True Justice Review
“It takes a ghost to kill a ghost... and I’m a ghost.”
Having just finished the complete second season of ageing action star Steven Seagal’s TV procedural, True Justice, revisiting each separate double-episode on its sporadic, quarterly Blu-ray release, has become a marginally more satisfying task. Sure, it still frustrates me that this show has been released in piecemeal chunks – that there will still be the occasional blind buyer who has no idea just what he’s gotten himself into (Season 2, episodes 5-6 to be precise) – but the overreaching story arc in this season is considerably more substantial than in the last; a plot strong enough to even give the second season its own sub-title: True Justice – The Ghost.
For those who are coming into this pretty late in the game (and, no, there’s nothing supernatural about the ‘ghosts’ to which I’m referring to) it’s worth dipping back in to the preceding episodes (the first season still hasn’t had a complete series box set released in this country, although you can look overseas) which have all been individually covered on this review site. Where are we at now? Well basically Seagal’s ex-black-ops specialist, Elijah Kane, is on the trail of the men who killed his original serious crimes police unit and, now working covertly for the CIA, he has put together a new team who are helping him with the task.
Violence of Action kick-starts with a brutal assault on a Mexican money-train – a bit like a low-budget version of the start to Heat – which leaves somebody out there $20 Million richer. Seagal’s Kane thinks there may be far more to this than just a crew out to foolishly try and rip off the Mexican mafia, and makes a deal with his old Mexican mob boss contact to find the money for them so long as he gets first shot at interrogating the armed robbers. As the investigation unravels, it turns out that the money may be destined for use by The Ghost – the shadowy figure who Kane believes killed his old team – and Kane is intent on finding out exactly what The Ghost plans to use the money for. Tracking it, he comes face to face with an old nemesis from his black ops past, a highly skilled assassin called Bojan, who has been hired to guard The Ghost’s money launderer.
If none of that made much sense to you, then it’s because you haven’t been following this TV show from the start. That said, the irregularity with which it has been released does make it extremely hard to keep up with the events in True Justice. Unlike the first season, almost every single episode ties into the overall plot to track and apprehend Kane’s nemesis, The Ghost, which makes it even harder to pick up the show mid-season for a couple of episodes. This isn’t CSI.
For those who have been faithfully and painstakingly keeping up with series, it finally appears to be getting more interesting. I’m not saying that the end result is strikingly satisfying – and the show hasn’t exactly reached another level of excellence; it’s still distinctly average viewing – but we’ve moved past the introduction-to-the-new-team-members episodes, and the relatively inconsequential first few stories; now we’re heading towards the meat of the second season’s story arc. Each episode marks a step closer to The Ghost; and, even though his new team feel more comfortable and confident in their roles, the death cry of his old teammates still echoes in the series – particularly with one of the last survivors getting assassinated at the end of the last double-episode story. Here Kane is still helping the grieving widow pick up the pieces, and even Sarah (now the only surviving old team-mate) looks a bit shell-shocked by the whole affair. It doesn’t stop there, either, as the end of this double-episode brings yet another twist which could have made for a shocking cliffhanger were it not for an unnecessary closing coda by Seagal’s Kane. Still, they’re certainly shaking things up this season.
With the first part devoted to tracking down the stolen money, the second episode introduces the highly trained killer who is himself a ‘ghost’ from Kane’s past. Played by Darren Shahlavi – who was Eddie Murphy’s boxing opponent in the underrated action comedy I, Spy; played Donnie Yen’s boxing opponent in Ip Man 2; and was in Red Riding Hood – there was plenty of opportunity here for a proper showdown between Seagal and a kick-ass villain. Hell, those who’ve been painstakingly following Seagal’s straight-to-video exploits over the last decade will recognise Shahlavi as being the main villain in the above-average DTV outing Born to Raise Hell, and so their expectations will be even higher. Unfortunately, despite a great little introduction to Shahlavi’s villain, ultimately the two brief confrontations between him and Seagal’s Kane are disappointingly one-sided: Seagal doesn’t get hit once; Shahlavi gets kicked and thrown about a lot; and then the scenes are over. Despite the fact that these fights are still a cut above the usual street thugs that Seagal gets to dispatch these days, it’s a missed opportunity not to use such a talented opponent more appropriately.
Similarly it will probably disappoint some fans to find Seagal once again taking his bird’s nest sniping position for another long shot sequence which is almost like a daylight version of the sniper scene from the end of the last double-episode. This won’t be the last time in the series where Seagal takes to sniping from a distance, and it’s just not what we’ve come to expect from him, but whilst it was a welcome change in style for the last episode, here it’s repeated too soon – they should have saved the long shot work for later on in the series. It’s also disappointing for those who prefer more close-combat work from the Aikido master himself.
Conversely, the tactics and strategy offered up by the real-life Sheriff – Seagal – are always welcome, no matter how many times they are repeated across the series, and, once again, he’s on top form teaching and training his team members on how to clear rooms, navigate stairs, and practice down at the shooting range. It’s interesting and thoroughly believable. You know why? Because he actually does this stuff for a living. This is definitely his forte.
Overall Violence of Action is still little more than just another piece in the very big True Justice Season 2 puzzle. You’d be foolish to consider picking it up as a standalone feature – it would be almost incomprehensible. Those who have stuck it out through thick and thin, and have watched every episode of the show so far, should find this considerably more enjoyable. It boasts a more interesting-than-average, more action-packed-than-average double-episode. If you’ve followed True Justice this far, don’t give up. It’s just getting good.
For those who want a clearer list of the episodes and their confusing release schedule (don’t ask me what happened to Season One, episode 13), then this is the order in which they have been released on Blu-ray, complete with the relevant review links to my earlier reviews:
1. Deadly Crossing (Season One, episodes 1 and 2)
2. Street Wars (Season One, episodes 5 and 6)
3. Dark Vengeance (Season One, episodes 3 and 4)
4. Lethal Justice (Season One, episodes 7 and 8)
5. Urban Warfare (Season One, episodes 11 and 12)
6. Soldier of Vengeance (Season Two, episodes 1 and 2)
7. Death Riders (Season One, episodes 9 and 10)
8. Blood Alley (Season Two, episodes 3 and 4)
9. Violence of Action (Season Two, episodes 5 and 6)