"My Name is Steven Seagal..."

"That's right. Steven Seagal. Deputy Sheriff." So begins an episode of A&E's docudrama Steven Seagal: Lawman. Now trust me after giggling my butt clear off the couch every time Dog the Bounty Hunter dispenses his own brand of knock down drag 'em back to prison justice tempered with his born again Christian pseudo preaching which includes a cigarette, a hug, and a new bond I was prepared to put the couch cushions right on the floor to watch this one. To my surprise it wasn't as tacky and cloying as Dog. In fact parts of it are downright impressive.

Seagal is not the total lothario and arrogant badass he came off as back in his heyday as an action movie hero. I have watched him drive through three year old wreckage of hurricane Katrina fully disheartened at the still gaping wounds. His vehicle stops in disheveled neighborhoods and is immediately swarmed by kids not old enough to know his movies and star struck adults asking for his autograph which he consciously gives while making eye contact and letting them know he is on a mission to make their city a better place to live in. Surprisingly this simple interaction may be the very keystone a kinder, gentler, city turns on. Genuine compassion for his fellow man and the situations that lead him down dark alleys in the middle of the night bent on some life ruining recreation is tenable in many scenes. Evenings off are tempered with the strains of his own brand of blues guitar played against a band he is humbled by as they entertain and emote the essence of their home in one reverberating song after another.

Most impressive was a shooting lesson where Seagal asks another officer to fire after him and put the bullet through the same hole. The officer sprays the target area without quite hitting the mark while Seagal demonstrates mastery of firearms and his own body by smoothly and deftly lodging several shots in the same hole without it expanding past the size of a quarter. He credits his aikido (martial arts) training for his ability to "become one with" his firearm and attempts to impart this lesson to his student. When he shot the cotton tip off a cotton swab and the head off a match I was flabbergasted.

Research reveals some questionable personal choices, philanthropic tendencies, and a bit of ego laden promotional product. It might be stretching the truth to portray him as a twenty-year veteran of the police force and it is possible he doesn't truly hold the rank of a deputy sheriff except in ceremony. Nonetheless nothing Seagal does or doesn't do can take away from the rawness that is Jefferson Parish Louisiana. The program is a poignant view of impoverished life in a structurally devastated city that has for the most part been abandoned in the aftermath of natural disaster. Equally striking are some of Seagal's commentary segments where he lays bare the laments of a large segment of the population that is drowning in fear, drugs, depression, alcoholism, and an overall lack of empathy from their fellow man. Empathy Seagal in many cases provides, an honest to goodness visual glimmer of hope.

Published by Lori Borys

Married, mother of two boys with a BA in English Literature.  View profile