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Into the Sun (2004)

There's an entire catalogue of films in which the synopsis goes a little something like this: "Steven Seagal stars as a martial art master version of Dirty Harry, bending the law to avenge his slain loved ones in a battle to the death against the forces of crime!" The latest entry into this stellar repertoire of amazingly bad cinema is 2004's Into the Sun, a product of Japan's direct-to-video scene. This epic tour-de-force features the poorly aging Seagal battling the Japanese (Yakuza) and Chinese (the Tongs) mafia in the streets of Tokyo, while seeking the love of a young woman and guiding a rookie agent on his first assignment. Throw in William Atherton as the CIA station chief, Eddie George proving that the ability to break tackles can't help a man dodge bullets, and a frenetic music-video directing style courtesy of director "mink," and Into the Sun has the makings of a bad-movie classic. Unfortunately, there's a plot involved, and it tends to get in the way. Travis Hunter (Seagal) is a master of everything from Aikido to Kendo combat styles, and having been born and raised in Tokyo, he is often used by the CIA to investigate the actions of the Japanese underground. After the new governor is assassinated, he gets the call from director Agent Block (Atherton, reprising the role he perfected in Ghostbusters). It seems that a new gang of young Yakuza are breaking the rules, associating with the Chinese and using the drug trade to amass a small fortune. Hunter is assigned the stereotypical rookie, Mac (Matthew Davis), which is doubly tough since now the CIA apparently sends field agents to foreign countries who don't even speak the local language. Along the way, Hunter falls in love with Nayako (Kanako Yamaguchi), and it's not obvious why until a truly wonderful scene in which they profess their love for each other — and Nayako looks like Hunter is holding his sword to her throat. The plot is usually secondary in the typical Seagal actioner, but this time the filmmakers tried really hard to create an epic story. Sadly, with its 97-min. running time, there's just not enough film here to keep the multiple strands tied together, and the script flies from scene to scene, in parts coming across as a choppy mess. It's a simple matter of whether the viewer chooses to laugh off the ridiculous pace and go for the ride, or stare at the screen in confusion. Look fast and you might notice Chiaki Kuriyama (Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill Vol. 1) is on screen for about 30 seconds. Columbia TriStar presents Into the Sun in an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and it looks and sounds better than would normally be expected of a straight-to-video release. The disc itself is devoid of the normal trappings, be it commentary or even rudimentary subtitles. Nonetheless, a slew of trailers are included. Keep-case.
—Scott Anderson

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