MOVIE REVIEW OF ”SEIZED”

Not only does “Acts of Vengeance” director Isaac Florentine’s cartel crime saga “Seized” (**1/2 OUT OF ****) live up to its title, but also Scott Adkins whips three thugs in one scene with his wrists duck taped behind his back! Indeed, everything before this unforgettable fracas after our protagonist, Richard (Scott Adkins of “Close Range”), has been captured seems almost routine.

A former British black ops agent codenamed ‘Nero,’ our widowed hero has since relocated to Baja California. He lives near the beach with his defiant teenage son. Richard’s wife died under mysterious circumstances, but he hasn’t confided the details of her death in his son.

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Ironically, Richard doesn’t realize how desperate his son’s predicament is until he catches Taylor watching self-defense videos rather than doing his homework. Richard warns Taylor, violence isn’t always a surefire solution for trouble. Later, our hero eats his words when he embraces violence as a solution to his woes.

Wounded in the neck by a tranquilizer dart that renders him unconscious, Richard awakens to discover his world turned upside down. Taylor has been abducted! Happily, Florentine and “Evil President” scenarist Richard Lowery waste little time setting up the premise during the first quarter hour, and they keep the action hot and heavy throughout its nimble 85 minutes.

Mzamo Lascano (Mario Van Peebles of “Heartbreak Ridge”) is Richard’s nemesis. Lascano sports a huge black Stetson and dresses in a maleficent black outfit. He is one of many powerful Mexican cartel leaders.

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He ranks just below four higher bosses, including Eliazar Machado (Rolando Gonzalez of “Never and Again”) and Omar Chavez (Luis Gatica of “The Contractor”), and these two pitiless crime figures have at their disposal large armies of well-armed henchmen. Lascano has known about Richard’s lethal reputation as a former M.I.6 troubleshooter.

Richard’s former superior, Donovan (Steven Elder of “Echelon Conspiracy”), is one of Lascano’s shady allies. Richard has always suspected Donovan may have killed his wife. Meantime, Lascano abducts Richard’s son and uses him as collateral to induce Richard to exterminate those bosses who stand in his way to the top.

Although Richard hasn’t worked for M.I.6 in over a decade, Donovan is well aware of Richard’s status as an elite assassin. Donovan fears Richard will succeed in carrying out Lascano’s bidding and then try to ice him, too.

After recovering from the narcotic effect of the dart that left him face down on his kitchen floor, Richard learns about Lascano’s audacious plan to topple those prominent cartel leaders. He contacts Mzamo, and the black-clad cartel leader provides Richard with live video feeds of Taylor locked up alone in a truck.

If Richard refuses to embark on this killing rampage, Lascano threatens to asphyxiate Taylor with deadly carbon monoxide piped into the truck confining the youth. Of course, Richard curses the power-hungry Lascano as a complete lunatic. In the course of twelve hours, following Lascano’s orders and driving from one cartel stronghold to another, Richard must liquidate the top four bosses standing between Lascano and his dream of being the number one Mexican cartel boss.

Naturally, Richard hates the barrel that Lascano has him over and savors the prospect of killing him if the latter harms Taylor. Ironically, separated as they are now by Lascano’s abduction of Taylor and the death-defying mission Lascano has given our hero allows Richard a chance to bond with his son in a way neither had imagined.

Predictably, Richard gnashes his teeth at his own predicament. Mzamo furnishes him an arsenal of firearms as well as a bulletproof vest equipped with a body camera designed to transmit video of his incursions against those cartel leaders in a series of surprise raids.

Richard must either terminate the quartet or watch Taylor die. Lascano has planned these bold raids so no innocent bystanders will get in our hero’s way. Despite his reluctance to kill anybody, Richard is determined nevertheless to save his son’s life. He knocks off the first two quarreling cartel honchos who were struggling to negotiate a truce.

Richard crashes their negotiations at a cartel owned hotel and mows them down without a qualm. Later, he corners the notorious Machado in a strip club and puts a bullet in the gangster’s head. Lascano worries Chavez may be the one cartel kingpin who thwarts his best-laid plans.

“Seized” amounts to a murderous road trip that never bogs down in peripheral subplots. Lascano holds the upper hand over both Richard and Donovan, but he isn’t a conventional cartel kingpin. He wants to change the way the cartel operates, and he wants no part of Chavez’s unsavory human trafficking enterprise.

Initially, none of these targeted cartel honchos suspected Lascano until Chavez captured Richard during our hero’s raid on Chavez’s hacienda. Not surprisingly, Richard isn’t behind the proverbial eight ball for long, and he surprises not only Chavez but also Donovan with his infinite resource and guile.

In “Seized” Scott Adkins performs most of his rigorous stunts without a body double in this action-laden epic. “Dead Trigger” fight choreographer Art Camacho stages a variety of bone-crunching, close-quarters, combat scenes, with Adkins devastating the villains with his aerial kicks.

Meanwhile, Mario Van Peebles chews the scenery as the virtuous cartel leader who wants to usher Mexican crime into a new era. Despite its abundance of R-rated gunplay, “Seized” depicts its wholesale violence with only traces of bloodshed, so it doesn’t rely entirely on gore galore.

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