Another film with a heavy-handed environmental message, On Deadly Ground follows a super agent who fights against an evil oil corporation. This is a special Steven Segal movie as it is the only film he ever directed. It was a vanity project that exists solely because Segal realized he was a star, and decided he’s swing his junk around for everyone to see for a few hours.
Segal plays Forest Taft, an “oil fire specialist” who discovers that an (evil) oil company is violating safety standards at the expense of some local Inuit... or something. After the oil exec tries to kill Forrest in an explosion, he is rescued by natives and we get a fairly racist display of Inuit culture (some of Segal’s stunning dialogue from this scene: “You tell him I’m a mouse... hiding from the hawks in the house of Raven.” No. It doesn’t make sense in context). So Segal fights a bear and turns down some hot sex and then he’s enlightened (the “Chosen one”!!!). So it turns out he is destined to destroy the evil oil company, so he sets out on a quest to take out his former boss. How does a fire specialist do this you may ask? Oh! He just so happens to be a former special agent. Yay! Plot contrivance! So it all ends with Segal preaching to us about the evils of oil and slaps its audience in the face with all of its metaphysical B.S.
Man, this one is bad. It’s filled with so much metaphor and so many references to animal spirits (to nail home the Inuit culture aspect) that it can easily be awarded the Most Pretentious Action Movie award. If the hammy plot and dialogue was not bad enough, Segal is at his absolute worst here, and the rest of the cast really do not really help things. Michael Cane plays the super evil oil exec who overacts so much in this film it makes me long for Pauly Shore (really). John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox from Scrubs) is Cane’s goon who is more or less a sadist. Both are terrible under Segal’s direction.
On Deadly Ground has some of the worst dialogue you’ll ever hear in a major studio film. Written by Ed Horowitz and Robin U. Russin. You haven’t heard of them? That’s okay, this is the one of the only major film credits to either of them in IMDB. Horowitz went on to write a few straight-to-television projects and the equally bad and stupid Segal actioner Exit Wounds. Their screenplay has Segal spouting out sage-like wisdom while blowing up buildings and beating people to a bloody pulp. This movie hits us over the head with sanctimonious environmentalism while the body count goes up and up. Despite the small repertoire of the writing staff, this is one legacy of a film. It was nominated for every major Razzie award and Segal even won the not-so-coveted “Worst Director” award.
On Deadly Ground is impressively bad, even for a Steven Segal movie. To add insult to injury, this one reached #1 at the box office. Yep, folks, this movie outranked Philadelphia and Schindler’s List (!!!) in the weekend box office. Good job America! You failed!