Out for a Kill (2003)
By: Devon B. on March 30, 2014 | Comments
Koch Media | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 86 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Michael Oblowitz
Starring: Steven Seagal, Michelle Goh, Corey Johnson, Elaine Tan, Kata Dobˇ
Screenplay: Danny Lerner, Dennis Dimster
Country: USA
I find the title of Out for a Kill confusing, even if it can be secretly called Steven Seagal is Out for a Kill. Turning the title into a full sentence doesn't clarify things, and I'm not sure that the tagline helps either. Presumably the title is just intended to fool Stevie's fans that won't bother reading the whole thing and think they're picking up either Out for Justice or Hard to Kill. I know a lot of Stevie's fans probably can't handle reading more than a few words at a time, so this may have seemed like a safe bet on the producer's part, but why didn't they just call the damn thing Out to Kill? Who the fuck goes "out for a kill?" It might be slightly less ridiculous if Stevie was only after one guy, like he was in Renegade Justice, but that's not the case here. At least the German title makes a bit more sense: Tong Tatoos – Das Tor zur Hölle (Tong Tattoos – The Gate to Hell). Tong is meant here in the gang sense, or else that title would be even more bewildering than the English one. Plus if someone had a tattoo of a cooking tongs that'd be pretty lame, unless he'd won some sort of cooking contest by killing his opponent with a ninja star fashioned from tongs. I'd watch a cooking show like that.

But there is to be no cooking this time, as Stevie isn't playing a chef like in Under Siege. No, here Stevie is an archaeology professor who's winning a coveted award. I had two problems with this. First, there is only one action hero professor, and his name is Indiana. Second, Steven Seagal is an archaeology professor??? What? His character name is Robert Burns, so Stevie probably had plans for his character to be a poet, too.

Out for a Kill starts with a bad actress giving terrible narration. She's investigating a shooting that's happened in true Hong Kong cinema style with about a millions bullets fired and no one needing to reload, but after that scene the story doesn't really do much until we catch up with Stevie at an archaeology site in China. He gets suspicious when some strange men turn up, stand on artefacts and break the seal on one of his crates. Also, they planted drugs in the crate. Stevie and his assistant flee, but the bad guys kill his assistant and Stevie is caught by the police, who are bizarrely taking orders from an American. The cops don't believe Stevie's story, and honestly they've drawn the logical conclusion from the facts at hand. The Seppo cop gets Stevie released in a plan to draw out more bad guys. The crooks go after Stevie and his wife, who're just minding their own business, then get upset because he's causing trouble and threaten him to back off. Just like the title, this shit doesn't make sense. Anyway, after lots of odd dialogue exchanges, Stevie eventually sets out for his kill.

Stevie's still rocking the Dracula mullet, which provides some laughs, but the movie takes way too long to get going. It's nearly 30 minutes in before the first fight, but that fight does have a wacky payoff that nearly makes it worth the wait. Stevie is fighting these two guys, and one of them begins to randomly slash at the air behind Stevie while he's fighting the other guy. It's the epitome of the background actor hop-around-to-look-like-your-part-of-the-fight situation that often developed in martial arts movies before Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung revolutionised and improved the genre, but what makes this example so spectacular is the villain is IN THE FOREGROUND so it's impossible to ignore the fact that he's just looking busy while waiting for his turn to get his ass kicked.

Out for a Kill has some other odd touches too. A lot of characters appear to have superhuman abilities, and it happens so often that I began to wonder if this wasn't originally meant to be a superhero movie. A pilot flying Stevie around in China psychically knows that Stevie will need his services in New York at a later date, so makes a point of giving Stevie is contact details. Business spruiking isn't all that strange, but how did he know he'd personally be able to help Stevie on another continent? Must be psychic. Stevie's assistant is also gifted with amazing eyesight, able to read a man's name off his tag from several metres away. Then there's a man whose monkey style of fighting renders gravity moot. Given Stevie is almost always shown as better than everyone else in his movies I knew he had to have a power, too, but it took me a while to work out what it is. In the gaol scene, Stevie is locked up with a guy for what appears to be a few hours at most. When Stevie is released, the two act like they grew up together. Clearly Stevie's power is to develop strong bonds VERY quickly.

Out for a Kill is a poorly edited movie that's too jumpy and has too much ADR and slow mo. The film is marred by a lot of poor explanatory dialogue and a slow start. It's not one for fans of Stevie's first five movies, but more for those that like Out of Reach or Belly of the Beast, except it's not as funny or entertaining as those two.
The Disc
Out for a Kill has a few spots and some dirt. The production also appears to have used different film stocks, and some of the film used is a bit more speckled than others. These flaws aside, the transfer seems okay, but the film itself looks cheap. The German track seemed a bit more refrained than the English one, but also the dubbed German dialogue sounded a bit muffled. The track would really only be for German illiterates that couldn't watch the movie in English with subs. The English track is much stronger, and the surrounds kick in whenever the action decides to grace us with its presence. There is still some distortion and volume fluctuation on the English track, but it's the better option. Occasionally characters speak in Chinese and this isn't translated for the English viewer, but having put on the German subs to see what I was missing I feel it's safe to say people would be able to follow along even without these few moments translated. This mostly happens as a background thing, but there is one scene where the Tong suddenly switch from English to Chinese for no apparent reason. There is another Chinese language scene at the end, but that one isn't translated for the Germans, either, so it must be meant to be a mystery as to what's being said. I'm sure it was profound.

The Blu-ray has a reversible cover so you don't have to look at that big ass FSK rating if you don't want to. There's also a behind the scenes that runs about 17 minutes and Stevie is interviewed for it. This featurette is not 16x9 enhanced. Filmographies/bios are included, but they're in German, as is the trailer. Actually, from the trailer it looks like Tong Tatoo isn't the German title, but rather a subtitle for the German release. Probably because even people who have English as a second language would hear the title and go "That is not making sense." Lastly, a completely unnecessary slideshow that appears to be made up of screen grabs is also included.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Featuring bad acting, confusing editing and forced exposition, Out for a Kill can get zany, but can also get pretty dull. It's always a bad sign for Stevie's serious fans when he's dubbed right away in a movie and this is no exception. I enjoyed the film's lunacy, but the slow start really compromised my ability to pay attention. This Blu-ray release is fine, and is very English friendly. It's really just the trailer and the filmographies that will be of less value to those that don't speak any German, and they're hardly essential.
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