One of three Steven Seagal pictures from 2016, The Asian Connection is the best of the bunch. It is directed by Daniel Zirilli and features a screenplay by the director and Tom Sizemore. Yes, that Tom Sizemore. Interestingly, Seagal’s part in the picture seems like it could easily be a Sizemore part. Go figure.
Seagal sports the full goatee and manages a do-rag to complete his black ensemble. He’s actually rather mobile, which already puts The Asian Connection a fair shade above Sniper: Special Ops and Code of Honor. For the record, he is not handling a sniper rifle. But he’s also not the star of the show.
That duty falls to John Edward Lee, who plays the bank robber Jack. Jack and his partner Sam (Byron Gibson) are knocking over banks in Cambodia when they hit a joint that happens to hold the cash of crime lord Gan Sirankiri (Seagal). The duo enters a partnership with one of Gan’s associates (Sahajak Boonthanakit), who sets up scores from the inside.
Gan is pissed that his money keeps on going missing, while Jack and his sweetheart Avalon (Pim Bubear) get closer. Eventually, the bad guy snorts out the rat and all hell breaks loose. Jack and Avalon end up on the run from Gan and his buddies.
The story of The Asian Connection is not that bad. It’s fairly standard, but it’s presented in forthright fashion and there aren’t a lot of complications. Zirilli’s mind for the plot keeps Orlando Herrera’s lensing of the Thai locations focussed.
And Seagal benefits from playing the heavy, as he sort of played in Keoni Waxman’s Absolution. He does well playing off his own ego and is once again the baddest man on the planet, whether he’s explaining fish to a young woman or flinging over tables or threatening dudes or arbitrarily firing his gun out the window.
Unfortunately, the rest of The Asian Connection is dreadful. Lee carries the film and he’s a tasteless lead. His relationship with Bubear’s weirdly-named Avalon is miserably domestic, notwithstanding the Bonnie and Clyde setup. Their slide into cooperative criminality comes too late in the game to register and their sex life – “do me on the money” – is feeble.
Speaking of Bubear, her character is a waste. Avalon is a stereotypical young woman, complete with a desire to put on makeup ahead of a bank robbery. She has to look good for the mugshot. Bubear holds a black belt in Kempo, but Zirilli can’t come up with any fighting for her to do. As such, we’re stuck with her appalling acting and the screenplay’s superficial babble.
The action is typical, with lots of shootouts reinforced by one or two martial arts sequences. A scene toward the end speaks to how things work, with Gan and Co. chasing Jack and Avalon in a truck. Jack shoots some barrels and a telephone pole falls into the road, causing the necessary obstruction for a temporary getaway.
By the way, Michael Jai White is actually in the movie for a few minutes. He plays a weapons dealer named Greedy Greg and has nothing to do with anything, but apparently his prestige was worthy of jamming him on the poster. So there’s that.
While it’s a reach to call The Asian Connection a good movie, it is Seagal’s most cohesive outing of 2016 (so far). He is a capable villain and he takes charge, like when he’s upbraiding his crew or wandering around with sexy, sexy ladies. And while it may be a bit much to give him credit for actually getting out of his chair every once and a while, times are tough.