Michael Winnick writes, produces and directs Code of Honor, another 2016 film that stars Steven Seagal. This picture came out either before or after Sniper: Special Ops and confirms that the once-ponytailed action star is right smack dab in the middle of his goatee and sniper rifle stage. In fairness, the facial hair made its debut in 2013’s Force of Execution. The sniper rifle is a more recent addition.
Seagal has always been fond of guns, evidenced by the extra special way he brandishes them. Part of this amounts to personal style, as he sometimes cradles the weapon and sometimes holds it up really high. In Code of Honor, he combines his love for firearms with his love of barely moving.
Seagal is Colonel Robert Sikes, a highly-decorated Special Forces dude with an impeccable service record and an unmatched set of skills. He’s set his sights on a corrupt city and takes out the scum using his sniper rifle and other tools of the trade. The cops don’t know whether to arrest him or award him a medal, but Detective Peterson (Louis Mandylor) isn’t sold on his antics.
Peterson meets FBI special agent Porter (Craig Sheffer), who is tracking Sikes. They have history and Porter believes he can bring in his former pal before something terrible happens. When Sikes bombs a strip club, a stripper named Keri (Helena Mattsson) becomes involved because the mob or Sikes or someone is probably after her.
Seagal is more involved in Code of Honor, which is a good thing considering his affection for taking a load off. That’s not to say that he’s the centre of attention, however, as Sheffer does most of the heavy lifting. He handles the close-quarters combat, including a neat knife-fighting sequence that leaves two gangsters dead.
As reasonable as the action scenes are in terms of choreography, a ludicrous dose of CGI makes them hilarious. Everything from the blood to the gunfire is tapped in from outside. Even the stunts, which typically provide the fun of spotting Seagal’s double, are glossed over by pitiful additions.
Winnick’s movie has the feel of other direct-to-video offerings from Seagal, with the super-vigilante storyline once again asserting the hero’s ability to do everything well without the hero actually having to do anything well. The mythos of Seagal’s Sikes wafts large over Code of Honor, like a cloud of gas.
The silliness of Sikes’ legacy is offset by the presence of Sheffer, who is as bland as can be when he’s not cutting throats and taking names. He has some sort of tortured backstory and he’s set up as a contrast to Sikes, a point underscored when they meet all Heat-style in a nightclub.
The nightclub scene is a critical point for a number of reasons. For one, it points toward the conclusion in a surprisingly subtle way. It also gives Seagal a chance to showcase his Southern accent, which seems to go hand-in-hand-in-hand with the long-distance weaponry and the hunk of facial hair.
Mattsson, the blonde in the George Clooney and Danny DeVito “Nespresso” commercial, is a ray of sunshine. She plays the stripper with the excuse, which means she doesn’t have to do any of the really seedy stuff. Just to prove the point, Winnick has some other blonde stroll around doing drugs and blowing guys.
Unsurprisingly, Mattson’s only job is to play damsel in distress. Keri is given a kid to remind Porter of his kid and there’s a baseball glove to remind Porter of the fact that his kid was into baseball. This pathos an easy prescription for “depth,” but it only adds to the mountain of clichés.
Code of Honor isn’t very good, but it is a step up from Sniper: Special Ops. The CGI is messy, the characters are thin and the plot gets away from Winnick, but at least Seagal actually moves from time to time. And Mattsson is a delight, a wave out-of-place joy in a world of rote filmmaking.