Even when he's playing a fictional character, as a viewer, you're immediately aware that Steven Seagal just doesn't “do” retirement. Betrayed by his partner and left for dead, Seagal's character Rolland Sallinger isn't given the cheesy gold watch that Dennis Hopper's character ridiculed in Speed. No, it turns out during the recession, the gold watch given to Rolland for his twenty-five year commitment to protect and serve Los Angeles is mandated retirement instead.
Trying to wean himself off the painkillers he needs just to get through physical therapy, Rolland perseveres after all because he is Steven Seagal sans ponytail. And thankfully, the iconic man-in-black finds new employment working for an old colleague in Texas.
Given his extensive background, which his niece dutifully informs the audience has inspired countless cops to join the SWAT team, initially it seems that Rolland would be wasted playing babysitter to his wealthy friend's spoiled twenty-something daughter, Nikita.
However, we ascertain that Seagal's Rolland is exactly what the woman needs after a night visiting her two-timing bad boy boxer boyfriend at an upscale night club finds her driver shot. Fighting for her life, Nikita ditches her high heels to run down flights of stairs, jumping from one concrete landing to the next to avoid becoming a hostage of ruthless kidnappers working for her father's arch-enemy.
Realizing that her boyfriend may be tough in the ring but the first one willing to let Nikita take a dive in real life to protect himself and his own career, eventually the notorious party girl becomes closer and more cooperative with her new bodyguard whom she vaguely remembers knowing as a child.
Forever the stoic, soft-spoken, cool cucumber who'd rather break every bone in the body of a fresh clubber who put his hands where they didn't belong, while Seagal is still a commanding figure, you may find yourself smiling involuntarily at his odd delivery of urban L.A. street slang.
Although it would probably fit the character's background, he slips uneasily from street talk to Barry White like reassurance to the ladies that they'll be safe, which added an unintended level of amusement to what is surprisingly an entertaining straight-to-disc picture for one of our favorite '90s "guilty pleasure" heroes.
Of course, it'd be nice to see Seagal drop some of the cliches of his movies such as the laughably obvious T&A for male sake as garish silicone implants pop up onscreen from time-to-time for absolutely no reason other than try to titillate. Unfortunately, it's so ridiculous that instead of "turning on," it does the opposite because sex plays best when its subtle and not when we're being hit over the head with it in the form of rock hard plastic surgery.
Yet, despite the fact that he doesn't change things up structurally to the same degree that his fellow ass-kicking superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme did in JCVD by baring his soul, The Keeper is nonetheless a compelling genre film that opens with a bang and keeps you entertained throughout.
Despite this and from a storytelling standpoint, I still don't see the value of the bravura opener in terms of its relation to the rest of the movie. Basically it would've worked equally well if he were just a bodyguard for hire as "the cop who got shot angle" along with the character of his niece are abandoned completely when his feet hit Texan soil.
However, the movie still redeems itself as solid Saturday afternoon action fare that's destined to score with Seagal's core audience and possibly earn him some additional fans as well. Likewise, The Keeper garners bonus points by flirting with the idea that the film was Seagal's chance to remake The Bodyguard yet thankfully it avoids that plot trap by developing a tender, platonic relationship between Rolland and Nikita that would've been in the vein of True Grit if made as a western.
Delivering one of his most effective sleepers in years by once again becoming heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes fields including writing* and producing, the entertaining success of The Keeper makes you glad indeed that just like his fictional characters, the real Seagal has decided that he just doesn't "do" retirement as well.
* Note: Although Steven Seagal is uncredited for his writing contribution to The Keeper, the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Press Release dated November 9, 2009 cites his work in the area.
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