(2003)3Jeremy WheelerSteven Seagal is back, this time in a straight-to-video gem that's actually a whole lot better than you'd expect. Directed by acclaimed Hong Kong director and action choreographer Ching Siu Tung (Duel to the Death, Swordsman II), Belly of the Beast is tight and lean -- a perfect equation for this kind of brainless action flick. Coming off the truly dreadful Half Past Dead, Seagal wisely gets back to his lone-wolf roots here, with a few modern updates added to keep things fresh. While not your typical wire-fu, the fights are aided by a wire rigs here and there, giving each scene a hyper-real feel that certainly benefits the aging action star's performance. Steel-eyed and just a tad bloated, Seagal proves once again that he's still got it -- even without having to pair up with the newest rapper-come-actor or wise-crackin' Rob Schneider rip-off. The mysticism in the plot does tend to get a little confusing and goofy, but that kind of messy filmmaking isn't just welcomed in a flick like this -- it's essential. Certain Eastern influences might have been tamed down in the final cut, though even that doesn't explain some of the hilariously huge plot holes (the never-explained beginning robbery setup and surreal tattoo scene, for example). Still, Belly of the Beast is one doozy of a straight-to-video gem. It's got a short, but sweet, Shaolin monk mental showdown, a few outlandish bullet-time special effects, and a leading man who still likes to kick butt as much as he likes to eat hamburgers. Sometimes, that's all you need for a great time at the movies.
Ching Siu Tung directs the straight-to-video action thriller Belly of the Beast. Steven Seagal stars as ex-CIA agent Jake Hopper. He wants to retire peacefully, but is pulled back into the action when his daughter Jessica (Sarah Malakul Lane) is kidnapped by a terrorist group called Abu Karaf. While the rest of the CIA starts a routine investigation, Jake goes out on his own to find her. Seagal also co-wrote and co-produced.