, using explosives. Leaving the CIA to act as personal firefighting expert to a corrupt Dick Cheney-like oil CEO (Academy-Award winner Michael Caine) is not the usual career path for an action hero. But then, Steven Seagal is not your ordinary action hero. Not in his mind at least.
Taft is well respected among his co-workers. We know this because when he first steps on the scene of an oil fire, we hear looped dialog saying, "Hey, Forrest is here! That fire is as good as out!" But while the job pays well, it's not good for the soul (Taft feels he's sold out and eventually has to quit) or for your health (they try to blow him up).
If you're thinking about applying for Forrest Tafts's job, one thing you should probably know: John C. McGinley, who laid off those people in Office Space has a similar job at Aegis Oil, only they give him a little more leeway and he ends up torturing and killing old people.
Seagal plays William Lansing--his exact job description is unclear in Out of Reach, but he lives alone on a wildlife preserve where he is seen nursing an injured bird back to health. It's mentioned that he once worked for the CSA, but they don't say which CSA. He seems too enlightened for it to be the Confederate States Army so I'm leaning toward Canadian Soccer Association. He has a lot of aliases, such as "Nicolai Rochenko" and "Mr. Dean Moray with the International Education Fund." I don't know, does that have anything to do with Canadian soccer?
One thing that seems nice about his job is that he's his own boss. Or maybe he'd say the animals are his boss. Luckily, the animals work enough flexibility into his schedule so he can up and leave for Europe when his pen pal gets kidnapped by white slavers. He doesn't have to worry about scheduling a vacation or using sick days. And when he gets back, the bird is healed enough to act as a symbol of rebirth in the last shot of the movie.
In the Patriot, Dr. Wesley McLaren nurses a baby horse with "home-cooked jungle juice," trades medical care for carpentry and blackberry pies, and is for some reason played by Steven Seagal. Who would've guessed that this Ennis, Montana softy once created biological weapons for the military? Well, you would, if this isn't your first Seagal movie. But it's nice to see Seagal, whose Lightning Bolt energy drink is made of all-natural ingredients, giving it up for alternative medicine.
McLaren obviously has a strong scientific background. This movie has surprisingly little action, and the climax is actually a fevered laboratory session with beakers and burners. The antidote to the virus unleashed on Ennis turns out to be flower petals. In fact, watching this movie might make you forget that Seagal is the world's most prolific kicker of asses. But then you'll remember that time he blew up a forest fire because he didn't want to humiliate it by kicking its ass in a fist fight.
In Fire Down Below Seagal plays Jack Taggert. Since Seagal characters are usually government agents, and since he showed his respect for the environment in On Deadly Ground, maybe it should be no surprise that he would eventually be going on dangerous missions for the Environmental Protection Agency. In this case he goes into Kentucky, allegedly as part of "The Appalachian Relief Mission," but actually to investigate the dumping of toxic waste in the water. Naturally, he does so with a gun.
The EPA was started by Richard Nixon, whose paraphrasing of Abraham Lincoln in a speech also gave Seagal the title for his first movie Above the Law. That's about all I know about the EPA, other than that they probably shouldn't be allowed to carry guns. Not that I'm complaining that Taggert does. It turns out he needs one--the movie would have been incredibly boring if they'd played it by the books.
In the hilariously titled Out For a Kill we're first introduced to Robert Burns as Yale's "most distinguished academician" as he receives "the prestigious and much coveted Winthrop Award for excellence in archaeology." It's only later that the 11 Chinese Tong leaders united against him tell us he was once a legendary art thief known as the Goei, or the Ghost. He got busted and during his seven years in the joint he studied Chinese archaeology and got a degree. When he got out, he created a new identity, but kept his doctorate and parlayed it into the job at Yale. It's how most Yale professors get their jobs.
This is obviously by far the best occupation of any Seagal character. He's enjoyed sharing his knowledge of Asian culture and tradition since Above the Law, but he's never taught it at Yale before. Van Damme has never taught at Yale. Stallone has never taught at Yale--Stallone can't even spell Yale. Even our most educated action hero, Dolph Lundgren (who has a masters degree in chemical engineering and speaks five languages--no shit) has never played a professor at Yale. I suppose the archaeology professor bit is following in the footsteps of Indiana Jones, but Harrison Ford writing on a chalkboard somehow seemed more natural than Seagal doing it. Unfortunately we don't get to see any of his lectures, we just see him out in the field digging up vases.
The master thief background is the icing on the cake. I guess that replaces the usual "he used to be in the CIA" backstory in explaining why this professor can kick so much ass. But it also adds an inspirational angle, a real success story. Like Malcolm X he educated himself in prison and really turned his life around. Fuck recidivism. This guy stopped stealing and started teaching. At YALE! Now he's contributing to the world but also knows how to handle himself when some Tongs try to kill him because he found out they were smuggling drugs inside his artifacts. That right there is a well-rounded individual.Vern's movie reviews can be found on his blog. Also, be sure to reserve a copy of his upcoming book on all things Seagal.