Only Steven Seagal and Stone Cold Steve Austin can keep people from breaking in to jail.
MAXIMUM CONVICTION is essentially two Steve-starring movies for the price of one. The first is a solid action vehicle for former wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. The second is a laughably bad cinematic joke featuring Steven Seagal. At first I was perplexed as to why the filmmakers brought together these two big stars in the same movie, only to essentially keep them separated for the entire thing. But after a while it became obvious: Watching Seagal fight alongside Austin in his current state would just be pure embarrassment. It'd be like if Dame Judi Dench tagged along with Daniel Craig during SKYFALL and kept getting in the way during the fights. Nobody needs to see that.
Both men play ex-Special Forces operatives who are helping to decommission a secret maximum security prison that might as well be Guantanamo Bay. The night before they close down the place for good, a group of highly trained mercenaries (led by B-movie staple Michael Pare) break in and kidnap a pair of female prisoners. During the chaos Seagal and Austin get split up (which is why you only see them together at the beginning and end of the movie). Stone Cold holds his own and has a blast doing it. He constantly does entertaining stuff like blowing up henchmen, setting them on fire and making inappropriate jokes about sleeping with women. Hell, he even has fun getting his ass kicked by a girl. Most importantly, however, is the fact that you believe he is someone that can smash throats with ease.
Steven Seagal…not so much. It's kind of sad watching the man with his backwards hat, indoor sunglasses and hypnotic widow’s peak fumble his way through this movie. They even help him out by giving him a team of black ops soldiers to carry some of the action burden, but just hearing him bark orders unconvincingly was enough to make me giggle. It's worse when he fights though. Seagal's style is to exert the least amount of energy possible, whether that means firing a gun from a stationary position or engaging in hand to hand combat while standing completely still. He always just seems to block the punch or kick, which for some reason causes the attacker to hurt himself. (If he's feeling up to it, he also occasionally leans on people until they fall down.) The only thing "cool" thing Seagal gets to do is spitefully break a guy's arm, which he then follows up with one of the worst-delivered one-liners ever. (You can see it in the "Best Parts" video below.)
As a film itself, MAXIMUM CONVICTION is pretty standard direct-to-video fare. The story, dialogue and characters are as cliché as can be. (Guess who plans to retire after this one last job?) There's a pretty constant pace of action throughout, which is a nice surprise, but the quality depends on which Steve you're getting it from. The only part that's not completely by-the-book is the ending. The Steves defeat the bad guys after learning about their plan to steal a metric crapload of government money. However, instead of giving it back, the two say, "Oh well, this $200 million was off the books, so I guess we have no choice but to keep it." BOOM… credits.
Commentary by director Keoni Waxman and producer Binh Dang: The pair seems pleasant enough but there was nothing here that warranted watching this movie a second time.
Behind the Scenes: Interviews with various cast and crew, who sum up the plot and give away all the twists. Each actor also says the same thing.
Steve Austin: Stone Cold talks about his transition from the wrestling ring to being a real actor. "It's like a more violent form of Broadway."
Icons: The two main stars discuss working together and what each brings to the table. Steven Seagal actually says, "I am the king of improv!"
Bren Foster: A very quick (~1 minute) look at the young actor and his martial arts skills. (He actually has a pretty decent fight at the end.)
A DVD copy is also included.
MAXIMUM CONVICTION is one-half of a solid direct-to-DVD actioner. (Hint: It's the half with Stone Cold.)
Extra Tidbit: For clips and further analysis, check out the Awfully Good treatment of this movie!