The movie that kicked off another action star phenomenon, and rightly so. Despite action movie over-the-top-ness and inevitable drawn out gun fights, ABOVE THE LAW and Seagal were welcome newcomers to the genre.
Mentioned in the same breath with Eastwood and Norris, Seagal stood out with a mystery surrounding him with no ties to other stars; Norris had Bruce Lee... Eastwood had...who didn't Eastwood have, but Seagal seemingly came from nowhere and no-one and this man from nowhere electrified audiences with a "new" brand of martial arts and a fresh, moody, whisper breathed persona.
Director Andrew Davis, his apparently fave location Chicago, and a familiar stable of his actors add character and value to this film.
The story is certainly adequate and the theme noble, action sequences very well done, good music and a more than acceptable performance from the unexperienced lead actor. It's certainly easy to armchair quarterback this fellow but throw ourselves in front of a movie camera for the first time and I doubt we'd fare any better.
I believe this film and Under Siege are Seagal's best. As for his other films I suspect his growing power in the industry intimidated his peers who lost the guts the speak up when his performances floundered and his physique expanded beyond the point of acceptability for an action star.
I feel outside of these two films (and maybe MAKED FOR DEATH which did have a [cool] department store battle)Seagal has fallen short of his potential. Some performances, most obviously THE PATRIOT, was basically "phoned in". I would love to see him take 5 years off, re-create himself and make the comeback of the decade.
My own armchair quarterbacking aside, Above the Law remains a very good first time film and worth a fresh look now and then.