Above the Law (1988) – Retro Review

Mention the name Steven Seagal these days, and you will probably get some comic or derogatory comments, but back in the late 80’s onwards for about 6 movies he was one of the most successful action film stars in Hollywood, which started in 1988 with Above the Law.(aka Nico).

Directed and co-written by Andrew Davis, the film has Seagal playing Nico Toscani an ex-soldier and now a cop in downtown Chicago, who with his female partner (Pam Grier) finds himself tracking down ex-CIA cops (headed by Henry Silva) who are involved in illegal drug trafficking.

It also transpires that they are also planning an assassination of a local politician who also wants to shut them down. They are blocked most of the way by FBI and told to stay away. But after an attempted assasination on his family at a local church, he sets out to bring them all to justice.

It’s easy to dismiss Seagal these days as he has become a bit of a joke, but this was his introduction to cinema screens, and it gave action fans something different and introduced the art of Aikido.

Seagal was a master of the art in reality and was one of the first Westerners to open a dojo in Japan, he also speaks fluent Japanese so was the real deal when it comes to that martial art. The fight scenes are brutal and realistic and stand up well when viewed today.

What helps the film is that it has a great director Andrew Davis who went on to direct smash hits such as The Fugitive and one of the best Chuck Norris movies , Code of Silence.

He also surrounds himself with a cast of veteran actors, which gives the film a very down-to-earth and realistic feel. Pam Grier is always a joy to watch, and Henry Silva has played this type of villain so many times and does not disappoint here, even if his screen time is small.


Apparently Henry Silva broke Steven Seagal’s nose in the final fight scene and he was rushed to the hospital to get it fixed. Look out also for a small appearance from a then unknown Sharon Stone as his wife.

The early opening scenes reflect a little of his early real life experience in Japan, but the rumours of him being an Ex CIA agent were a little too much to believe.

The film was a success at the box office, grossing just under $20 million in the US and did well overseas. It was released in the UK but like many action films at that time was cut by the BBFC of some of the more brutal action. Thankfully, it is now available uncut on Blu-ray.

A good intro to the action film genre in the 1980’s and is still one of the best movies of Steven Seagal’s career.

7.5 out of 10



Have any Question or Comment?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *