Steven Seagal continues to morph into the Marlon Brando of DTV action movies with Asian Connection, a low budget actioner (bizarrely based on a story by Tom Sizemore) about two bank robbers who unwittingly steal money belonging to a badass drug baron (Seagal). He wants his money back and he’s not the type of man who accepts an ‘I owe you’. Along the way there’s blackmail, romance and a lot of bad dialogue – par for the course in this type of low budget actioner.
The Asian Connection isn’t very good and the plot is as derivative as its title – but you probably already guessed that because of its DTV origins, however that’s not to say there isn’t a hypnotic quality that draws you into it. I’m not sure if that’s because the acting is bad (leading man John Edward Lee isn’t very good) or if it’s because you feel the need to tick-off the genre clichés as the film goes along. It would appear that the majority of the budget for this Asian actioner went towards Seagal’s salary. It’s not even very good on a technical level – the cinematography is bland, the so-called musical score is pretty painful and the sound mix and editing is atrocious (it often dips in and out in a given scene).
The bright spot in Daniel Zirilli’s film is Seagal. He might be playing a cartoon cut-out villain, but the Under Siege star has a hefty gravitas that adds something to all his scenes. He really does seem to be growing into some sort of Marlon Brando figure, with his once lean frame expanding into a massive form. It’s as if he now has his own gravitational pull that draws you into to each line reading, his low whispers transcends the bad script and genre tropes to make you want to know more about his character. I don’t know if it’s great acting, but it’s a mastery of screen dominance that everyone else in the film lacks. It’s enough to make you want him to be brought back to the mainstream – Sylvester Stallone really needs to come calling for a villain role in The Expendables 4.
A far cry from the movies that made Steven Seagal a star, Asian Connection has the low quality that even Bruce Willis would be wary of. However, it’s a must for Seagalologists who want to keep track of the man who introduced Eastern Mysticism, Environmentalism and ponytails into the pantheon of action cinema.