Blu-Review: Street Wars (aka True Justice: Street Wars)

Directed By Wayne Rose
Starring Steven Seagal, Meghan Ory, Sarah Lind, William “Bigsleeps” Stewart and Kyle Cassie



Elijah Kane is back! “Who the heck is that,” you ask? Well, if you caught Deadly Crossing (aka True Justice: Deadly Crossing), then you might recall that it was a movie stitched together from the first two episodes of Steven Seagal’s shelved TV cop show True Justice. Rather than air the crime-fighting adventures of Elijah Kane (Seagal) weekly on the small screen, Voltage Pictures and Optimum Entertainment have instead decided to edit the episodes together as a series of movies.

Street Wars (or True Justice: Street Wars) sees the second in the series hit home video, combining the third and fourth episodes of the unaired show. And while gluing together two separate episodes means that it suffers from odd pacing problems when viewed as a movie, Street Wars improves on some of the issues that plagued Deadly Crossing and continues a sometimes generic but often incredibly fun cop show that’s a marked improvement on Seagal’s usual fare.
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Street Wars sees Kane and his loyal band of Seattle cops out to take down the drug ring responsible for releasing a new batch of souped-up, toxic ecstasy onto the streets, which is killing the clubgoers who’re taking it. To add to their workload, the crew are also forced to act as babysitting bodyguards to a pretentious film-maker who’s making a documentary on the dangerous Seattle slums.

In Deadly Crossing, Elijah Kane was a cop who didn’t arrest a suspect until after he’d taken the time to dislocate all their appendages and shatter half their skeleton. As Street Wars rolls around, Kane hardly even bothers making arrests; it’s apparently much easier just to beat everyone to death and avoid having to fill out arrest reports. And who can blame him? After all, Kane’s office time is already filled with slicing stuff with his samurai sword and strumming out a few sick licks on his guitar – he doesn’t have a second to spare for pesky paperwork.
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Kane’s random, gratuitously brutal policing methods might be ridiculous, but they’re ridiculously fun, too. Having Seagal twist limbs beyond their human limits and inflict aikido-assisted death upon suspects helps distance the show from the plenitude of bland police procedurals and elevate it beyond the boring cop show trappings. Would CSI’s Ray Langston randomly murder an unarmed criminal with a swift aikido chop to the neck? Probably not. Advantage: Elijah Kane.

Thankfully we get more of Seagal this time around. True Justice is very much an ensemble show, and one of the issues that presented itself with Deadly Crossing was how much time was devoted to the bland cookie-cutter cops while the comparatively more fun and interesting Seagal was shuffled into the background. With Street Wars, one of the team is gone (presumably actor Warren Christie jumped ship after the pilot) and Elijah Kane is positioned more as the lead.
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The squad are still dull as dishwater, and the sparse attempts that the show makes in trying to flesh them out results in rote, clichéd cop drama stuff (Damon’s wife is causing friction at home as she wants him to quit his dangerous police job), but they’re much less intrusive now that the ‘introduce the crew’ stuff is done with. Even so, the show’s most entertaining moments come when Seagal’s on-screen. As I mentioned while reviewing Deadly Crossing, I like Steven Seagal; I grew up watching action stars like him, Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren beat the hell out of people on film, and though their movies rarely step outside the guilty pleasure zone, there’s still great amounts of fun to be had watching skilled martial artists with screen presence demolish bad guys for ninety minutes.

If you’re a fan of Seagal, the True Justice series is a great fit for the guy, and while he isn’t given full license to be as violent as in his movie heyday (this was, after all, originally meant for TV), he’s better than he has been in a long time. There’s more than enough hand-to-hand action for him to show off his aikido skills in a few fast and brutal throwdowns, and he’s back to performing his own fight scenes, too. With slick production values and none of the laziness that has plagued his direct-to-video movies (like Seagal letting stand-ins dub his lines and film his stunts), True Justice marks a huge improvement over most of the sloppy DTV efforts on his CV.
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Which is why it’s a shame he’s not given more to do. While Street Wars bumps up Seagal’s screentime and sprinkles in more frequent action, the second half (or fourth episode) provides a rather disappointing anti-climax. The show introduces the ‘bad guy of the week’ and quickly establishes that he’s a badass cage fighter, setting the stage for a final showdown with Seagal. When the third act arrives and sees Kane and crew tracking Cage Fighter Guy to a building rigged with explosives, it’s a bit disheartening that he quickly swats the guy aside and cuffs him as the movie ends limply. One of the cardinal rules of drama is that if you introduce a loaded gun in the first act, it should go off in the third; don’t introduce an apparently intimidating, skilled cage fighter villain and then have him barely put up a fight against the martial artist protagonist. The building doesn’t even explode, either! Michael Bay would cry into his pile of coke and hookers at such a flagrant waste of C4.

While it’d be great to see True Justice fully embrace the martial arts cop angle that provides its biggest appeal and give Seagal the chance to put his skills to use in a little more prolonged action against worthy opponents, Street Wars still offers up a fun action show peppered with random moments of entertainingly OTT brutality. The cop show that surrounds Seagal is as generic and clichéd as they come, but he and his gratuitously violent arm-snapping approach to crime-fighting elevate it greatly above the abundance of other cop shows around. It’s uneven, sure, but it’s entertaining nonetheless, and scattered with enough well-shot, bone-breaking action to keep fans of Seagal pleased throughout.
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While Deadly Crossing received a DVD-only release in the UK, fans will be pleased to hear that Street Wars also gets the Blu-ray treatment courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment.

The show sports great production values and adopts the slight sheen that cop shows go for – plenty of sun-drenched lighting, stylish filters and editing and plenty of swooping shots of the city. It’s no surprise that Street Wars looks great in high definition, and fans will surely be happy with the massive step up from the DVD transfer of Deadly Crossing to the crisp, detailed clarity of Street Wars’ Blu-ray. Audio-wise, there’s a choice of the impressive 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track or a Stereo 2.0 LCPM track (both in English). No subtitles are included.

Unfortunately the only extra feature is a trailer for the movie.

The Film:

The Blu-ray:




Street Wars is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on April 25th 2011.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they aren’t intended to reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)

  • David Chamberlain

    I have purchased the first 2 dvd’s of True Justice (Deadly Crossing/Street Wars) how often will the next dvd’s be forthcoming. I look forward with anticipation as the first two are spendid and I cannot wait for the next.

    • http://atemporarydistraction.com Simon Rowson

      Hi David!

      Optimum haven’t announced the next in the series as of yet. The wait between the release of Deadly Crossing and Street Wars was 4 months, so I’d imagine we’ll see word of the next one around August/September, if not sooner.