Yes, it’s the return of Officer Steven Seagal, this time making sure the US-Mexico border is safe for law-abiding citizens – no matter what the cost.
Actor, director, philanthropist, aikido sensei, blues guitarist, Buddhist lama, international environmental diplomat, sheriff’s deputy, energy drink creator, Texas border guard, and current defendant in a lawsuit alleging he killed a puppy after driving a tank and a full Swat team into an Arizona farm in the course of busting a cockfighting ring … if there is a celebrity more endlessly rewarding than Steven Seagal then do be so good as to produce them.
In the meantime, we return to developments in the existence of the foremost Lost in Showbiz untouchable, a man of whom an eminent Buddhist leader once observed: “All beings have within them the potential for becoming Buddhas. With Steven Seagal I perceived this potential to be particularly strong.” To this end, the head of the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism formally recognised the Under Siege star as a tulku – a revered reincarnation of some 17th-century sacred treasure revealer – declaring that “it is possible to be both a popular movie star and a tulku“.
Well, it’s certainly possible to be both a straight-to-DVD star and a tulku. Increasingly, though, Seagal’s handheld cinematic output is taking a backseat to the unrealities of his daily life. In 2008, you may recall, it was revealed that Seagal had secretly been a fully commissioned Louisiana cop for the past two decades – way back before reality telly was even invented. However, the art form eventually caught up with the legend, and thus it was that a US channel was premiering a new series entitled Steven Seagal: Lawman, which detailed his experiences at the sharp-ish end of Jefferson Parish law enforcement, doing stuff such as explaining how he brings his spirituality to the business of firing a gun. “The Zen masters in Zen archery too, they don’t pull the arrow, they push the arrow. It’s the same with that pistol.”
But the concept must have needed a shot in the arm, because since then, two things seem to have happened. First, Seagal developed a sort of jaded cop shtick. “It ain’t what it used to be,” he sighed to a recent interviewer. “It is a lot harder now to be a police officer than what it used to be.” And second, he was sworn in by the West Texas sheriff’s department so he could start policing the border. So now he says stuff like: “I work in Texas on the border, and Arizona on the border, and there is a lot of crazy stuff going on with the border wars these days. Probably more than 50,000 people have been killed in the border wars over the last few years, which is way more than Iraq and Afghanistan. Don’t you think this should be declared a war too?”
No I don’t, sensei, is the short answer. But frankly, I’m still failing to compute that the most recognisable face of US border patrol is a semi-automatic-toting Steven Seagal. I don’t think I’ve felt this mindblown since I learned that Rocky and Predator legend Carl Weathers had been contracted by the US defence department to serve as acting coach to various West Coast Iraqi immigrants, who were themselves hired to play insurgents in mock battles at the California military base to which soldiers were sent en route to deployment in Iraq. (I also once watched an official military training video in which Carl explained how to arm a Patriot missile. Puzzling times.)
Anyway, it is this border work that seems to have brought Seagal into contact with that gruesome creature Joe Arpaio, the self-publicising Arizona sheriff who makes prison inmates wear pink and spend their days doing things such as investigating Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Last week, for instance, the On Deadly Ground star was involved in an Arpaio-masterminded drugs bust in which he seized 500lb of marijuana – all captured on camera, of course.
But it is a 2011 operation under the same aegis that has landed Seagal in the legal hot water to which we alluded earlier. The facts, such as we know them, are these. Suspecting a man of being involved in cockfighting, Arpaio’s office mounted an assault on his property that featured between 30 and 40 fully armed Swat officers, the entire county bomb unit, a bomb robot, canine units, the use of explosive devices, and a camouflage-geared Steven Seagal driving into his house. Literally – Seagal was in a tank. “All the sheriff’s office had to do was to call my client and ask him to meet with them,” the man’s lawyer said. “But this common sense does not make for good reality television.”
So last year, said client filed a suit accusing Seagal of killing his children’s puppy during the raid, and he has now lodged papers suggesting the force used in the operation was excessive, given that portions of the house were destroyed. I’m afraid there simply isn’t space to get into the Seagal camp’s claims that the roosters found on the farm had been genetically modified – suffice to say that all the birds were killed. And that it’s unclear whether this was effected via a standard euthanasic procedure, or an improvised weapon such as a pool ball in a bar towel (Out for Justice) or a microwave oven (Under Siege).
Still, does that bring us pretty much up to date with developments in Seagal World? Not even close. There’s a new album on the way, his first scripted TV series airs this week, and he wants you to remember that he has taken the time to impart career-changing wisdom to Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, two of the most successful stars of mixed martial arts. To wit, he taught them an extra-special face-kick he had invented. As he put it: “They asked me to teach them because they know I know stuff that they don’t know.”
Don’t we all, Seagal. Don’t we all.