Steven Seagal Has a Warped ‘Code of Honor’ in This Entertaining Piece of Schlock

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Sure, it was brief, but there was a period of time where Steven Seagal was a legitimate action star with box office appeal. What can I say? The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were a weird period of time. Considering that Seagal was always limited (to put it mildly) in his acting ability and had gained a reputation for being difficult to work with (also putting it mildly), it should be no surprise that Seagal’s glory days were rather brief. Nowadays, when he’s not cuddling up to authoritarians or touring with his blues band, Seagal is churning out low budget action fare for the DVD and VOD markets, typically bypassing theatrical presentation altogether. The latest piece of schlock to feature Seagal is Code of Honor, which is a laughably bad movie that fails at all it attempts. However, those failures make for a fairly entertaining bad movie that places bad acting, ugly CGI, general filmmaking incompetence, and nonsensical plotting front and center for you to point and laugh.

Code of Honor opens with a generic B-movie drug deal, a set of skeevy characters with guns and briefcases in an industrial part of whatever city this movie takes place in. Perched high above this drug deal is Robert Sike (Seagal), a former Special Forces soldier with his high-caliber sniper rifle in hand and ear protection, because even vigilantes need to be concerned about potential hearing loss. He mows down the assorted baddies, poorly rendered CG blood splattering everywhere. As we’ll later learn, Sikes is pretty much a low rent version of the Punisher – motivated to the mass murder of bad guys following the death of his wife and child.

Hot on the trail of Sikes is his former colleague and now federal agent William Porter (Craig Sheffer), who is trying in vain to work alongside local law enforcement, headed by Detective James Peterson (Louis Mandylor). Porter has his own set of demons; he drinks too much and his predilection for cheating forced his wife to take their child and leave him behind. Despite the efforts of law enforcement, Sikes is a walking ghost and continues to wage his war on the crime syndicate headed up by the crime boss Romano (James Russo). With crime down throughout the city, people are left to wonder if Sikes is really as bad as is being reported.

In the 28 years since Above the Law, Seagal hasn’t improved as an actor, and you could even make the case that he’s regressed. Wisely, writer-director Michael Winnick, in what is likely his only good decision, limits Seagal’s whispered line delivery for most of the film. It’s more than halfway through the film before Seagal even mumbles his first line in an indistinguishable accent that sounds like Creole mixed with opioids. Like his acting ability, Seagal’s martial arts skills have also eroded with time, but that does at least lead to some incredibly inept, therefore infinitely amusing, moments of hand-to-hand combat, especially the final fight where Seagal lazily waves a knife around in a manner befitting a YouTube video of some lonely soul from Florida. To be fair to Seagal, nobody in Code of Honor gives anything less than a laughably bad performance.

With a title like Code of Honor, you might think that Seagal’s rampaging Sikes would be guided by some kind of moral code for his murderous mayhem. Except he isn’t. Not one bit. In the second scene featuring Sikes, he sits silently smoking his cigar at a mob-owned strip club. Everything in this scene is presented in ridiculous slow motion. Meanwhile, the single mother stripper with a heart of gold, Keri (Helena Mattsson), has to leave to tend to her sick son. Shortly after Keri leaves, Sikes leaves the establishment and then triggers the bombs he has planted in the joint. Through his indiscriminate destruction, Sikes only manages to wound the establishment’s strippers, but we never know how many casual perverts enjoying the show perished in the blast. After having her place of employment blown to smithereens, Nina then takes up working as a prostitute. When confronted by her pimp on the street, Nina has to witness his head explode when Sikes takes him down from a long distance. Time and time again, Seagal’s character seems determined to drag this poor woman further and further into the throes of poverty with a lingering case of PTSD to boot.

That’s part of why Code of Honor is so oddly entertaining. It never fully commits to the idea that what Sikes is doing is reprehensible. He’s not calculating with his targets, he’s indiscriminate. Low level drug dealers are as worthy of a slug to the head as the ruthless kingpin of the operation. Yet the film makes sure to tell the audience that Sikes’ actions are having a positive effect on the city, with crime at its lowest rate in years. “He might put us out of a job,” one of the officers even quips. At the very least, though, this conflicted tone results in one of the funniest headshots I’ve seen in recent years, one that I felt compelled to rewind to watch again. It’s all very bad, but a very entertaining form of bad.

Code of Honor
  • Overall Score


Code of Honor is astoundingly inept, but is so bad it’s good due to its conflicted tone, bad acting, silly violence, and the presence of Steven Seagal.

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