Born to Raise Hell


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Steven Seagal, the Weighty Warrior himself, is back in another movie exactly like his others. I suppose he's made so many nearly identical flicks that he's run out of good titles, because this particular name seems to have nothing to do with the action. "Born to Raise Hell" sounds like it ought to take place in South Carolina and should star Jerry Reed and Burt Reynolds, with a cameo by Willie Nelson. Or maybe it should be a creepy horror film about the dead returning to earth. But it's neither. There ain't no hell-raisin' here, just the usual Seagal film, and a lot of shootouts in downtown Bucharest.

Seagal has really stretched his acting skills this time. Usually he plays an ex-agent-turned-mercenary who was dismissed from government service because he just has too much integrity, dammit. But this time it's a whole new ballgame. This time he's still an agent, still on the government payroll! Dust off an Oscar!

I guess he hasn't been fired because he's been assigned to a special task force in Romania, where there is absolutely nothing one can do to get fired. He could walk into the office of the mayor of Bucharest and plug the sumbitch, and the Romanians would simply thank him and start dividing up the dead guy's possessions.

Whatta country!

Speaking of "Whatta country!", one of the Russian mobsters in this film actually delivers this variation on a classic Yakov Smirnoff line: "In America you watch TV. In Russia, that shit watches you!"

The plot, if you want to call it that, basically involves a three-way war between casually violent Romanian drug traffickers, purposefully violent Russian mobsters, and the Special Honorable International Task Force Opposing Russkies By Raiding All Intercepts Nightly, Stealthily (known to their friends and enemies as SHITFORBRAINS). As you can guess, some of these groups shoot at others, then others get revenge, and still others get revenge for the revenge, etc.

Usual stuff.

Seagal appears to be ideal for an assignment in Dracula's home country, since the Pudgy Paladin seems to have a black widow's peak painted on his forehead to make him look like a vampire, in the manner of SCTV's Count Floyd. Like Dracula, the Bulky Battler is up all night every night, draining the blood from people. Unlike Dracula, however, he obviously gets a remarkable amount of sun, because his skin is so orange he might have reason to fear a paternity suit from Snooki's mom.

The Stout Sensei doesn't do a lot of hand-to-hand combat any more, and when he does, the action is filled with jumpy edits to make everything seem a lot faster and more impressive than it actually is. Rapid-fire cutting can make anyone look like a martial artist, in the same way that strobe lights can make anyone look like a dancer. (Even me. Long story for another day.) Of course, no amount of screen magic can make Seagal look OK without a shirt, so he manages to do his sex scene fully dressed. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because the chick is undressed.

Seagal wrote this film and, to be fair, he did a serviceable job. Of course, the dialogue reads like a ritual ceremony in honor of Seagal's ego, but the film does have a few things going for it: (1) the Russian bad guy is a complex character; (2) the Bucharest locations are exotic and generally pretty cool; (3) the narrative is smooth and comprehensible after a few opaque moments at the beginning. I was wondering how Seagal's fans have reacted to the film, so I checked out a few internet bulletin boards dedicated to the big fella. The only real complaints I saw involved the fact that Seagal and the top Gypsy psycho didn't have a good combat scene. Apparently Darren Shalavi is an accomplished battler, so fight fans were hoping for an epic battle between Shalavi and Seagal. The two characters did have a fight, but Shalavi's character was never given a chance to compete. Seagal's character landed all the punches, and threw Shalavi around like a rag doll until Shalavi surrendered like a girlie man, As soon as Seagal dropped his guard, the sniveling Shalavi pulled out a hidden gun, like Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles. ("Oh, sorry, I just remembered ... I AM armed.") What happened then? Well, let's just say it's not a smart move to pull a gun on Big Steve when he's playing a character he scripted for himself. Why, his hands are so lightning-fast that he can disarm you from the next room, and if you do miraculously get off a shot, you'll end up accidentally killing a little kid or a puppy. Then the Jumbo Jock will be really mad.

I have seen much worse Seagal movies. Given that you know in advance that the great mano-a-mano battle between Seagal and Shalavi will never happen, and given that you should have a certain realistic set of limited expectations for a latter day Seagal movie, this film probably will meet your expectations, but not exceed them by much.

Frankly, I still think SS would be much better as a bad guy. I liked his character in Machete much more than I like any of his "honorable" characters with their sycophantic phony respect for foreign cultures. Hey, Big Steve, you want to get back into theatrical releases? You gotta turn, man. Gotta turn. Learn from the WWF. You suck as a babyface. You were born to be a heel.

I haven't been able to find this in a Region 1 DVD yet, but it is available in a PAL version , Region 2



There are no reviews online


4.8 IMDB summary (of 10)
  At the time I am writing this it is rated 17th out of 37 graded Seagal films at IMDb. I have seen almost every one of those movies, and I would say that is a fair assessment.







Straight to vid


A naked woman is part of a drug gang raided by Seagal's guys. T&A

Seagal's girlfriend shows her breasts in the aforementioned sex scene with a fully clothed Seagal.

Some random background strippers.

(No IDs at this time.)






Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A minimally watchable film in the Steven Seagal sub-genre.