The routine is rarely interrupted. Steven Seagal: Lawman – as seen from a random snapshot – flows easefully through time, a mist of ass-kicking justice wafting onwards, upwards, chasing a premeditated motion across the still televisual air. The narrative unravels in harmony with the clock’s ticking hands. Plot points pass, smacking upon retinas the swelling sites of a law abided. Sudden illustrations of a danger thwarted are served via channels of simplified apprehension, difficulty and equivocation consigned to the bin of bad decisions. The show pursues its mandate without fear of the penetrating cut of interruption; no digressionary deluge spills upon Seagal’s tight knit charge of drug busts and parole violations.
This is how Steven Seagal: Lawman unfolds, mostly.
Sometimes, however, a spectre rises from the shadows. Scenes are suddenly altered: pace falls away, meanings are inverted, lights dim as harpies invade the screen carrying epithets from a distant terrain. A banal patrol through the neighbourhood, Seagal a passenger amongst men, then enter peril: without warning their trajectory is reconfigured, tweaked by the mottled hands of a foreign agent. Rather than righting wrongs undeterred by antithetical forces, they are pressed to halt and confront an enemy.
A desolate landscape stretches out behind the protagonists, mediocre nod to the imagery of an unavoidable dystopia. Charred tree branches hang loosely and lonely above the highway. Abandoned vehicles, ditched belongings, putrefying carcasses, all such drab signifiers dotted around a scene stolen from everywhere. Seagal stands flanked by his cronies. A prophecy of armed combat swarms around them, their noses a-twitch at the deathly fiend nearing them. And then it explodes into sight: a fiery menace sweeping up the narrative and announcing its change, a tornado of renaming and bastard connotation. The nexus is thrown open, a matrix-rotten glitch in the edifice of Lawman. Up into the runtime it lunges, infecting the brainwork with antediluvian spite and resuscitating a past long dead.
Pulled over gothic misshapen forms – a grotesquery hanging in the air – the spectre shows its face. There floating, afloat time’s vacuity, a reference to Jean Claude Van Damme. Taken aback, Seagal on the ropes, a missile launches from a deputy, but gets deflected by the talk of Van Damme. “Arrest that fucker,” cries Seagal. Thus ignites a war against stardom, type-casting and sticky genre roots.
Throughout this season of Lawman, Seagal has attempted to create a schism between his police work and his film work. The latter does not exist. Dutiful patrols of the city proceed as though fame was entirely absent. There’s not a reek of Nico while he admonishes hookers; there are zero knife fights during a DWI pullover. The filmic ego is dormant. The celluloid pyrotechnics, captured and enclosed within DVD form, once held the essence of Seagal; now reality discloses a different figure, sharply defined by its contrast to the former.