Fire Down Below

Does Steven Seagal ever take off that droopy black leather sport coat? He looks like he just stepped out of a nightclub from a distant decade. Seagal’s bad-fashion-day stylings are even more noticeable than usual in Fire Down Below, which casts him as an enforcer for the Environmental Protection Agency — love those kamikaze ecologists! — who is trying to blend in with the rednecks of an Appalachian village in Kentucky, the kind of coal-mining backwater that seems populated entirely by extras from Deliverance and Sling Blade. Seagal arrives in town to stop an evil oil baron (Kris Kristofferson, who can now smirk with his wrinkles) from dumping toxic waste into the green, green hills. This is yet another one of Seagal’s eco-thrillers, and though a cut above the snowbound On Deadly Ground, it’s logy and dull, a slowpoke Western in which the dignity-of-our-landscape concerns are a mere distraction from scenes in which Seagal takes on 10 men at a time by dispensing apocalyptic blows to neck, nose, and — his pet target — crotch. The star hasn’t lost his gift for making sadism seem impish. After a while, however, you may notice that the film’s mayhem is accomplished almost entirely through editing. Bulky and soft beneath his black leather security blanket, Seagal isn’t quite moving anymore. He’s become a parody of stoic rectitude — an inaction hero. C

Fire Down Below
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