Film / Above the Law

"You guys think you're above the law. Well, you ain't above mine."
Nico Toscani

This 1988 action thriller, directed by Andrew Davis, is best known nowadays as Steven Seagal's first movie.

Nico Toscani (Seagal) is a Chicagoan of Sicilian descent who, at a young age, developed a fascination with martial arts and trained in it in Japan for several years before being recruited into the CIA and serving a tour in Vietnam. There, he made an undying enemy in the form of Kurt Zagon (Henry Silva), an interrogator who used the Vietnam war as an opportunity to make money in the drug trade, and after a scrupple between them, Nico left the CIA and returned to Chicago, wherein he got married and became a cop. Now, Nico and his partner Delores "Jax" Jackson (Pam Grier) have got information about an upcoming drug deal involving Salvadorian drug dealer Salvano. Upon and after busting it, however, several peculiar things happen. First, the deal, instead of drugs, turns out to involve plastic explosives. Then, Salvano and all others that were arrested are mysteriously pardoned by the government and let free. Then, a bomb is detonated at Nico's church, with the apparent goal of assassinating a priest. Then, Nico's status as a cop is removed and he is told not to stick his nose into things. What's going on? Could it all, by chance, be a part of Zagon's schemes to fund an invasion of Nicaragua and assassinate a senator who's trying to stop him?

Not to be confused with the rap group of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Big Bad: Zagon.
  • Bond One-Liner: After offing several dozen mooks:
    Mook: I don't think you can drop us all, bad ass.
    BLAM! Mook falls from a bullet to the chest.
    Nico: You're right. But I'll get an 'A' for effort.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and ends with Nico narrating his life.
  • Boring Invincible Hero: Averted. Seagal actually gets punched by a Mook in a fight scene, and near the climax Nico is captured, tortured, and even gets his nose broken for good measure. Makes sense, since this was his very first film.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: CIA evil, though the Bureau are obstructive at best and Lawful Stupid at worst.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nico doesn't really play by the rules when it comes to fighting, but who's left writhing on the ground in pain and who isn't?
  • Determinator: Nico is suspended, attacked, and his family is threatened. You only think that will stop him because this is the first Seagal film. And even then you don't think that will stop him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The CIA smuggling drugs to fund operations in Latin America.
  • Lawful Stupid: The FBI order Nico to stop following a drug dealer caught with plastic explosives. He doesn't and discovers the dealer in his local church shortly before the church explodes, while mass is in service no less, killing or wounded dozens of people including the priest and a senators aide. What do you do? Well, if you are the FBI, you suspend him for not following orders and being a Cowboy Cop, which wouldn't be quite so bad if you chose not to ignore his eyewitness testimony about who the bomber is as well.
  • Market-Based Title: Outside of the U.S. the film was titled Nico, apparently due to aspirations to make it the first of an ongoing series. In the end, though, no sequel was ever produced.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: What do you reckon Zagon, as a top gerry in the secret service, considers himself?
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In a sense, Nico is Not So Different from his enemies- illegal wiretapping, disobeying orders, beating up lowlifes, taking Federal Agents hostage, and shooting unarmed men in the street (though to be fair, the last guy had it coming). Of course, unlike the villains, he isn't doing this for money, and what they do is far, far worse.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": It's a Seagal film, so of course this is here. In fact it's the first Seagal film, so you get to hear the originals. Zagon gets two satisfying ones- the arm, then the neck. The arm especially.
  • Title Drop: As demonstrated by the page quote, also happens a couple of other times. (Indeed, they're the last words heard in the movie.)