2016 – Amateur bank robbers Jack (John Edward Lee) and Sam (Byron Gibson) run afoul of Cambodian drug lord Gan Sirankiri (STEVEN SEAGAL) when they unwittingly steal a cache of his money during a heist.
As with his previous movie, Sniper: Special Ops, the cover art for [The] Asian Connection is a tad misleading. See that guy in the background, just over Steven Seagal’s God-like right shoulder? He’s our star. See those cars tumbling through the air on that brightly-lit highway? That never happens. See Seagal? Yeah, of course you do. He’s the bad guy, a kind of righteous spiritual martial arts drug lord with a soft heart and a great reverence for fish.
The movie opens very promisingly, with Sirankiri having a sit-down with a rival drug lord to hash out some drug-related stuff. It’s not really important; what IS important is that they decide the only way to settle things is via sword duel. Sirankiri says that this puts him at a disadvantage, as his foe is a master with the blade. I don’t want to give away this scene’s twist ending, but Sirankiri may be slightly more skilled with the blade than he lets on.
I, for one, would have been happy seeing a movie focused on Seagal’s drug lord character. He may be the bad guy, but he lives a fascinating life. He’s from America but he has an Asian name, and his chief lieutenant is a guy named Klahan Sirankiri (Byron Bishop). Are they brothers? Distant relations? Did Klahan save Gan’s life and Gan took his last name as a sign of gratitude and friendship? We never know.
Sirankiri also has a startlingly large-breasted Asian girlfriend who he appears to be training in martial arts. He grows roses in his back yard. He is interrupted during a lecture on how the fish is “the most important sentient being,” and we never learn what the hell he was talking about. It’s like you’re at the multiplex watching a crappy movie about a generic Jack Nicholson wannabe, but you keep catching glimpses of a more fascinating film on your way to the bathrooms.
Tragically, we have to spend most of our time with this Jack fellow, who has few discernible character traits aside from liking his girlfriend Avalon (Pim Bubear). Jack and the hot-headed but much more entertaining Sam are stuck in one of those awkward situations where the drug lord’s treacherous henchman is forcing them to rob more banks so that he can steal the boss’s money. This henchman is the “Asian connection” of the title, because he’s Jack’s connection. And he’s Asian.
Robbing banks is especially easy in Cambodia, it seems. Every one of them has the exact same layout, employs one or fewer guards, and has lots of money in convenient stacks in the vault. The police also have a strict “one car per bank robbery” rule, so they’re never especially effective.
We’re supposed to see Jack and Avalon as one of those doomed True Romance-type couples, but they’re just annoying and poorly-acted. Avalon doesn’t seem too concerned that the heap of money in their bedroom is obviously stolen; instead she asks Jack, “Why don’t you do me on all this cash?” When was the last time you heard the term “do me” in any context?
Michael Jai White is in the movie for all of two seconds, but why anyone would care is beyond me. He’s another one of these “why is he famous” guys to me. Is it because he was in The Dark Knight? So was Anthony Michael Hall, but you don’t see everyone slobbering over his tiny role in Foxcatcher. And yes, by this logic, Michael Jai White : The Asian Connection :: Anthony Michael Hall : Foxcatcher. Deal with it.
In the grand pantheon of Seagal movies, this ranks pretty low. It also follows the recent trend of very minimal involvement; it makes me fear for the rest of 2016’s Seagalian releases.