DTV ACTION STARS: SEAGAL/Snipes/Van Damme. Interesting read.

They – and usually ‘They’ is someone whose never set foot on a movie set in their life, nor are they the type of person who could tell you who played ‘Hicks’ in “Aliens” was or what Roy Scheider’s characters name in “Jaws” was – say Steven Seagal is a has-been. Those some people say the same about Jean Claude Van Damme. Wesley Snipes, too.

Are they wrong? Well, yeah, kinda.

They might be playing to a different audience now – the DVD audience, rather than the cinema-going crowd – but Seagal, Van Damme and Snipes definitely aren’t over. Far from it. Not only are they still raking in good money each-and-every-week but, believe it or not, they’ve all still got some major clout. Do you think if Seagal was a has-been he’d be able to afford such a mass entourage? And if Snipes was no longer a force among film, could he afford to start so many fist-fights with studios and directors? nuts no, if the star of direct-to-video efforts like “The Marskman” was over with, his lips would be permanently attached to a studio boss’s ass (Just like Wings Hauser’s was in the 80s and Thomas Ian Griffith’s was in the 90s).

Jennifer Anderson, VP of marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, tells Video Business that recent action titles such as ''Missionary Man'', starring Dolph Lundgren, or ''Pistol Whipped'', with Seagal, are still securing millions for production costs because, quite simply, they still sell.

“We have a strong rental presence and they definitely perform well for us in that category, but we’re also investing a lot of time in deciding how they’re going to do at a Wal-Mart, a Best Buy, a Circuit City and a Trans World,” she said. “Rental is definitely a significant portion of the business for us, but so is sell-through.”

According to Rentrak, Seagal, Van Damme and Lundgren films released since 2005 have generated about $90 million combined on consumer spending on rentals and purchases. All but three of the 16 titles released in that time period were from Sony.

“I have an instantly recognizable face, and I suppose if people see someone they recognize in one of these titles, they’re more apt to pick it up,” Dolph Lundgren told VB in a recent interview.

Video premiere actioners with proven talent are consistent sellers abroad as well.

“These titles help round out our product slate and hit the genre sweet spot for the core DVD buyer,” said Alison Biggers, senior VP of international marketing for Sony. “They are perfect to feed the rental market in territories like Brazil. Because of the steady flow, we are able to develop ongoing targeted consumer programs like our Web sites for Fight Factory Films in the U.K. and Planet Action in Germany.”

I’ve just read Vern’s – the Aint it Cool News’er who reviews all the straight-to-video action movies starring the likes of Seagal and Van Damme – new book on Seagal. It’s great. The boy is definitely passionate about Seagal’s career, that’s for sure. But what I like about it most is he tells it like it is. He doesn’t say Seagal’s last five films are absolute masterpieces; he honestly states what’s good about them and what’s not. And he’s right when he says that Seagal seems to be slowly on his way to making good movies again. I haven’t watched a lot of his recent ones, but I did see the recent ones, “Pistol Whipped” and “Renegade Justice” and I think they’re both quite good – a lot better than some of the stuff Seagal was doing a few years back anyway (there was one, “Flight of Fury”, that was almost unwatchable. Ghastly). He seems to be trying – if that’s the right word? - again.

I think the reason people turned against him – including some of his own fans – is because Seagal lost interest in his own career. And you can’t blame him. Some of the nuts he was being forced to do was just insufferable for an audience… imagine how the headline act felt doing them?! There’s got to be a reason why Seagal’s voice was dubbed over in so many of those films, don’t you think? And why did they have to get a stand-in to double for him so many times? It mightn’t have as much to do with his ego or arrogance as it does the fact that he just couldn’t take anymore chastisement.

Am I a Seagal fan? I’ve never considered myself one, but maybe I am. I seem to be defending him. I don’t mind his movies – especially some of his earlier ones (I remember buying a copy of “Hard to Kill” on VHS when I was younger, and watched it a few times over). He’s a charismatic son of a gun but more so, when he does kick ass, he kicks ass. He practices what he preaches, obviously. I appreciate it. I also appreciate that he knows what he’s capable of… and doesn’t try and exploit that (by putting on an English accent in doing an off-Broadway recital of Hamlet).

I’m probably as not as big a fan of Jean Claude Van Damme, but again, I’ll watch anything the guy does. I love some of JC’s earlier movies – “Kickboxer”, “Time Cop” and “Sudden Death” and they’re welcome additions to my DVD library. Like Seagal, he has sort of unusual charisma…. Or pulling power…. That keeps you watching, but more so, he’s a terrific martial-artist. I’d split a ball trying to do that leg separation scene in “Time Cop”.

So what I’m trying to say here is that although Seagal, Van Damme and Snipes are no longer at the top of their game, they’re still very much in the game, and by all indications, all three of them are working their way back to that top spot. Has beens? Nah, not at all - - if they’re has-beens then what are Kirk Cameron? Oliver Grunner? Jeff Speakman? Thomas Ian Griffith? Ken Wahl? Sasha Mitchell? Stephen Baldwin? (Besides unemployed).

As we speak, the three action giants of yesteryear are attempting to make large-size comebacks :

Van Damme is starring in a film that looks absolutely terrific – and darn funny – called“J.C.V.D”, whilst trying to finance a film called “Full Love” (which he says is nothing like the norm for him). It’s “J.C.V.D” that might put Van Damme back on Hollywood’s radar though.

The film, Van Damme told MTV, is “about a guy who was arrested too many times in the U.S. Being drunk, my [character's] life was from success to failure. And this guy is now leaving the States to refresh himself, to go back to Brussels to see his parents. He's got no money and he's looking for any type of movie to pay his lawyers for child custody. And then he shows up in a post office where a heist is happening, and people think I'm part of it. And then it becomes very "Dog Day Afternoon." I think it's the best film I've done in my career. I didn't take any salary for it. I've got to respect my fanbase, the people who made me famous, but I'm trying to bring them something different. With me playing me, it was a very shocking experience. When I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't able to function for a few days. After 37 movies, I said, "I will never do another movie I would not like." What Mabrouk [the writer] did to me, it's like Scorsese did to De Niro years ago. It's a very different picture for Jean-Claude Van Damme.”

Snipes is also on his way back. I don’t know if he’s a part of the “New Jack City” follow-up that they’re doing – I guess the only way he’d be part of it is if it’s a prequel? – but he’s definitely in the upcoming “Art of War” sequel. And if it hadn’t of been cancelled, he was also set to be in Spike Lee’s new War movie “Miracle at St. Anna”. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds a bit better than another non-descript DTV action film that was made in Romania. (He’s just got to start remembering to pay his Taxes).

As for Seagal, there mightn’t be an “Under Siege 3” on the cards (despite the fact that there’s a few scripts for it floating around, it can’t happen – not without Warner Bros, and unfortunately, they’re not interested), but there’s definitely some interesting projects on the table – one, a horror movie. Seagal is also going to be making a few more movies back home on American soil, rather than some distant European country.

Vern told that Seagal is poised for a comeback because "both “Urban Justice” and his upcoming “Pistol Whipped” are a leap ahead for him, doing a much better job of capturing the style of action and storytelling from his early films, but also acknowledging that he's older and taking advantage of that with the characters he plays. As I was finishing up the original self-published version of my book, it looked like I was going to have a bummer ending with his last couple movies not being very good, disliked by most of the fans and allegedly by Seagal too. So it was a relief when “Urban Justice” came out and I was able to have a happy ending. It would've been an “Attack Force”-type ending (where Seagal just drives away after a battle and it ends without resolving a whole plot about a poisoned water supply), but instead it became a “Marked for Death”-type ending (he kills the bad guy, has a great one-liner and just walks away at the top of his game)."

If Dolph Lundgren, who hasn’t had a hit in years, can get his name back in the trades (see here ), then so can these three guys, hey Vern?. Dolph, for instance, is still making action movies – but he’s making good ones now; one’s with both a storyline and a slab of something missing from a lot of action flicks, action. Another "Pistol Whipped", and Seagal might just find himself back in a Variety article too.

Finally, I urge you to all go out and buy Vern’s new book “Seagalogy” – it’s a great read. It’s not only informative, it’s entertaining, and darn funny. I look forward to the next one - - whether it be “Lundgren-esque” or “Trejo-land”. Aint it Cool is lucky to have him.


SenseiSeagal, thank you so much for your blurb, very interesting,would love to get Verne's book "Seagalology." Cant think where to purchase it though. got any ideas, am currently in Hong Kong on the way to Perth and Melbourne.


If Seagal is such an 'has been' as this twit kindly said why are poeople still buying and hiring his movies..thanks for the article any way..


c/o naughty corner
Interesting article SenseiSeagal, thanks for posting, it has some good points in it.

Machine Gun

New Member
Seagal is no way a has been. I like almost all his movies, I was very dissapointed from Attack Force (basically unwatchable), havent seen Flight of Fury, but I still enjoyed movies like Belly of the Beast,Into The Sun and Submerged which recieved bad reviews. Im excited to watch Urban Justice and Pistol Whipped, as I have heard fans say it is his best work in years. The thing with Seagal, Dolph Lundgren and Van Damme is that though their no longer in the cinemas, they still please my action needs DTV. And if the real fans are happy, as the figures show, that is what counts. All of these stars have more good movies then bad.