Belly of the Beast (2003)
By: Devon B. on July 7, 2013 | Comments
Columbia Tristar | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Ching Siu Tung
Starring: Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Tom Wu, Sara Malukul Lane, Patrick Robinson
Screenplay: James Townsend
Country: Canada, Hong Kong, UK
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
I have a question about the title of Belly of the Beast. Someone involved with this movie must've known that a lot of Steven Seagal's movie names are references to his character, particularly in a "Steven Seagal is" kind of way like Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill. Someone else involved in the Belly of the Beast must've noticed that Stevie had put on a little weight. My question is this: Given these two bits of information, who the fuck thought Belly of the Beast was a good name? It's made worse by the fact that this is one of the vaguer titles in Stevie's catalogue, so its meaning isn't ever made plain. I assume that it refers to the fact that when shit goes down, Stevie goes into the belly of the beast to set it right, but I could be wrong. Regardless, using this name doesn't make much sense, but then neither does a lot of stuff about this movie. I mock Stevie a bit for his weight, but really that's more about the fact that he tries to hide his expanding girth in silly ways like wearing a baggy coat at all times. Even I think it's a bit mean to make the title of one of his movies a fat joke. Out of respect for Stevie, I'm not going to refer to this as Belly of the Beast, but with the more suitable title of Bad Hairpiece.

In Bad Hairpiece, Stevie, his bad hairpiece and his partner are in a meeting that doesn't go well. The partner seems to flee, and in his panic shoots an innocent bystander before getting shot himself. Stevie arrives and saves the day, but the incident still causes his partner to leave the CIA. 10 years later, Stevie is semi-retired himself; he still does some covert work, but he's no longer CIA. When his daughter gets kidnapped in Thailand because of one of the friends she's travelling with, Stevie decides he must go into the belly of the beast to rescue her. Maybe Taken is a remake of this movie, now that I think of it. The plot can get a bit complex as it goes off on a variety of tangents, but usually the movie's easy to follow. Stevie's enhanced size is actually a plus in Bad Hairpiece because he dwarfs the locals, making it more believable that he easily crushes all those that get in his way.

Bad Hairpiece is a crazy movie, I think because it's directed by Ching Siu Tung who the slick proudly boasts directed Naked Weapon. I've never made it all the way through that movie, I think because the title is misleading, but regardless, why it's not mentioned that he directed the awesome Chinese Ghost Story trilogy instead is beyond me. But then, the slick also says Stevie is following up his hit Half Past Dead, and you'd think if you were trying to encourage someone to watch Bad Hairpiece you wouldn't remind them about the mess that is Half Past Dead. Anyway, Mr Ching brings some unusual things to the Stevie template, injecting a Hong Kong action cinema sensibility that gives Bad Hairpiece an almost stream of consciousness feel at times.

The Hong Kong influence has made a few changes to the fights as well, sometimes with fantastic results. I love the slow motion shootout where Stevie suddenly jumps through the side of a train car for no apparent reason, guns blazing, then proceeds to roll away on a little cart while still firing. While there is some odd doubling for Stevie, and some excessive vocal doubling while I'm at it, there's no denying the fights are interesting. As was often his want, Stevie gets thinner when kicking, but now his character is doing flips in the air. The fights often take on a wuxia feel, and there are certainly some wire enhanced impacts. At times it even seems like kung fu inserts were filmed then added into Stevie's aikido fight. Accepting the film isn't a normal Stevie movie is probably important, because Stevie displays some abilities, particularly in arrow evasion, that would be out of place in anything other than a wuxia movie. The worst body doubling moment isn't actually in a fight, but rather during Stevie's second covert operation in the beginning of the film where he suddenly turns into a man with very toned forearms. Unfortunately there's too much slow mo going on in the fights for my liking, but the excessive slow mo does allow a glance underneath Stevie's fake hair at his real follicles. In the end, there're some good fights, and some good fights where it's actually Stevie, plus his partner is pretty cool when given the chance to shine. There's also one character that is a whip toting transgender woman, which must've stuck in the mind of someone on set because something similar appeared in Warrior King. My favourite move wasn't so much of a "woah" moment as a "ha!" one, though. Early on Stevie does this sneaky slide to move through a house unobserved, and it REALLY looks like he's doing some graceful, unrealistic, ballerina glide.

Outside the dramatic weight changes during fights, there's a lot of oddness in Bad Hairpiece. Stevie has a friend named Tom Collins, so you have to figure that guy's parents were hoping he'd grow up to be an alcoholic. The film has what is surely the most awkward and inappropriate sex scene in Stevie's career, which is really saying something. In a scene that would do Final Destination or Six Feet Under proud, there's some sort of black magic voodoo guy who uses a tomato to kill a henchman. While most of the magic is reserved for the climax, it is at play in other parts of the movie. There is one scene where one of the kidnapped girls' guards is killed and another one says they need to remove the body, but then the body must've gone invisible when they should be carrying it out because I couldn't see it. Magic!

I wasn't sure about Bad Hairpiece at first, but it has some nice stylistic touches and ends really well with a big shootout, magic, monk chants and a good fight. If that's not a sign of quality I don't know what is.
The Disc
The video is not bad at all. Sometimes the lighting is dimmed, perhaps to hide a beastly belly, but the transfer handles the blacks well. There's some tight close ups, presumably to crop a pesky double chin, but the print is clean and clear and looks good when the lights get turned up. The 5.1 mix is clear and crisp. I wasn't too overwhelmed by it early in the movie, but then the climax definitely bams things up a notch, so maybe all the sound FX were being reserved for the ending.

Extras are limited to the trailer plus trailers for Half Past Dead, you know, that big hit; Ride or Die and The Patriot.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Bad Hairpiece feels like a low rent version of classic Stevie, which makes sense since it's a direct to video flick, but the added weirdness gives the film a uniqueness that helps it stand apart. I'm not sure if it's really one for fans of aikido, but I like that Stevie was willing to try something different in the fights, even if he wasn't always responsible for every single move. It is definitely one to stick with through till the end, as the best is most certainly saved for last. The DVD isn't brimming with extras, but presents the film well so I'm happy enough with that.
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