Gun-Toting, Undercover Environment Protection Agent
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.
Master Art Thief Turned Professor of Chinese Archaeology at Yale
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.
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