I know that National Scary Movie month just passed, but I discovered this turkey that was so astonishingly strange I needed to be the first person to review it. Are you excited for a socio-political thriller starring a Chinese Salesman trying to pull off a billion dollar telecom deal in an un-named war-torn African nation? No? How about if I told you Steven Seagal fights Mike Tyson in a comically absurd bar brawl? And better yet, Iron Mike is doing an African accent, I think. Yeah, we need to check this out.
Chinese Salesman (2017)
What is the first sign your movie has not been shown care and attention by producers? When they misspell the production company’s own name. Unless the company really is Gloden God Video and Culture. The second sign your movie might suck is when there are more credited producers than actors in the cast. Mind you, these screaming red signs of danger occur before the movie actually starts. The third and funniest sign that your movie might be a flaming dog turd is when none of the actors speak English as their first language, and yet 90% of the dialogue is allegedly in English. And I’m including Mike Tyson and Big Steve here, who are not renowned for their thespianic skills or diction and elocution on their best days. Yes, this movie is hilarious.
What the hell is going on here? The basic story is a Chinese propaganda movie about how Chinese IT and salesmanship can save a war-torn African government. Then there is a subplot with Mike Tyson as an African revolutionary working with a scummy, heavily-accented European businessman. Then Steven Seagal plays an arms dealer doing something or other. Since it’s Seagal, he’s barely in the movie and as per his contract, he gets to on-screen sexually harass his mega-babe personal assistant who is totally into him, of course.
I’ll grant first-time director Tan Bing this: he doesn’t screw around. Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal have a knockdown, drag-out superhero style bar brawl in the first five minutes. So no complaints here. Like I said, Mike Tyson is some sort of super-spy. He’s trying to destroy the African nation’s communications system to stop the war, I think. But both he and the unnamed African nation are strict Muslims so he’s offended when he goes undercover and the other shady guys he’s investigating insist he has a drink in good faith. Then they try to force Iron Mike to drink pee. Oh no they didn’t. Tyson, naturally enough, refuses and beats the crap out of the entire bar. He’s a fighting machine who moves blindingly fast, shakes off an oak barrel to the head, and punches holes in the walls and furniture. Seagal is his typical fat, bloated self, but at least he’s really there doing martial arts, unlike in most of his movies where he’s extensively stunt-doubled and frequently doesn’t get out of his chair. Their fight is something out of a teenage boy’s fever dream. Wouldn’t it be cool if these two personalities had an imaginary fight in a movie? Long story short, they both are edited to be hyper-fast and super-awesome at fighting. They go crashing through balsa wood tables and scenery. And Mike Tyson kicks Seagal’s smarmy, lard-ass.
This fight is notable because Steven Seagal never likes to show himself being the least bit threatened in any fight scenes in any of his movies. And he loses. I don’t think he’s even been hit in the face in at least 20 movies, although I haven’t seen them all, so it’s possible.
I guess Big Steve’s reasoning is, “Although I’m Steven Seagal and I have my super-goatee, and I should never lose to anybody, he is 15 years younger than me and a former Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and one of the scariest men on the planet who frequently knocks out his opponents in under two minutes. I guess my fans might believe that I could possibly lose to this guy, if I had a bad day.”
Most of the movie plays out in a boardroom, and in an unremarkable desert where several ill-defined factions fight over a single radio tower. There’re armies of rebels on horseback, tanks, hundreds of soldiers, helicopters, and gun fights. I’m guessing this was filmed in some African dictator’s country using his personal army. Or maybe in China, and they imported hundreds of African extras. Either way, according to IMDB this movie cost 110 million Chinese Yuans, and made about 10 million Yuans worldwide. Ouch. If Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal keep making Chinese movies, we can bankrupt the country and actually win that trade war.
In the boardroom, first Mike Tyson and his team come in and shoot everybody. Then the remnants of the government’s Republican Guard drive a tank through the wall and shoot all the bad goons still left behind. Then later on in the desert, there are long, incoherent battle scenes. And this being a Chinese movie, the producers have absolute disregard for the lives of the stuntmen, who take some hellacious falls. But my favorite moments are the many loving shots of the Chinese flag waving in slow motion with patriotic orchestral music. It never stops being funny. I have no idea what any of this nonsense means, but it’s overwrought and hilarious.
Later, after the plucky Chinese Salesman falls 100 feet to the ground and survives with barely a scratch and saves the radio tower, he scores the Telecom deal he’s been angling for, and just when he thinks he’s won, evil smarmy European lawyers come in and accuse the Chinese Telecom company of patent infringement and general dirty business. How dare those bastards accuse good-natured, earnest Chinese Telecomm company of such horrible things. The calumny.
So we lurch into the third act where Steven Seagal shows up again to do some of his patented seated, talking on the phone acting. And his stunt double wearing a motorcycle helmet rescues Chinese Salesman. I still have no idea what Seagal was doing in this movie. Then Mike Tyson returns to do some amazing attempts at acting, and his entire performance is priceless. The biggest laugh of the movie comes at the very end where the filmmakers insist this is all a true story. Yep, I’m pretty sure Mike Tyson punching holes in walls and fighting a fat, bloated arms dealer in a fancy kimono was based on true events.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This movie is bonkers. It’s incompetently acted, edited and directed. It features non-actors in large speaking roles. It plays as hysterically funny, wrong-headed Chinese propaganda and is also a violent action thriller as well. And hey, if you just want to see Iron Mike and Steven Seagal throw down, that happens in the first five minutes, so you can skip the rest. But you’d be missing one of the funniest unintentional comedies I’ve seen in a while. It’s amazing that this movie exists, and someone paid 110 million yuan to see these two long past their prime personalities have a movie fist fight in 2017.