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This Was The Last Good Steven Seagal Movie

In the 1980s and 1990s, action fans were used to seeing Steven Seagal punch and kick his way through swarms of bad guys on the big screen. While he never reached the same blockbuster heights as peers such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, the actor's martial arts skills and stone-faced bravado still caught the attention of the mainstream. Movies such as "Under Siege," "Hard to Kill" and "Marked for Death" performed admirably at the box office and turned the ponytailed performer into a household name. However, since 1998, he's primarily starred in direct-to-video fare that failed to capture the imagination quite like his old-school masterworks.

While finding a good modern-day Seagal movie sometimes feels like a hopeless task, he's still capable of delivering an effective performance if he has good material to work with. For example, he once starred in a B-movie throwback action flick that saw him portray a villainous character, much to everyone's surprise and delight.

Steven Seagal played a drug kingpin in Machete

Released in 2010, "Machete" began life as a fake trailer for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse" double feature ("Death Proof," "Planet Terror"). However, the fan response to that trailer was so positive that Rodriguez decided to turn it into a full-length feature film, starring Danny Trejo as the titular vigilante.

"Machete" follows Trejo's character as wages war on a corrupt Texas senator (played by Robert De Niro) and his former partner, Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal), who has found a new calling as a vicious drug lord. Seagal's performance was never going to win him any Oscars, obviously, but he hams it up spectacularly as a sleazy bad guy who incurs the wrath of the protagonist and boasts a samurai aesthetic. Believe it or not, critics were impressed by Seagal's turn, too. According to Vulture, his performance is enjoyable as he was more than willing to poke fun at himself, writing "Seagal was not only funny, he was actually kind of self-deprecating. For once, he seemed to be in on the joke." 

That said, this didn't lead to more such roles for Seagal, and the actioner didn't mark a Seagalaissance in the grand scheme of things. "Machete" stands out as a diamond in the rough, and quite possibly the actor's last good movie.

Fans enjoyed Steven Seagal in Machete

"Machete" received some praise from critics and alike, as evidenced by its 72% (critics) and 63% (audience) scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has been described as "cartoonishly enjoyable," especially in its approach to outrageous set-pieces and unapologetic tastelessness. Some of the performances from the ensemble cast of genre heavyweights were also credited as highlights of the movie, but it was Seagal's turn as the drug kingpin that seemingly took most people by surprise.

"His small role as the final boss in Machete is probably the last legitimately watchable thing he's done or will ever do," wrote Reddit user u/JC-Ice. This view was echoed by Rotten Tomatoes user Taekwondo Life M, who claimed the actor's turn was "funny and cool."

Redditor u/downwithlevers also reserved some praise for Seagal's performance, noting that [his] look (though he's far from Mexican) and voice fit the role well." However, they were disappointed that he didn't get to "display any of the aikido he is (was?) known for."