Steven Seagal is one complicated dude. Thankfully, Seattle-based film critic Vern has crafted a weighty tome dedicated to making sense of Hollywood's favorite ponytailed action hero. The book, aptly titled "Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal" analyzes each and every one of Seagal's movies at a painstakingly granular level.
The book first came out in 2008, and is being re-released this month to incorporate further analysis of Seagal's more recent endeavors, like, y'know, his reality show about patrolling the streets of New Orleans, Steven Seagal: Lawman. (Who knew Seagal's been a secret cop for 20 years?)
Like any scholar worth his weight in high-front kicks and shiny dragon shirts, Vern breaks his analysis down into eras, spanning from Golden (which includes Above the Law) to Direct-to-Video to the present Chief Seagal Era.
Whether you're a Seagal fanatic or just a casual admirer, Vern's acerbic humor and surprisingly illuminating analysis make "Seagalogy" an incredibly entertaining read. Our only lament is that the book doesn't have any Seagal-tastic photos to go along with it. To be fair, though, Vern's poetic descriptions like "a dude in a ponytail and shiny shirts going around breaking wrists and throwing people through windows" really do paint quite the picture on their own.
At 485 pages (without pictures!) "Seagalogy" is nothing if not comprehensive. In addition to the detailed analysis of each Seagal film, the book also explores the complicated man behind the public persona. Indeed, Seagal wears many hats. Here are a handful of them.
1. Advocate. Vern begins by pointing out that Seagal often says in interviews that his movies aim to "bring people forward into contemplation." Yes, that's right. Seagal flicks aren't for zoning out. You'd better be picking up on his important spiritual, environmental and political subtext.
2. Badass Auteur. Vern's "Badass Auteur Theory" asserts that while many directors put their own stamp on their movies like an author would in a book, Seagal's movies all have a uniquely "Seagal" quality. It is Seagal who carries the themes across his movies, not the directors.
3. Lawman. As evidenced on the A+E show Steven Seagal: Lawman, Seagal takes his duties as a reserve officer for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office pretty seriously. Vern pinpoints exactly what makes the show so perfect when he writes that Seagal makes for a "celebrity cop still surreal to see on patrol, but maybe a little more convincing in uniform than La Toya Jackson." (The latter, of course, being a reference to the ill-fated show Armed & Famous.)
4. Entrepreneur. In 2005, Steven Seagal Enterprises rolled out some tasty energy drinks called Lightning Bolt, so you too can have the energy to toss bad guys through windows. Vern acknowledges that he was "under the influence" of the Cherry Charge flavor while writing.
5. Blues guitarist. Seagal is a spiritual Renaissance man of sorts, so it should come as no surprise that he likes to express himself through song, too. Vern's reviews of Seagal's musical stylings conclude that he's "better than you'd expect" at singing, songwriting and playing the guitar.
6. Thespian. He may not be a Shakespearean actor, but when he says ridiculous stuff like "I'm gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent. The blood bank!," you believe it.
7. Spiritual dude. Seagal takes this Buddhist thing seriously. He's been recognized as a tulku, which is a high-ranking lama. Trés zen.
8. Spokesperson. Aside from hocking his own shiz, Seagal has appeared in an array of commercials over the years, including some hilarious ads for Australian beer co Carlton Dry.
9. Director. Seagal's foray into directing -- On Deadly Ground -- wasn't exactly critically acclaimed. Even Vern describes it as "the corniest, most unintentionally hilarious movie of his career, up there with Roadhouse as a classic goofy action movie done with a straight face." At least it's an entertaining vehicle that gets his environmental message across; there's definitely way more ass-kicking than An Inconvenient Truth.
10. Aikido master. Did you know Seagal was the first foreigner to own an aikido dojo in Japan? You will if you dare to foray into "Seagalogy 101."