The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

General Commander (2019)

This is one of the last Seagal films I need to see, so when I found out it was on Prime to stream for free, I had to jump at it. Did I have high expectations for it after what I'd seen of his other recent efforts? Probably not, but we need to get them all reviewed eventually on here, and since I'd seen it I needed to cover it. So, let's see how it was.

General Commander has Seagal as the leader of a special ops team who, in the process of carrying out a job, loses one of his men. He and his team want to go back in and get their revenge, but the US department head who makes those decisions won't greenlight it. Luckily Seagal has an old friend with big pockets who's willing to bankroll his team's revenge mission. Now it's a matter of getting the gang back together, finding the baddie, and taking him down. With an 86-minute runtime, they need to get after it quickly!


You'd think with that short of a runtime this would be quick and to the point, get in and get out, waste no time, make the most of every scene. Turns out, that wasn't how it happened. We have the opening action scene where the teammate gets killed, we have a brief scene in the middle where a guy tries to take out Seagal and he slap-chops then stabs him to death, and then we have some action near the end, but beyond that, a whole lot of nothing happens. I looked in the IMDb trivia and think I found out why: this wasn't supposed to be a movie, it was supposed to be a TV series about this crew pulling off 45-minute episode length jobs over nine-episode seasons. As we've seen over many years here at the DTVC, that trick never works. Throw in a Seagal who was making Attrition at the same time, so he was even less invested than he usually is, and we were stuck with a slog that just didn't work.

This is number 32 for Seagal on the site, and by my count we have 7 left, of which I've seen 6--the last one I'm waiting on is End of a Gun, which to this point still hasn't been included in any of my streaming packages. With films like this one, it's a labor of love. I don't even know how much I can blame this one on Seagal. A studio or whoever was trying to make something out of a TV series that didn't sell, so they packaged it into an 86-minute movie, and were able to get Seagal attached to it. Maybe it was Seagal going to some producers and saying "hey, I need another movie out there, what do you have?" and they were like "actually, you could play the person you've been playing for the last ten years in this part." Where does that leave us though?


To be honest, where it leaves us is, does it at least have some good action? If you look at external reviews on any of these newer Seagal flicks, that's the thing that divides the ones where reviewers forgive all the baggage that comes with these movies, and the ones where they don't. And that's where this one falls on the wrong side of that line. When I'm calculating 40+-minute stretches of no action, we're in trouble. Seagal can do all the Fake Shemps in reverse shots he wants, he can sit in a totally different location than the actor he's supposed to be in the same room as--hell, he can just sit and not stand at all--as long as there's solid action every 15 minutes or so. With Scott Adkins putting out high-octane actioners with Jesse V. Johnson and Isaac Florentine, the bar is higher now, and these ones with minimal action just don't cut it anymore.

When I think about how the plot of this film unfolded, to pull off more suspense and planning than action in an action film, it has to be amazing stuff, whereas action scenes every 10-15 minutes don't need to be perfect every time to work. One I can think of that did work was Sabotage, but in that one you're talking about Tony Todd giving a masterclass on how to be a great baddie, Mark Dacascos as a great lead, along with Carrie-Anne Moss and Graham Greene. I'm not saying this cast was horrible, but they weren't that level. Also, even though that film was more suspense based like this one, they never went a full 40 minutes like this one did with no action at all. 


One of the faces I recognized outside of Seagal's was this one, Byron Gibson, who has done a ton of films shot in Thailand and the Philippines. According to him IMDb bio, he was cast on a whim in a Jean-Claude Van Damme film in 2008, and that's been it from there. He plays the heavy a lot, which makes him perfect for these kinds of movies which are often shot in locations like Thailand and the Philippines. He should be like a modern Mike Monty or Jim Gaines, but I think the fact that he isn't gets to the heart of what's wrong with these modern Philippine/Thailand movies compared to their late 80s/early 90s counterparts. Those movies kept it simple, kept it fun, and didn't try to do too much. Also I think the Italian directors who did most of them, or Cirio H. Santiago, knew how to keep the film engaging. Hopefully some day Gibson will be the next Mike Monty. Someday.

And with that, let's wrap this one up. I think as a TV series of 9 45-minute episodes, this could work. As an 86-minute movie though there are just too many long stretches of no action. It's available on Prime which works in its favor, but I think you should exhaust some other actioners on your list first.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm a huge Seagal fan, but even I waited until this one was free to view. Didn't get a good vibe from its trailer and the film was, sadly, as bad (perhaps worse) than feared. It's basically a better looking version of those 'True Justice' episodes that were combined to form movies in much the same way. You're right, that there's not much action at all. The short fight Seagal had with Ron Smoorenburg was a highlight, but the rest of his role was frustrating. Ironically, he does appear to be trying in some of the scenes. Then there's those confusing interview scenes peppered throughout, where Seagal seems to be taking an opportunity to air some views he truly holds. Seagal's done a lot of these 'team leader' roles in the last 20 years and this is definitely one of the worst. Let's be honest, most of them are terrible as a) you want more Seagal than you get, and b) the proxy/support characters are not strong enough to compensate. One to which it's easiest to draw comparisons to is CONTRACT TO KILL [2016]. That was awful, but to an extent I think it was a better movie than this in terms of its execution. Here we have so many scenes that rely on us being interested in the supporting characters and it doesn't work. Then there's the title, which just makes no sense. I know it's picked as the name for the group's private agency, but why? It all concludes with a strange epilogue which is as pointless as it is badly executed. Seagal really should have used ATTRITION his leading role swansong. I don't think we'll see another film made to such a standard from him again.