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Saturday Afternoon Sweetness

Glimmer ManThis week’s Saturday Afternoon Sweetness pick is another personal favorite of mine. I think Steven Seagal films in general can take up weeks and weeks of this column on their own.In fact, part of my inspiration for Saturday Afternoon Sweetness is the scientifically proven fact that you can turn a TV on at 2pm on a Saturday and almost always find a Seagal movie. So it seems only fair to pay tribute to the man whose career has laid the foundation for many a TBS afternoon mini-marathon. But what to pick? With a career full of 80s action movies and more direct-to-video pictures than IMDB can handle, choosing the first Seagal movie for this column was somewhat of a daunting task. But I wracked my brain, made notes and used lots of test tubes to figure out which of his films should be bestowed with the honor of being the first pick for the Saturday Afternoon Sweetness. My scientific method led to Mr. Seagal’s 1996 joint, ‘The Glimmer Man.’

Better men than I have written about the beauty of all Seagal movies. Certain characteristics of his characters show up in nearly every movie. Mysticism, aikido, ex-government/CIA/undercover agent and concern about the environment all tend to be recurring traits in whoever Seagal is portraying in a particular film, kind of like a concept album. But instead it’s from movie to movie. So it could be said that Seagal has a concept career. Nothing wrong with that. ‘The Glimmer Man’ has a few of those above ingredients, making it a worth addition to the pantheon of Seagal flicks. Steven Seagal and WayansSeagal plays Jack Cole, an ex-government operative whose nickname was “The Glimmer Man” because he could move so fast. This is kind of funny because by 1996 we had begun to move into what I lovingly refer to as “Seagal’s Fat Elvis Years.” He’s not completely there during ‘The Glimmer Man’, but it certainly adds an element to the fact that the story relies on you believing that all of Cole’s targets only saw a glimmer before they died by his hands and he spends most of the movie in a tailored muumuu. Anyways, having left the government agency, Cole has taken up a position with the LAPD, partnering with Jim Campbell, played by Keenan Ivory Wayans. Drink that in for a moment. A buddy cop film starring a pudgy Seagal and Homey D. Clown. I’ll only move on with describing the story out of obligation for the column as I’m assuming at this point you’ve left Lonely Reviewer and headed over to Netflix or your nearest video retailer to pick this up. Cole and Campbell are trying to track down a serial killer known as “The Family Man” whose latest victim, it turns out, is Cole’s ex-wife and her new family. Cole is suspected, but as his partner learns to trust him (through a scene in which Seagal’s character uses his knowledge of Chinese herbs to make Wayans eat crushed deer penis), they clear Cole’s name. This leads to all sorts of intrigue as Cole’s government agency past and Russian terrorists enter the mix, blah, blah, blah.

All that plot stuff is superfluous. If you’ve seen a handful of Seagal movies, you’ve seen them all. Like his characters, his movies all have recurring plot points. It’s kind of like there is a hat with tiny pieces of paper. And on each of those pieces of paper is a plot point or a character trait:

“What’s the movie going to be about this time, Steve?”
“Let’s reach our hand into the magical pre-production hat to find out! He’s an…ex-CIA agent who is…revenging the death of his wife…on an Alaskan oil reserve!”
“You dropped a slip, Steve.”
“Oops. He’s also full of ancient Chinese secrets.”

While I love his earlier stuff (‘Above the Law,’ ‘Out for Justice’), the later Seagal fare has a certain something that is hard to put your finger on. But my theory is that around the time of ‘The Glimmer Man’ Steven Seagal started to see himself as something a little bit more than an actor. Case in point, ‘The Glimmer Man’ features not one, but two original songs by Steve. Unfortunately he does not perform the songs in the movie, but come on! Original tunes by Steven Seagal should be reason enough to watch this movie on a Saturday afternoon (not to mention the fact that they’re called “Bulletproof” and “Snake”). But the overall point is, ‘The Glimmer Man’ is kind of Seagal’s “Phase II” in terms of his career. He’s starting to get slower and he seems to give himself less lines in each successive movie, but when he does move it’s still pretty impressive (note the fight scene in the garage where Seagal seems to use a credit card to slit a guy’s throat) and, more importantly, you can tell that each of the films he has been a part of, starting around this one, is like a personal project for him. And it’s that Seagal charm that he brings to ‘The Glimmer Man’ that makes this a worthy addition to the Saturday Afternoon Sweetness.

-Justin

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