"He walks like a black man, but he breathes like a killer."
Perhaps, in a former life, I was part of the great California gold rush. Sifting through mud and muck, hoping to find a gleaming nugget that would brighten my day. At least that's what I tell myself as I scroll through 300+ flicks in my Netflix Instant View queue only to begin panning for gold with yet another direct-to-video slice from the Seagalography pie.
This time Seagal isn't playing his usual Black Ops, Navy SEAL, Army Ranger or Interpol agent. Instead, he's traded in his "beefy dude with shadowy past" role for something a little darker (and just as hard to believe thanks to the obvious stunt doubling): a high-tech burglar who robs from rich drug kingpins in order to help out those less fortunate. Though, as one shotgun-toting thug informs us early on, Harlan Banks (Seagal) isn't above keeping a little for hisself.
After a heist leaves a penthouse-ful of dead bodies in his wake, Harlan packs up his girlfriend Jada (Mari Morrow) and heads out to make a new life for himself on the straight and narrow. In Vegas.
Surprisingly, his first day on the job as an armored car driver for the mysterious Max (Kevin Tighe) goes horribly wrong. Security guards end up dead and a high-speed chase through the Vegas streets results in fiery crashes, wrecked cop cars, $20 million in missing cash and an injured Harlan headed for the slammer.
Once inside it's up to Harlan and new buddy Ice Kool (rapper Treach) to stage a daring prison escape so they can exact revenge for the frame-up, find the loot and maybe, just maybe, save that childrens hospital that had that "Going Out of Business" sign slapped on it. (I kid you not.)
Had writer Kevin Moore and director Don E. FauntLeRoy stuck with the streamlined "beefy dude seeks revenge" storyline maybe TODAY YOU DIE wouldn't be such a frequently perplexing and sometimes frustrating head scratcher. Jada repeatedly has visions that Harlan attempts to interpret while Max reputedly dabbles in black magic and is a former CIA operative with the double secret clearance of "killmaster". Unfortunately, neither of these subplots go anywhere and Tighe's role is reduced to little more than a cameo, leaving more time for Seagal and Treach to perform D-grade buddy flick "comedy".
On the plus side, the flick's first third is highlighted by the aforementioned heist-gone-wrong chase scene that blows up an impressive amount of "stuff" for a direct-to-video flick, the Seagal-less fights have a decent amount of energy and the two stars have better chemistry than Harlan and Jada ever muster.
TODAY YOU DIE certainly isn't the worst direct-to-video Seagal effort by any stretch but you're better off skipping it in favor of 2007's URBAN JUSTICE, the third teaming of Seagal and director FauntLeRoy (MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE is the second and will surely land on my tv screen in short order).
Oh and look for future KICK-ASS star Chloe Grace Moretz as the little girl who inspires Robin Huge to save the hospital.
TODAY YOU DIE is available from Amazon.
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