Out of Reach (2004)

Out of ReachCountry: United States / Poland
Director: Po-Chih Leong
Starring: Steven Seagal, Ida Nowakowska, Agnieszka Wagner, Matt Schulze, Krzysztof Pieczynski, Nick Brimble
Music: Alex Heffes

Posted on Permission To Kill over the last few days, you will find quite a few reviews for (spy) films starring Steven Seagal. All of them are light years away from Under Siege, undeniably Seagal’s most popular film, and biggest box office success. But if I had to pick one of the films, Out Of Reach would have to be the best. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that this is a good film, it is simply the best of a bad bunch. What lifts this film above the others is the story about child trafficking. Seagal’s relationship with the children in the movie give it a humanity that is lacking in the other films. Having said that, it is also one of the film’s weaknesses. The films focus on the child actors almost steer it towards being a family film, but the films villains are too repugnant and the violence is far too graphic for younger viewers.

Here’s the synopsis: Seagal plays native American William Lancing. It appears that Lancing used to be a C.S.A. agent and had participated is some morally dubious missions. Since then he has gone into a self imposed retirement. Agencies like the C.S.A. don’t let their agents simply walk away, so in effect Lancing is in hiding. He does his penance in the Rockies where he lives a quiet life helping injured animals. His only real contact with the outside world is a young girl, Irena Morawska (Ida Nowakowska) who lives in an orphanage in Poland. Through an outreach program, Lancing and Irena are pen-pals. Each month he writes to her, sending puzzles, codes and ciphers for her to solve. She thinks the puzzles are fun and has no idea that they the remnants of Lancing’s former life.

As Irena reaches her fifteenth birthday, she has to leave the orphanage. To help her, and some of the other girls that have to leave, the Director of the orphanage has arranged for a gentleman named Faisal (Matt Schulze – Blade 2, The Transporter) to collect the girls. He comes to the orphanage, presents each girl with a rose, then whisks them off to a better life. Well, not quite. In fact, Faisal deals in human trafficking, and is about to auction off the girls to the highest bidder.

Before leaving, Irena hands her next letter to Lansing, to the Director of the orphanage to forward on. The letter does get sent forward, but without Irena’s message. Instead a new note has been inserted in the envelope. It says that Irena will no longer be able to correspond with Lancing. Naturally he wants to know why. Even if she has left the orphanage, there should be nothing to stop her from writing. Right?

Lancing boards the next plane to Poland and starts his own investigation into Irena’s whereabouts. Along the way, he teams up with a Polish policewoman, Kasia (Agnieszka Wagner), and unwittingly adopts a boy from the orphanage,Nikki (Jan Plazalski). You can see that the film-makers almost got the family unit happening, with Lancing and Kasia as the surrogate parents, and Irena and Nikki as the children. But as I said at the top, this isn’t a family film. It has a full scale shoot out at a whorehouse, and the film culminates in a vicious sword fight.

If you are a fan of Steven Segal (there must be one or two of you out there), then you may find Out Of Reach an entertaining diversion for an hour and a half, but beyond that, there’s not enough espionage for it to be a good spy flick, it’s too violent for a family film, and there’s not enough mayhem for it to stand up as a good action movie. What you are left with is a film that looks quite okay, in a moody European way, and has a few good set pieces, but as a whole never really satisfies. And the most annoying aspect of this film, is that some of the dialogue appears to be overdubbed later, and that Seagal (who was an executive producer on this flick), didn’t even dub his own lines. When the star / producer can not even be bothered to fix up the films mistakes, then you know his heart isn’t in the project. If he doesn’t care, why should we?

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