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Seagalogy: The Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal (New Updated Edition)

Writer: Vern
Publisher: Titan Books
Review: by Iain Garland.

If you thought you knew about Steven Seagal, think again. Vern’s Seagalogy has been updated and improved, and you’ll never find a more comprehensive guide to everyone’s favourite blues-playing ponytail-wearing ass kicker.

The author, a well respected writer on Ain’t It Cool News has a reputation for writing about those b-grade movies that often bypass the cinema and head straight to DVD. For years now he’s championed the movies of Steven Seagal, even those which landed in the bargain bucket of Woolworths before you even knew they existed. So it’s little surprise that he set out to watch every Seagal film many times over, working out exactly what was going on and coming up with a comprehensive guide to the Seagal collection.

As such the Seagalogy is an incredibly in-depth analysis of all of Seagal’s films to date, picking out the themes and messages that are found in individual films as well as those which tick along beneath everything he does. I’ve seen a few Seagal films, not enough to make me an expert but enough to recognise a few things that Vern points out, and it’s amazing just how much fascinating stuff he’s managed to cram into the book. Don’t expect a dry, dull recount of the films either. Vern’s humour comes through in full force and a combination of brilliant comparisons (genuinely putting Seagal’s films side by side with the Bible was a personal favourite) crossed with well used (but not over-bearing) swearing for effect make each section thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. Unusually, it’s also very much worth reading the footnotes in certain pages, as this is where some of the most entertaining material can lie.

It’s easy to read too. Each film has its own chapter, and unlike Tales from Development Hell that I reviewed here recently there are natural breaks in each chapter where you can put the book down and come back later without losing track of where you are. The writing flows well and turns this into one of those books that you intend to read for 15 minutes, then realise an hour has gone by.

In terms of the content itself, it’s surprising just how much you can learn without really getting too in depth. You can jump from one film to another totally ignoring the order if you like, although doing this does lose some sense of the running themes that progressed through the films. It’s interesting to read about the clear differences between Seagal and other actors – Seagal’s films don’t generally paint the US in a very glorious light, often carrying stories about corruption in the CIA and the Whitehouse making dubious decisions. Again it’s something you might not have noticed when watching casually, but go back and watch one of his films again after reading that section of the book and you’ll see it in a whole new light. It’s even enough to make you hunt down some of the less well known films to see just what the author has spotted (even if it’s just to experience a whole film without a ponytail on show), and by doing so the chances are you’ll enjoy them much more with a copy of the book sat alongside you.

Before reading the Seagology I was one of the people I eluded to at the start of the review; I thought I knew a decent amount about Steven Seagal’s films, and I was convinced I’d seen a reasonable number of them. It turns out that I was wrong on both counts – I knew very little about the principles and themes in his works, and there are a hell of a lot of films I knew nothing about. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a biography of Seagal, because it’s not. This is purely about the films and the huge part he played in each and every one of them. And you know what? It’s totally brilliant.

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