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Film / On Deadly Ground

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On Deadly Ground is a 1994 action movie starring Steven Seagal, who also directed and co-produced it. Also in the cast are Michael Caine, Joan Chen, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Forrest Taft (Seagal) is working as a contractor for Aegis Energy, putting out an oil rig fire in Alaska. Hugh Palmer (Richard Hamilton), who is in charge of running the rig, is blaming the company, saying they supplied faulty protectors.


  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • Most of the mercenaries who arrive to hunt Taft. They do seem to be tough hired guns, but it's unclear if they have some inkling of their employer's nature or just see Taft as a killer who needs to be tracked down.
    • Liles advises Jennings on several issues related to hiring the mercenaries and cost-cutting and mentions to him that she's heard about an EPA investigation into the company, but the extent of her knowledge of and participation in Jennings’ crimes is somewhat vague.
  • Author Tract: In case the film's Green Aesop wasn't unsubtle enough for you, the film caps off its green-friendly agenda with Forrest literally lecturing the audience on environmental problems and getting a round of applause.
  • Bad with the Bone: Forest beats the henchman Otto to death with an ornamental whalebone during the cabin shootout.
  • Big Bad: Played straight AND subverted. While Jennings is clearly the big bad, he's merely a corporate executive with absolutely zero fighting ability.
  • Character Shilling: Both Michael Caine and R. Lee Ermey get long lines of dialogue talking up what an unstoppable badass Forrest is. Did we happen to mention that Seagal also wrote and directed the film?
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Liles gets probably the most drawn-out death of the villains, getting horribly maimed in a car crash, set alight by petrol pouring out of the fuel tanker she crashed into, and then blown to shreds when said tanker explodes. It seems way over the top for an attempted Karmic Death when the only particularly villainous thing she did was likening Alaska to a third-world country and being aligned with Jennings.
    • Also Jennings himself, dropped headfirst into a huge pool of oil to drown.
  • Dead Star Walking: R. Lee Ermey shows up towards the end of the film, basically to reiterate how amazing and hard to kill Taft is, and get offed by Seagal's patented flip the gun the mook is holding to shoot them when they get close enough.
  • Dirty Coward: Once the mercenaries are all killed, MacGruder and Liles both see the writing on the wall and abandon Jennings in a panicky fashion. It doesn't end well for them.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Even though Stone is played by real-life badass R. Lee Ermey, he's the first of the main baddies Taft ices in the climax.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • This is pretty much Forrest's entire MO when dealing with any and all opposition. A couple of hicks are harassing a Native American? Continuously pummel them even after they've given up! Big Bad says you don't have the guts to finish him off? Prove him wrong by murdering him while his back is turned and totally unable to defend himself!
    • The biggest instance is absolutely Liles. While Taft doesn't directly kill her, she gets maimed in a car crash and blown up after the gas from the ruptured tank from the suburban she was driving hits an open flame and blows the car up.
  • Ecocidal Antagonist: Michael Jennings, CEO of Aegis Oil. His only goal is to bring the company's new refinery online and he doesn't care who gets killed or how much environmental damage is done in the process. While this could be chalked up to pure greed, he shows intense hate for nature itself; his Establishing Character Moment has Jennings filming a propaganda commercial and screaming about the live animals he's forced to work with.
  • Eye Scream: Forrest shoves a merc's knife back into his own eye, then smashes the merc's face — knife still embedded in eyeball — into a wall.
  • Fingore: The chosen method of Cold-Blooded Torture MacGruder inflicts on Palmer. After smashing Palmer's right index finger, only for Palmer to continue resisting, MacGruder coldly asks if Palmer would like to be questioned nine more times.
  • Gasoline Dousing: Forrest douses a few mooks by shooting at a room leaking with gasoline.
  • Green Aesop: Seagal's message is that oil is bad, oil companies are bad, and anybody who makes a living in the production of oil deserves to die by his hands. Now bend over and take that message for 90 minutes. Not to mention that his character's name is Forrest.
  • Greenwashed Villainy: Michael Jennings is introduced shooting a commercial to promote his company Aegis Oil as an eco-friendly business. Once the camera is off, Jennings yells about how the animals stink and orders them to be removed. Jennings's actual business practices are also proven to be far from eco-friendly, as Aegis Oil uses substandard parts in order to operate their newest oil refinery and has a foreman killed when he tries to alert the Environmental Protection Agency of what is going on.
  • Groin Attack: Including one where the target rather redundantly yells "MY NUTS!", as though the audience couldn't tell they were being grabbed.
  • Helicopter Blender: How MacGruder is killed, via Taft shoving him into the rear blades of a helicopter about to take off.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Forrest manages to make one of these by duct-taping his pistol to an empty bottle...
  • Invincible Hero: In true Seagal fashion, not a single character ever lays a finger on him at any time in the film. Which makes all the more sense when you remember that Seagal both directed and produced the movie.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: The film contains several drawn-out torture scenes, such as when Forrest's friend Hugh is beaten with a pipe cutter. Not just on the part of the villains, though; Forrest has several scenes where he continues to bully people even when he's already beaten them, such as a very lengthy and painful fight in the bar. And Forrest murders Jennings at the end of the movie, even though he is unarmed, outmatched, and totally unable to defend himself.
  • Meaningful Name: In case the film's environmentalist subtext wasn't on the nose enough. The lead is literally called "Forrest".
  • Megaton Punch: Forrest delivers one to the gut of a mook in the ending battle, with enough force to make the mook stagger backwards a few feet and then collapse in a heap. Apparently, the punch is hard enough to kill, as said mook is shown with blood around his mouth and never shows up for the rest of the climax.
  • Mighty Whitey: Forrest Taft is a textbook example; he puts it upon himself to speak for the Inuit who are being screwed over by the oil companies. Because, well, the Inuit have no voice. There's even a scene where he undergoes a Vision Quest to essentially purge himself of white guilt.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Liles, the token female baddie, tries to cut and run during the climactic fight. She fails spectacularly. Mind you, her only crime was being a totally harmless employee of the villain, but Steven Seagal had a point to make, so of course she deserved to die along with all the other people simply doing their jobs on the rig.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Happens after Taft finds Hugh Palmer's corpse in a building with a ticking bomb, and multiple times in the climax.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Liles's death. Car crash, set on fire, and stuck at ground zero of an explosion. Ow.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: Forrest kills Stone using the latter's own gun.
  • Vanity Project: Obviously. The Character Shilling, the Author Filibuster at the end. Not to mention that Seagal's character is an insufferable character of the highest caliber, who wins all his fights easily.
  • We Care: The Big Bad is first introduced filming a commercial for his company of this kind, complete with dead seals covered in oil. The instant the director says "Cut", however, his true colors shine through as the first words out of this guy's mouth are "Fuck! These animals stink!" and he's yelling at his people to get the seals out of there.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: At the climax of the film Forrest brutally massacres dozens of guards on an oil rig, some of whom aren't even posing any real threat to him, ostensibly for the horrific crime of being accessories to pollution. After killing all these people, he finally gets the Big Bad right where he wants him, and then decides he's not worth killing (though the single female character then takes the initiative to off the Big Bad herself). Hell, at one point he more or less kills an oil rig employee for smoking.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Taft basically murders Jennings, who admittedly was a Jerkass but who was completely unable to defend himself.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: At one point, R. Lee Ermey's character manages to hold Forrest at gunpoint with his shotgun... and then proceeds to gloat for a few seconds about how he's got the upper hand. Forrest proceeds to flip the shotgun around and blow a hole into the mook's chest. A particularly stupid example, given that Ermey's character earlier had a speech describing Forrest as basically the most dangerous man on Earth and would logically have shot him at first sight.
  • Would Harm a Senior: MacGruder and Otto brutally ransack Hugh Palmer's cabin for the evidence against Jennings, and torture and murder Palmer without finding it.