Welcome to DVD Catastrophe, where a DVD cover is picked apart for your amusement. We start this time around with Steven Seagal’s Today You Die, a direct to video affair. It has Segal involved in everything from prison breaks, black magic and heists gone astray.
Seagal plays Harlan Banks, a Robin Hood type who steals from drug dealers and gives the rewards to the poor, and never kills anyone who does not deserve it (or so the story would have you think). His girlfriend Jada is having worrying dreams about his next job, dreams which may come true. So guess what happens when Banks goes on his next heist? It all goes pear-shaped and he ends up in the slammer, with the money he stole safely stashed away. Then with the help of Ice Kool (played by rapper Treach), a felon in the same prison, he breaks out and starts a long search for the man who got him stuck in the joint, Max Stevens (Kevin Tighe).
The plot summary is important in this particular instance as it helps us understand how crap this DVD cover actually is. So let’s break this down to its very basic level. Above we have the title “Today You Die” with bullet holes in it. That’s a fair enough title I guess, though the bullet holes look like they have been produced on the most basic Paint Shop Pro program around. Ice Kool actually does say the title of the film in the movie when he is blowing some double-crossing stooge of Max Stevens away so it’s relevant. The tag line, again written in a pretty basic font serves its purpose. The person that sets him up does go down, as do a lot of other people.
Then we have Harlan Banks on the front sleeve taking up almost all of the DVD cover. The photo looks absolutely awful. Not only is it not flattering to Seagal himself, the quality of it is really rough around the edges, almost like it was taken with a disposable camera. The gun covers up most of his hair which is good because in this film it is all over the place. It starts off all fluffy at the back like Wolverine when he has just woken up but then gradually grows into a flimsy pony tail by the end. Either way it’s a blooming mess, but it is fun to see his hair slowly grow as the plot unfolds. He is sporting a leather jacket which is what we would expect as that’s his trademark and helps to hide his somewhat weightier frame.
Then we move onto Ice Kool who is your typical home boy style gangsta, who though sporting some shades on the front cover only wears them once and that’s indoors. His positioning on the sleeve is really off, almost as if Seagal is trying to push him off the front of the cover. You can barley see his head! Take another look at the quality of the photo, it is even worse than the shot of Seagal. It looks like they were taken with two different cameras, in two different locations, one on set and one in a studio. Would it have killed them to pose together for a photo? I don’t know, maybe they hate each other gut’s in real life and that’s why they can’t be seen together. With the amount of sleeve space given to Seagal here I can see why.
The final piece of this shit sandwich is the background. An orange tinted backdrop shows a prison with some inmates knocking about, while a helicopter flies over the prison. You would think it was going for that Bad Boys 2 vibe, with the tinted skies and all, but most of this film is all shot on video camera work with not a whiff of a tint. There is a helicopter in the movie which is used in the jail break, but there is a riot going on when that happens so why do the cons look so laid back and casual on the front? Who knows? The worst possible thing about this cover (aside from the said mentioned faults) is the falseness of it all. The DVD makes you think this is some kind of prison movie with Segal fighting for his life while people try to kill him for the location of the lost money. But only about 30 minutes of the actual movie is set in the prison. The rest of it is used up on the heist gone wrong at the start (which has a great driving scene across the Las Vegas strip, and comes complete with loads of crashes) and a black magic subplot. Yeah that’s right… There is a massive subplot about how Harlan is being messed about with by the black arts.
There are loads of possibilities for the front cover that would have been better. Harlan starts off seeming okay but when he gets in prison he changes in more ways than one. He turns gansta, coming out with some truly awful lines of urban lingo which just does not work. He also helps a convict escape, who which we see later likes blowing people away. Harlan is always laughing about this like he gets off on it. Then there is a very strange scene where an informant that they accuse of being gay is questioned by Harlan and then blown away by him for no reason other than I’m assuming Harlan does not like gay people (though it’s never shown if the poor guy is gay or not or even if he is guilty of anything at all). So why not sell this flick as Seagal as the bad guy, which we don’t normally see, or a Natural Born Killers style road movie?
Then we have the black magic sections which are completely ignored here but pop up quite a lot in the film. There are references to dreams coming true and the villainous Max saying how taking innocence is true power. He has a photo of a young blond girl who turns up later in an orphanage where Seagal and Ice drop off money. Harlan goes up to her and starts hugging her and saying he loves her. No idea where this came from as there are no other scenes with Harlan saying he is trying to help her. The little girl is played by Chloe Grace Mortez of Kick Ass fame, in case you were interested.
Why the hell Ice is spending his money on the orphanage instead of himself, I have no idea. It’s one of the many off-kilter character flaws in the movie. Max gets blown up in his helicopter for some reason and it’s never really shown why he set up Harlan or what this had to do with taking innocence as Harlan is hardly innocent. The cover could have showcased the black magic angles which was sure to draw some punters in like when Seagal fought vampires in Against the Dark. I think the reason why the cover is so dire is because it just seems like the plot is all over the place going from heist, prison and black magic stories with none of them geling together as well as they could. How the heck do you advertise that plot mess? With a really awful DVD cover that’s how!
As a side note, you people [Ed. Note: You people?] overseas did a little better with your DVD cover. Below is the cover for the foreign releases which looks okay. Treach gets more space this time and the photography is a lot clearer but it still has that orange tint to it and Seagal’s Wolverine hair is there for all to see.
This other foreign release at least shows the car crash that happens while the heist is going on and actor Treach still has to hide behind Seagal. The poor lad never gets another photo of himself for the covers either, This is one of the best of the bunch but look how old Seagal looks, he seems about 90 years old. Time to go for a rest there Seagal.
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