Formerly one of the top action movie stars of the ’90s, Steven Seagal has spent the last several years phoning it in, starring in a stream of direct-to-DVD movies which, with only a few exceptions, are all terrible. “Kill Switch” is not one of those few exceptions, but it is a rare film that falls into the “so bad it’s hilarious” category, making it a must-see for all Seagal fans.
In this film, Seagal plays police detective Jacob King and puts on his horrible Southern accent once again. He’s on the trail of two different serial killers. One is named Billy Joe, and he likes to blow up his victims with C-4. In fact, he surgically implants the explosives under his victim’s skin. The movie even opens with Seagal dealing with a bomb embedded between a female victim’s bountiful cleavage. Well, to be honest, even though we’re told this is Billy Joe’s MO, this is the only time he kills anyone this way for the rest of the movie. Most of the time he just uses a knife.
The other serial killer is nicknamed “The Grifter”. His MO is that he carves astrological symbols into his victims, and when you plot all his crimes out on a map, it matches up perfectly with a constellation. I thought that kind of obvious clue-dropping was confined to Batman villains, but surely this would make things super-easy for Seagal, right? Well, believe it or not, Seagal doesn’t crack the case until the Grifter accidentally drops his wallet at a crime scene. Now that’s some damn fine detective work.
There are constant flashbacks to Seagal as a boy, played by a young actor who looks nothing like him. Apparently, Seagal had a twin brother who was murdered in the woods by a guy who looks like a crossbreeding experiment between DeForest Kelley and William H. Macy. We’re led to believe that sometime during this film, Seagal will finally solve the murder of his twin brother, but as near as I can tell, it has absolutely nothing to do with anything and is forgotten about after the one-hour mark.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking, but no, the two serial killer plot threads never come together at any point. Seagal is credited with writing the screenplay, which may explain a lot; It’s possible he had three unfinished scripts lying around, and he simply collated them together and called it a day. Given that I have no idea why the movie is called “Kill Switch” in the first place, this seems the most likely explanation.
The lack of effort extends to the fight scenes. Clearly, Seagal didn’t even bother to show up to film any scenes involving stunts or fighting. It’s seriously distracting. All of the fight scenes play out like this: We watch a random guy in a bad ponytail wig from behind as he beats up punks, and every few seconds there’s an insert shot of Steven Seagal’s face that doesn’t even look like it was filmed in the same room.
Even worse, the director decided to chop up the fight scenes to cover up the fact that Seagal wasn’t there. Basically, he clips out every fifth second of fight footage, producing an effect not unlike fast forwarding through the movie on your DVR. It completely and utterly drains all the excitement out of the fight scenes.
Seagal’s detachment is even more pronounced in the non-fight scenes. There’s a moment where he discovers that someone near and dear to him has been brutally murdered by Billy Joe. In response, Seagal wears a look on his face like he just found out his dog pooped on the carpet.
Despite all the complaints above, I have to wholeheartedly recommend this film. The sloppiness and incoherence on display make it pretty hilarious from start to finish. I swear, there’s a scene where Seagal fires at least 75 times from his handgun without reloading.
And the ending of this film might be the most bewildering thing I’ve ever seen. It comes completely out of left field, it’s not foreshadowed by anything in the rest of the movie, but more importantly, why in the world would they save all the nudity for the last five minutes?
The one real downer about this movie is that it contains one of the last appearances of Isaac Hayes. It’s really a shame about Hayes—not that he died at age 60, but that he went from “Truck Turner” to this.
Jeff King (director) / Steven Seagal (screenplay)
CAST: Steven Seagal … Det. Jacob King
Holly Dignard … Agent Frankie Miller
Chris Thomas King … Det. Storm Anderson
Michael Filipowich … Lazereus
Isaac Hayes … Coroner
Mark Collie … Billy Joel Hill
Karyn Michelle Baltzer … Celine
Philip Granger … Captain Jensen