From the Archive – Out for Justice (1991)



“He’s a cop. It’s a dirty job…but somebody’s got to take out the garbage.”

Directed by John Flynn
Starring Steven Seagal

Tough, Brooklyn cop Gino something-or-other learns that his best friend has been murdered by small-time, crack-head wannabe Richie, who is swanning around, talking about his ‘last night’ and offering merry bushels of cash to anyone dumb enough to hook up with him. With the full collusion of his captain, Gino heads off on a quest for revenge, by way of roughing up Richie’s weasel kid brother, high-class madame sister and honest, God-fearing parents, dissing the local Mafia boss, traumatising his friend’s widow, and beating the crap out of anyone who so much as looks at him cross-eyed.

Naturally, Gino eventually gets his man, but lets the mob take the credit. In passing, he also patches up his marriage – through the tried-and-trusted method of getting his wife shot at then killing half-a-dozen men in front of her – discovers that his friend was not only on the take but also cheating on his wife and on the hooker he was cheating on his wife with – in the second iteration with mad Richie’s girlfriend, which is apparently what this is all about – and saves a small puppy.

What’s wrong with it?

Out for Justice belongs to a certain class of film in which the villains have to repeatedly prove their evilness –  say by shooting an innocent woman in the head for no reason save being high on crack – just so that the ‘hero’ looks good by comparison. Moreover, it belongs to a class of action movies where only the hero knows martial arts, and beats up so many hapless, useless goons that he looks like a bully for doing it. This film is in fact entirely devoid of sympathetic characters: Everyone is either a scumbag, a bastard, a weasel or a drip. Even the innocent victim being avenged turns out to be a louse.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. You kind of feel sorry for a number of the people that Gino drags through the mud on his way past, particularly Richie’s sister and parents, but it doesn’t make the film any easier to watch.

What’s right with it?


How bad is it really?

Out for Justice makes for excruciating viewing. Even hardened veterans of the bad movie battlefield would do best to avoid this one, unless they are also masochists.

Best bit?


What’s up with…?

  • Gino’s insistence on telling stories about his upbringing to people who were there? He has this touching story about his father, and how Richie’s dad looked after him after pappy-Gino passed on, heartbroken and destroyed by the advent of disposable scissors, that he tells to his wife…with whom he has a fourteen-year-old son! Clearly, this is why the divorce was going to happen, because they must just not have known each other, at all.
  • The fact that the mob are the nicest, most respectful people in the film?
  • The fact that people make movies this unutterably unpleasant?
  • Richie’s ‘last day’? It’s never explained. He doesn’t seem to have been dying of cancer or nothing, and although he is clearly mad about his hooker cheating on him with the dirty cop, he doesn’t seem the type to get all ‘My, My, My Delilah’ over it and kill the guy in such a bloody stupid and obvious way.
  • The carefully-posed, Polaroid photos of dead-cop Bobby and Richie’s girl having sex? I mean, really: Polaroids. Who was supposed to have taken these, and how did they not notice? Or were they just sufficiently cretinous to make a full photographic record of their adulterous, ill-advised fling? Maybe they had an album: ‘Our illicit affair’.
  • Gino’s sudden and short-lived conviction that Bobby’s wife found the Polaroids and sent one to Richie, triggering the whole nasty business? He shows up, accuses the grieving widow then drops the subject without ever apologising.
  • Gino’s outfits? He wears at one point a sleeveless top and beret combination that – with his ponytail – makes him look like a flamboyant gay socialist revolutionary or something.


Production values: Cheap. Cars, guns, clothes (almost all bad). The occasional blood squib, and a deeply unconvincing ‘leg blowed off by a shotgun’. 15.

Dialogue and performances: A few good actors phone it in here, but mostly they deserve the arse dialogue they are given. Steven Seagal’s Sicilian-American cop is the low point: At times he’s all but incomprehensible; the rest of the time you just wish he was. 16.

Plot and execution: Oh. Dear. Christ. 19.

Randomness: With so little plot, how can they find room for randomness, you might ask. The answer is in the visuals. Such ‘delights’ as the glossy, studio-quality incriminating Polaroids, the gay socialist ensemble and others make this film as random as any. 17.

Waste of potential: This film was pretty much doomed, but it’s a poor showing even for Steven ‘Jonathon Livingstone’ Seagal. 12.

Overall 79%


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