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September 4, 2011

Movie Review: Belly of the Beast (2003)

Andrew Davis' excellent 80's action flick Above the Law not only brought forth some great cop action in the streets of Chicago, Pam Grier's clothed hooters and veteran badguy, Henry Silva - it also unleashed Akido specialist and soon to be action star, Steven Seagal. Seagal's best years were certainly in the early 90's when he starred in Hard to Kill, Out for Justice and Under Siege. As he got closer to 2000, quality film offers fell faster than his growing gut. In 2003, Seagal starred in Siu-Tung Ching's Belly of the Beast which has now been released on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.

Buy Belly of the Beast [Blu-ray] or DVD

Ex-CIA Agent Jake Hopper's (Steven Seagal) daughter, Jessica (Sara Lane) turns up missing after a hike in Thailand. A group of Islamic fundamentalists known as Abu Karaf cut up one of Jessica's friends and then ambush the group while they relax and take a dip in a lake. For the past ten years Hopper has been out of the game, until now.

Much has changed since his CIA years, the biggest being his partner, Sunti (Byron Mann), has become a peace-loving Buddhist monk. Hopper doesn't try to push Sunti too much to help but his monk pal feels obligated to help Hopper find his daughter any way they can.

The Belly of the Beast suffers from a pretty lousy script but for what was a direct-to-video (DVD) release at the time it has some impressive action sequences and blood-spattered gunfights. Seagal's Akido mastery is also on display though he's considerably slower and mechanical in his technique. In several of the action scenes Seagal has a stuntman that's noticeably svelte. I had to laugh when Hopper's character elevates in mid-air to deliver a roundhouse kick to a couple thugs. Rule of thumb for directors: Try and keep your stuntman within 50 pounds of your actor.

The Blu-ray contains no extras but does have an English subtitle option that's very helpful for when Seagal whispers his lines. The image looks very good overall and is represented just fine on the 1080p format. The Belly of the Beast isn't that great but as mentioned the action will please those hankering for a Seagal fix.

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