Follow TV Tropes


Film / On Deadly Ground

Go To

"That's a crock of shit!"
Background dialogue

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 (actor)), who is in charge of running the rig, is blaming the company, saying they supplied faulty protectors.



  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • Most of mercenaries who arrive to hunt Taft. They do seem to be tough hired guns, but its unclear if they have some inkling of their employers nature or do just see Taft as a killer who needs to be tracked down.
    • Liles advises Jennings on several issues related to hiring the mecenaries, 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 films 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 whale bone during the cabin shootout.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bar Brawl: Forrest starts one when some rednecks bully an Native American.
  • Broken Aesop: The film is supposed to have a Green Aesop, yet Fridge Logic says that destroying an oil rig would cause far more environmental damage than simply letting it run. Also, it portrays the oil company as exploiting the natives. But it also says they have a contract... generally, those contracts include paying out dividends to the original owners of the mineral rights.
  • Character Filibuster: The infamous aforementioned environmental speech by Seagal.
  • 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?
  • The Chosen One: Whether Forrest wants it or not.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Michael Jennings, the Aegis CEO.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: This is pretty much Forrest's entire MO when dealing with any and all opposition. 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!
  • 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 continue resisting, MacGruder coldly asks if Palmer would like to be questioned nine more times.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: MacGruder, The Dragon and also the Torture Technician.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Yes, Forrest is supposed to embody that. And the film isn't subtle about it either.
  • 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.
  • Groin Attack: Including one where the target rather redundantly yells "MY NUTS!", as though the audience couldn't tell they were being being grabbed.
  • Helicopter Blender: How MacGruder is killed, via Otto shoving him into the rear blades of a helicopter about to take off.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Forrest manage 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 was unarmed, outmatched, and totally unable to defend himself.
  • Man on Fire: Forrest does this to a few mooks by shooting at a room leaking with gasoline.
  • 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.
  • Never Found the Body: Why Jennings believes Forrest is alive.
  • Oh, Crap!: Liles' last words (in the cruder, better-known phrasing) before her escape attempt goes remarkably awry.
  • One-Book Author: To date, this is the only film Steven Seagal has directed.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Michael Caine's American accent for Jennings is just his natural British accent mixed with some American pronounciations of certain words.
  • Photo Op with the Dog: Jennings tries to make an ad to improve the image of Aegis Energy, complete with reindeer/caribou.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Yes, the oil executives are a pack of amoral scumbags. But do their actions really justify destroying an exploration site and presumably causing multiple deaths and millions of dollars in property and environmental damage? Apparently it does, for everyone, including the press, who give Forrest a standing ovation.
  • Reverse the Polarity: According to the movie, Forrest didn't do any damage to the environment when he blew up the oil refinery because before doing so, he "reversed the valves".
  • 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.
  • 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 Chick 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.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: At one point, R. Lee Ermery'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.
  • 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.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Jennings, towards Forrest. It fails of course.