Kill Switch is a direct to video release marking Steven Seagal’s departure from Sony, where most of his low budget, and larger budget, films were made. This one is released by the much smaller First Look Studios. Unfortunately everything about this film is a considerable downgrade from even the silliest of Seagal’s recent film fare. Seagal writes this one, which likely accounts for the convoluted mess the script is. There are far too many plot points and characters to keep track of, and ultimately little development is made of any of them. The acting is more laughable than usual, with Seagal attempting a horrid Memphis drawl. Even the trademark fights are not near what you expect from one of these films. Seagal is employing a laughably obvious stunt double who looks nothing like him, from his hair down to his weight. Forget any of the martial arts or well choreographed displays you have become accustomed to. They mostly involve crashing heads into walls and furniture with an almost Batman camp. Instead of the Pow and Wham cartoon balloons, the soundtrack offers over the top crunch and squish sounds. Finally, the fights are poorly photographed. The lighting is usually entirely too dark, likely to hide the ridiculous stand-in, and the cuts are often too stylish. There are painful quick cuts providing a jerky Asian horror film movement totally inappropriate to this kind of action. The truth is that only the completest Seagal fans will find anything redeemable about this film at all. Most fans will be greatly disappointed.
Jacob King (Seagal) is a Memphis detective with a reputation of leaving carnage in his wake. He gets the job done, but it usually involves busting heads. He’s haunted by visions of his twin brother, who was murdered at their 10th birthday party. As the film opens, he beats a confession out of a serial bomber to save a girl with a bomb surgically implanted in her body. Of course, that case isn’t going to cut it in court, so the bomber is free and looking for revenge for the beat-down. At the same time King is hunting another serial killer the press has named The Grifter. This killer leaves astrological signs behind as part of a cipher that King’s been trying to unravel. To make matters worse, an FBI detective has been brought in to work the Grifter case. Agent Frankie Miller (Dignard) is an attractive agent who King doesn’t take seriously at all. It doesn’t help that she’s also putting her nose into the bomber beating. King’s partner is Det. Anderson (King), an officer who supports King but also tries to keep his distance to protect his own pension. Isaac Hayes, in one of his final roles, plays a rather moody coroner who appears to provide no help at all. Add in a potential frame job, and you have one muddled mess of a story.
Kill Switch is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film is certainly sharp enough with a pretty fair amount of detail, but suffers in most other areas. Colors are rather unnatural. Most of the film is rather dark, and yellow and blue filters help to make it all seem a bit fake. Fortunately black levels are above average, and there is no compression artifact or print defects to further flaw the presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is an absolute disappointment. It might as well have been a simple stereo presentation. There are almost no surrounds. Everything takes place pretty much front and center. That’s fine for all of the dialog, and there is an unnecessary amount of that to contend with. There are a few good scenes where bullets are flying everywhere, but the ambients just don’t deliver. The music is rather inconsistent. At times there is a rather good, if clichéd, blues guitar with a hint of jazz that fits the Memphis location perfectly. During the fight scenes, however, there is a repetitive synth concoction that appears straight out of an early 80’s slasher film. I was most disappointed in the lack of bottom end on this film. There’s a scene where King shoots a gas line causing a rather impressive explosion, except the whole thing has a compressed feel to it so that it feels like we were watching from a soundproofed bunker with a window.
With all of the great entertainment released in the last few weeks and in the ones to come, it seems unlikely you’ll want to waste precious dollars or viewing time with this incredibly bad film. I know the Seagal fans will ignore my advice and check it out anyway. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. At least do a rental so you won’t feel completely ripped off on this one. Usually Seagal plays a solid tough guy, and while no one is ever going to mistake him for Robert DeNiro, his characters are interesting enough to give us a pretty good ride. Jacob King is none of those things. “This guy’s just creepy.”