Nico: Above the Law (1988)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 11-Jun-1999

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 95:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Andrew Davis

Warner Home Video
Starring Steven Seagal
Pam Grier
Sharon Stone
aniel Faraldo
Henry Silva
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music David Frank

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Once again delving into the back catalogue of Warners releases that have escaped our reviewers' scrutiny, we unfortunately dig out of my collection a rather early - well actually the earliest - Steven Seagal film. Now, don't get me wrong, I quite enjoy his movies. At least you know that you can check your brain at the door, spread a sheet across the floor in front of the television and gather several large tubs of popcorn in readiness for the evening's viewing. Why the sheet? Because it makes it easier to clean up the mess made when you throw the popcorn at the screen in response to each ludicrous and/or inane piece of dialogue, each blatant plot canyon and each ridiculous and heavily-outnumbered fight sequence which he of course always wins, usually without a d*** scratch. As ever in a Steven Seagal film, all of these things and more are in absolute abundance here. But really, the lack of substance or variety to his films is almost as appalling as Jean Claude Van Damme's - and rather worryingly these two probably have the largest number of their films on Region 4 DVDs. I mean, pick any film and you have basically seen them all.

    This incarnation starts in 1973 with Nico Toscani (Steven Seagal) having been recruited into The Company (otherwise known as the CIA) to engage in covert operations in Vietnam and Cambodia. Following a rather inconsiderate disagreement with Zagon (Henry Silva) over the fact that he seems to be using the CIA as a cover for his personal drug-dealing activities, Nico departs the CIA. Jump forward to Chicago, 1988 and Nico is now married to Sara (Sharon Stone) and working for the Chicago Police Department with his partner Delores Jackson (Pam Grier). As an aside here, I guess that the whole "thing" about the CIA operating outside the law and financing its activities from drug money have been done to death, but will we ever know the truth? Anyway, basically the whole film is about the efforts of Nico to expose the corruption of his former employer and bring to justice the bad guys. Ummm, where have I read this plot before? Along the way we get ample opportunity for all the clichéd bad guys, the usual spate of ludicrous fight scenes, and generally good triumphing over evil.

    Well, no one ever accused any Steven Seagal movie of being original and in that respect the only original thing about this film is the fact that it is the first Steven Seagal take on the clichéd corrupt cop routine. Obviously, he cannot act to save his life and so just plays himself, which is not too bad an idea as it is claimed to be an almost autobiographical film - although his alleged involvement with the CIA remains unsubstantiated at this time. Pam Grier was obviously brought in as the serious actor to lend some credence to the film, but she ends up being almost as bad as everyone else - although with the dialogue on offer here it is little wonder. Sharon Stone looks quite plain (well at least as plain as she can look) but at least is worthwhile looking at - even though her acting ability is not especially wondrous either. As for the rest? Forget it. They can be summed up as a bunch of hacks trying to act and failing quite miserably at it. Surprisingly, someone actually owned up to directing this piece of rubbish and his name is Andrew Davis - but since he was also the producer along with Steven Seagal, I suppose he could hardly be held blameless in any form anyway.

    So really what we have on offer here is a over-clichéd, badly-written screenplay, full of over-clichéd characters, brought to life (I use the phrase in the loosest possible sense) by a bunch of inept actors who fail miserably at just about every level in a film that completely lacks any sort of direction. So really, this is just another patented Steven Seagal film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a fairly typical run-of-the-mill transfer, decent enough but not as good as perhaps it should have been. It is not really a sharp transfer, and at times is just a little too close to a soft transfer although with adequate-enough definition. Overall, this simply lacks the sparkle of a sharp, clear, well-defined transfer. The picture is a little grainy at times, which is a reflection of the lack of clarity in the transfer. Shadow detail was in general nothing more than decent. There appear to be no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    This presents a slightly muted palette of colours and is not anything approaching a vibrant transfer - again quite typical of a Steven Seagal film. There is no hint of oversaturation in the transfer at all, and the transfer rarely conveys any sort of life. Really, this is quite an underdone effort, but probably a reflection of the way the film was shot anyway - I cannot imagine that this had a seriously-sized budget. Of particular note is the rather poor efforts at blood - rather too obviously of the fake variety.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted in the transfer. There did not appear to be any really significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, although minor aliasing was quite prevalent if you looked for it and there seemed to be occasional problems with jitter in the image. There were a few noticeable film artefacts floating around but nothing too distracting.


    As seems to be rather typical of Steven Seagal films, there are three audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to the English default.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to understand.

    There were no apparent audio sync problems with the disc.

    The score by David M. Frank is hardly the most compelling thing I have ever heard, but then again the film would hardly inspire one to contemplate writing something along the lines of Mozart's Requiem Mass. Full of clichés, I guess in that respect it suits the film rather well.

    This is an adequate enough 5.1 soundtrack, rather lacking in detail, with the surrounds and bass channels barely getting a decent workout, even during the explosions. There was rather limited action out of the rear channels and this really should have been a lot better. The sound is rather congested and muddied at times, so the overall soundscape is hardly the most natural-sounding effort I have ever heard. Not the best that I have ever heard, and frankly a little underdone for a 5.1 effort, but nonetheless an adequate effort.


    Come on, it is a Warners release - what the heck do you expect?


    Yes it has one, of no use to man nor beast and if you are really bothered, pretty ordinary.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 release misses out on:     You would have to be a really die hard fan to want two versions of this film on the same disc, so the Region 4 release is the version of choice owing to the inherent superiority of the PAL system. Note that the film goes by the title of Above The Law in the USA.


    Well, it is probably not the worst film Steven Seagal has ever made other than the fact that it can be blamed for every other Steven Seagal film ever made. I mean, if this had completely bombed at the box office, and to be honest it really should have done, maybe none of the others would have been made (and with perhaps the exceptions of Under Siege and possibly Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, who would really have cared?). An ordinary DVD from a technical point of view and fairly typical of what we have come to expect from Warners over the last eight months or so. If you really have a need, rent first but really there are better ways of spending money and wasting an evening.

    An adequate video transfer.

    An adequate audio transfer.

    A non-existent extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, June 24, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Ian M (Biological imperfection run amok)
DVD Net - Terry O

Comments (Add)
is this r4 version or the r2 version -