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‘Above the Law’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 08, 1988


Andrew Davis
Steven Seagal;
Pam Grier;
Henry Silva
Under 17 restricted

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Watch out. In Andrew Davis' "Above the Law," there's a new vigilante bullying for bucks -- blackbelter Steven Seagal.

In a movieworld full of vengeful toughs (Charles B., Chuck N., Arnold Schw.), this cross between Christopher Lambert and Anthony Perkins stands out: mysterious, gangly, tall (6-foot-4), weirder than David Byrne and full of uncertain menace behind those Clint-squint eyes.

You never know what to expect from Seagal as Chicago kung-palooka cop Nico Toscani. One moment he's outraged by CIA covert activities, next he's baptizing his bambino. Next, he's punching fist-sized holes in lawbreakers' skulls and bending their elbows the wrong way. He's to cop/venge movies what Toughlove is to pop psychology.

Toscani doesn't care who it is, how big it is or how stupid or anything -- he just wants to do it to criminals. Thank God he wants to do it to criminals. With the cooing assistance of partner Dolores "Jax" Jackson (Pam Grier), he wiretaps bad guys' phones illegally, provokes them in bars ("Hey man," says the sleazebag bartender, "you're destroying the image of my place!"), squashes crack dealers' faces into their cocaine mirrors ("You wanna get high?"), even shoots an unarmed criminal who gives him backchat.

He's the anticop, one blood-soaked, quasi-psychotic symptom of Hollywood's desire to outgun, outkill and out-carchase itself. Without the police badge, he'd be on the Ten Most Wanted List.

In fact, he is on the list. That's because he's grandstanding against the CIA and the Justice Department, which are working with heavy criminals to export arms to Central America (imagine!) -- with the help of an old CIA nemesis from Nico's 'Nam days called Zagon (Henry Silva). There's even a plot to kill a senator who's on their tail. So he tells his wife and kid to stay put because, hey -- there's bone-breaking to be done.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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