Kevin: Today marks the annual celebration of Earth Day, a day in which even the most nonchalant polluter may feel an obligation to power down their computer when not using it (I’ll do that as soon as I finish this important article, I promise). It’s doubtful though that most people love the environment enough to risk their careers over it, as Steven Seagal did in 1994’s “On Deadly Ground,” where he spouted some inconvenient truths long before Al Gore hopped on the eco-bandwagon and won a Nobel Prize:
As we discussed in our birthday tribute to Seagal, before “One Deadly Ground” the star was riding high after the success of “Under Siege” and could have coasted on his A-list status with a succession of easy and high-grossing “Die Hard” rip-offs. Instead he used all his accumulated clout with Warner Brothers to get funding for his passion project/directorial debut, where he plays Forrest Taft, a contractor who discovers that his employer Aegis Oil is intentionally cutting corners in order to get a new Alaskan oil refinery online before the land rights revert back to an Eskimo tribe.
While Greenpeace might respond to such corporate shenanigans with a boycott campaign, Taft is a little more proactive, instead killing dozens of mercenaries and blowing up the refinery to stop it from … blowing up later I guess, I’m still not sure exactly of his plan. The point is, any time you inject a lot of overt political messaging into an ostensibly silly and fun action film you are risking the audience’s wrath, but Seagal takes it much further by ending his opus with a four-minute-long lecture on the increasing dangers of pollution and the efforts of Big Oil to stop alternative fuel sources:
Now you may laugh at the messenger – or you may also think Seagal’s message is simplistic and overheated – but is there anything in that speech that Leonardo DiCaprio hasn’t been saying in public for years, in between flying supermodels around on his carbon-spewing private jet of course? But while actors and politicians like DiCaprio and Al Gore are routinely labeled “brave” and showered with awards, Seagal actually put his career on the line and he paid the price, as his unironic sincerity was widely mocked and he never regained his box-office mojo. But the next time we toss another bottle into the recycling bin, let’s remember a man who had the courage of his convictions, as well as the courage to look like this in a major motion picture: