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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First and the Best...
I remember first watching this movie on VHS back in the late 80's. I had first started taking martial arts, and some guys in my class had seen the film and said it was a "must rent." I took their advice and was astonished.

Nobody had shown anything like that on film since the days of Bruce Lee. Seagal was a hard core "street smart" style of Aikido that blew...
Published on January 21, 2005 by Steve M. Johnson

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seagal is a martial arts hero in serious trouble...
Born in Palermo, Sicily and raised in Chicago, Nico Toscani (Steven Seagal) is a martial arts hero in serious trouble...

When his eyes are about to be opened, he is recruited into the CIA by a crazy drunk guy named Nelson Fox...

Toscani holds the record for having more relatives under federal indictment than any other cop in the city... He hates the...
Published on December 16, 2006 by Roberto Frangie


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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First and the Best..., January 21, 2005
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
I remember first watching this movie on VHS back in the late 80's. I had first started taking martial arts, and some guys in my class had seen the film and said it was a "must rent." I took their advice and was astonished.

Nobody had shown anything like that on film since the days of Bruce Lee. Seagal was a hard core "street smart" style of Aikido that blew myself, and many other viewers away. This is the film that eventually made Steven Seagal the biggest star since Stallone and Schwartzenegger.

Wrapped around the movie was an intriguing story, a good supporting cast (including Pam Grier and Sharon Stone) and good direction by Andrew Davis (who would direct Seagal in his one other decent movie "Under Siege" and would go on to direct "The Fugitive").

The story is about Nico Toscani, a martial arts expert who is hired by the CIA and serves in Vietnam. While working on what he believes is a routine drug deal, instead of finding illegal narcotics, he finds a shipload of explosives. The perpetrators are mysteriously released by the federal government, which upsets the Toscani, who has a reputation for being a hot-headed rogue. His refusal to give up on the case leads him down the path of what turns out to be a very large conspiracy.

Yes the plot is somewhat of a cliche, but Seagal is slim, confident, and sharp in this film. He looks every bit the part, and he plays the role in a very natural manner that works for this type of movie. The action is top-notch and the supporting characters help fill in the plot and make the movie enjoyable to watch.

I consider this and Under Siege to be Seagal's two best movies in terms of action and plot. If you enjoy martial arts, or just action movies in general, I don't think you'll be disappointed with Above The Law.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First and (easily) Best Seagal Movie, August 20, 2000
By 
baylor (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
Once upon a time, an ex-CIA martial arts master quit the CIA and wrote a movie with a new plot but a character that seemed a lot like the writer
Steven Seagal is best known for his action movies, in particular the parts where he does his hand to hand thing. In his case, he's an aikido expert, and that's hard to explain. Most martial arts movies talk about Kung Fu and Tae Kwan Do where people punch and kick and you can generally tell what's going on. Aikido, on the other hand, is about redirecting an opponent, making him basically want to fall down. In the movie, it looks a lot like a bad guy rushes as Seagal, he touches them with his little finger and then they decide to throw themselves in the air in ways you thought were impossible. The moves take, oh, about two seconds to perform, with Seagal's part being only about 2 microseconds. If you want to watch Seagal in classic aikido action, be prepared to pause, slow motion and rewind. It's amazing looking and absolutley bizzare (since being marveled by the movie, i have gone out and studied aikido, and it seems even more impressive, although realistic, now)
The movie's about an ex-CIA officer turned Chicago cop (and, in my opinion, an extremely unlikeable one; that macho Italian family man thing to me just looks like a dull-witted bully control freak). He runs into some old CIA friends from 'nam who are doing naughty things
This movie has a plot, and a darn good one at that. It's a very, very interesting movie, much unlike, say, all the big budget movies he did after this one. While his later movies are bad jokes, new age mantras and B-movies, this one is really, really good. There are only a realistic number of fight scenes (gosh, i wish there were more, but that would have changed it from a drama to an action film, which this really isn't), but they are wonderful
Bottom line, this movie is awesome. i don't know if Seagal wrote and directed the later films he did (he was close to a one man production company on this one), but i wish he'd turn down those big budget formula films he's been doing and go back to doing the realistic, semi-autobiographical films like this one. He's mostly considered a joke now, but when this movie came out, when he was Seagal the writer and not Seagal the action hero, he was revered, and for good reason
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling, best in it's genre..., November 8, 2002
By 
nagappa (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
This movie is among the the best and most thrilling of the post Harry Callihan, 1980's genre of cop movies. As Nico Toscani, a naturally macho yet morally upright and skilled cop (who is also ex-CIA and former Aikido instructor), Seagal is impressive and yet so refreshingly believable. The short martial arts action sequences are first rate - no drawn out Hong Kong formula stuff. The cafe jazz music score is memorable and rightly paced for the exciting car tailing sequences through downtown Chicago.
Nico Toscani's Sicilian background adds to the color of the drama. There are even hints of his family background being not too far removed from the wiseguys. I mentioned Nico being macho. I'd like to qualify this by saying that he's not devoid of charm and his role is less one-dimentional than one would expect. The tough-guy persona is just a facade for an individual with strong convictions and a democratic political outlook. Equally competent is Nico's partner, Delores Jackson, played candidly by the veteran Pam Grier. The main villain, the pure evil CIA doctor Zagon, is played by the veteran villain actor Henry Silva.
Don't expect any critics' choice awards for this movie, because the script does have its share of cliches. Seagal plays a cop who is on to something very big, defies higher authority and, as expected, is taken off the case - like in so many other cop movies of the genre. The outcome is predictable. You know that good is going to triumph over evil in this movie. Despite it's predictability, the plot is fresh and to a great extent realistic. Most importantly it's entertaining.
There are surprisingly bold political statements made in this movie about the dubious role played by the CIA in the affairs of many a third world country. These statements are not too far fetched and must never be underplayed when you consider the "blowback" - CIA jargon for repercussions - being felt to this day. There are far too few movies being made these days that hold the government accountable. Unfortunately it's usually the ordinary citizen who becomes the indirect victim to the follies of an agency whose modus operandii includes criminal conduct and whose agents operate "Above the Law".
The impressive and ship-shape Seagal in this movie inspires you to ditch your six-pack of beer for a six-pack of Gatorade. He inspires you to reach into your closet for your old karate uniform or gym gear and to whip yourself back into physical and mental shape. Too bad Seagal has physically floundered since then. He does have the potential to stay there. One would hope that he would take his cues from Eastwood and Bronson, both of whose careers have had them stay in shape and play lead roles well into their sixties and seventies.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neat story, November 11, 2000
By 
Amazon Customer (Round Lake Beach, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Above the Law [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Personally, I find that the first three minutes of the movie are the absolute best. It's a brief view of Mr. Seagal running an Aikido class and demonstrating technique. Since he is wearing a hakama, his footwork is hard to follow (which is the purpose), and the motions are extreme, but it is interesting to watch. I'd even be willing to bet that the freestyle sparring is neither choreographed or the blows pulled. For that bit alone, the movie is worth purchasing.
There are a few problems that might cause the purist to cringe. The goal of Aikido is to execute technique with a minimum of movement, and it is not intended to be as agressive as it is in this movie.
Nevertheless, this is a very good movie. Enough plot to fill the space between the fight scenes, and the fight scenes are very well executed. As has been pointed out, you realy need to watch the scenes in slow motion to appreciate them, but that's half the fun.
Steven Seagal tends to try much too hard, and there are moments where it's just a bit cheesy, but you can't have everything.
This is a must view for someone who appreciates the "art" in martial arts (the technique is amazing!), and is probably pretty decent (though a bit slow) for the action movie fan.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let Seagal Be Explained in His Genesis, February 21, 2010
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
This film, filmed in 1987 when Seagal was 36, is his film debut, his very first film. I remember being thrilled seeing it in the theater. As a martial arts instructor, I was awed by the resemblance of Ai Ki Do to T'ai Ch'i--Seagal, as he explained in an interview then, was trying to show American audiences what AI Ki Do is and how it works. As with so many others, Seagal inspired me to go out and learn Ai Ki Do--I even became the dojo priest.

Seagal, being 36, is slim, only slightly balding and "too pretty to be a meat packer" for sure. Though he has a substantial tush (problem shared with John Wayne, that's OK) he looks lithe and is well-muscled. The action is too slow for me, too much car and gun, yet it works.

Seagal premiers as Nico Toscani, a Chicago cop with a sweet female black partner. He was in Viet Nam--who wasn't back then--and still has CIA enemies and a surprising friend. Lots of killing and a fuzzy storyline about the CIA having too much power, a senator who seems to want to do something about something...best of all of this soup is Seagal's concluding voice-over preaching about why an agency should never be above the law. Powerful stuff for the late 1980s.

Now for all the young whippersnappers out there: don't say this is Seagal's "best" film. His best films were "The Patriot" and "Glimmer Man". Remember this is his first film, the year is 1988, before many of you were born, so this is the Genesis of Seagal--the man many of us said would be the "next Bruce Lee". That didn't happen...so what? This is one of his best films, his very first, and it created a new genre. That along with the martial arts he uses were things never before seen. Seagal had made an overnight name for himself.

So in light of this film, and I recommend the whole world watch this movie, I say let's give Seagal a break. He'll be 60 years old soon. I know what the feeling is. He's been badly injured many times--I know that well also. He's apparently lost his voice, and is still nursing the wound of being totally bald on top. I shave my head as a Buddhist cleric, so I do know what it's like to be bald. I do not know what it is like to wear a tormented, ugly Dracula wig. And today Seagal is also nursing an awful "beer" belly that won't go away, another point of commiseration between us.

Just don't forget to see and STUDY this film, because it is the Genesis of Seagal the Legend, even if that is now gone and Seagal is considered a joke. I say stick with him, he is a reincarnated lama and you don't want to be reborn as a goat for dissing a respected Buddhist cleric, do you??
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS SEAGAL'S BEST..., May 30, 1999
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
Personally, I really like Steven Seagal. His demeanor, his persona, and his martial arts stature are all very complementary to his hollywood style.
Above the law is a cop thriller, and would be a mediocre one, if not for one man. That man is Nico Tosconi.
The Italian loner cop, played by seagal, kicks the crap out of about 35 guys, with about 5 major fight scenes where you will stop and say "Wow!"
Definetly one of Seagal's best (Along with 'Out for Justice') And I suggest watching it solely for the stellar martial arts/Aikido action!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The birth of Seagal-mania, November 26, 2002
By 
Scott McKone (Fall River Nova Scotia Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
The movie that kicked off another action star phenomenon, and rightly so. Despite action movie over-the-top-ness and inevitable drawn out gun fights, ABOVE THE LAW and Seagal were welcome newcomers to the genre.
Mentioned in the same breath with Eastwood and Norris, Seagal stood out with a mystery surrounding him with no ties to other stars; Norris had Bruce Lee... Eastwood had...who didn't Eastwood have, but Seagal seemingly came from nowhere and no-one and this man from nowhere electrified audiences with a "new" brand of martial arts and a fresh, moody, whisper breathed persona.
Director Andrew Davis, his apparently fave location Chicago, and a familiar stable of his actors add character and value to this film.
The story is certainly adequate and the theme noble, action sequences very well done, good music and a more than acceptable performance from the unexperienced lead actor. It's certainly easy to armchair quarterback this fellow but throw ourselves in front of a movie camera for the first time and I doubt we'd fare any better.
I believe this film and Under Siege are Seagal's best. As for his other films I suspect his growing power in the industry intimidated his peers who lost the guts the speak up when his performances floundered and his physique expanded beyond the point of acceptability for an action star.
I feel outside of these two films (and maybe MAKED FOR DEATH which did have a [cool] department store battle)Seagal has fallen short of his potential. Some performances, most obviously THE PATRIOT, was basically "phoned in". I would love to see him take 5 years off, re-create himself and make the comeback of the decade.
My own armchair quarterbacking aside, Above the Law remains a very good first time film and worth a fresh look now and then.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political Intrigue, CIA Ties, and Aikido Master on the Hunt, September 14, 2005
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
Steven Seagal's first movie, and many may still argue his best. I don't know why, but I got on a Seagal review kick tonight, and well, this movie started it all. I'm not much into sophist conspiracy theories (preachy plot), but the action is great and although light on Aikido action, it was the first time in a major motion picture that these skills were brilliantly portrayed. Andrew Davis handles silly dialogue well and keeps the pace going.

Strong performances abound from Pam Greir and Henry Silva. But Seagal is the star in his debut and for the next four years, riding on the coattails of this movie, he becomes a bankable star, only to blow it by gaining a lot of weight and making substandard movies (his directing disaster is "On Deadly Ground", a stupid movie that would later prove he shouldn't direct movies or write scripts).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars no one is above seagal's law in this,his first movie, June 26, 2006
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
andrew davis(the fugitive,under siege) directs steven seagal's first movie with great gusto and keeps everything moving so fast that any plot holes are just steamrolled over and leaves us with seagal's best movie after under siege which was also made by davis.

seagal is an ex-c.i.a. agent now a chicago cop who stumbles onto a group of ex-c.i.a. men running drugs and killing anyone who gets in their way.

seagal isn't a great actor but he co-wrote the screenplay so it doesn't give him anything he can't handle,and the action is very well done. so if you lake action this is a good one to watch!! check it out!!!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Below The Ego, November 27, 2002
This review is from: Above the Law (DVD)
Back in the days when Steven Seagal's career was launched by this little film, he was certainly more of a phenomenon to be reckoned with and much less of a personality to be tolerated. ABOVE THE LAW, much as in the case of the RAMBO films, created a certain mold that small action films followed for several years, most to little success. Seagal keeping his ego in check helped push ABOVE above standard action fare, and he introduced us to a butt-kicking, karate-chopping Dirty Harry.
Too bad he didn't continue in this mold.
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