Yet another in the long, long, long line of sub-standard Steven Seagal movies, as uninteresting and unabsorbing as any of his recent offerings, and clear evidence that his glory days are some fifteen to twenty years ago with the likes of Marked For Death, Out For Justice and Hard To Kill. Somewhere around the turn of the century, something took him from cinematic action star straight to the video and DVD racks in a series of dull and generally uncinematic thudfests like Flight Of Fury, Kill Switch, The Keeper and Driven To Kill. Like Jean-Claude Van Damme, he's been unable to maintain the quality and has now become a staple of Blockbuster Video rather than blockbuster movies - they're still minor cult names that can show up in parodic or send-up roles (JCVD or Machete) but they've lost their marquee value for straight star vehicles. Maybe it's age, maybe it's proximity to a pie factory (Seagal's ongoing penchant for all-black clothing hides his figure completely), maybe the audience just moved on.
Born To Raise Hell has Seagal as a top agent for the International Drug Task Force located in Bucharest and attempting to shut down the drugs gangs: in particular one particularly nasty gypsy gang called Costel. War erupts between Costel's gang and the Russian drug suppliers, with Seagal's team caught in the middle: there are gunfights and fistfights and scenes of Seagal's peculiar brand of martial arts that seems to involve slapping people to death. All the gypsy gang get bloodily beaten up and/or shot, while the actual drug suppliers (arguably the real villains) get to walk away after the film has given them a measure of dignity: the film loads the dice against the gypsy suppliers by making Costel a homicidal rapist while depicting the head supplier into a devoted family man.
There's a lot of sub-Tony Scott overstylisation: speeding up, slow-mo, freeze-frame, double-exposure, presumably added in an attempt to juice the film up a bit, but it doesn't work. And whereas at one time you could find proper actors - the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Caine or Brian Cox - or cult names like Pam Grier, Henry Silva or Harry Dean Stanton gracing a Seagal movie, this has no-one you've ever heard of apart from Big Steve himself. The movie has no humour, it's got no class, no sophistication, and yet again it's impossible to care whether the horrible dealers or the horrible suppliers live or die. In truth it's only got the bouts of satisfyingly crunchy bone-breaking violence to commend it. And that's not really enough. For diehard fans of Seagal only.