Out for Justice [1991]

Steven Seagal has always been an awkward action hero. Initially, he had a certain amount of credibility thanks to his nebulous association with secret government agencies and mastery of aikido, which helped to excuse his bad acting. But as a self-righteous action hero in the vein of Schwarzenegger and Stallone (which helps to explain his bad acting), Seagal fell into unintentional self-parody faster and more dramatically than either of his two predecessors. In Out for Justice, Seagal plays Gino Felino, a Brooklyn-born cop known and respected by everyone--both good and bad--in his neighborhood. The worst of the neighborhood baddies is Richie Madano (William Forsythe), a crack-smoking killer who murders his partner and terrorizes the neighborhood. Technically, Felino is a terrible cop--touching evidence at murder scenes, stealing evidence, intimidating witnesses--but only by breaking those rules can he bring in this horrible criminal. As his soon-to-be-ex-wife discovers, he does everything because he cares too much. Julianna Margulies (ER) has a small but thankless role as Richie's hooker girlfriend, and Gina Gershon (Face/Off, Bound) has an equally thankless role as Richie's foul-mouthed, bar-owning sister. The movie plays like a vanity piece for Seagal, and in that vein, it is fascinating to watch. --Andy Spletzer

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