Ever since the Expendables movies debuted back in 2010, they have reinvigorated the careers of a whole host of faded actors. Hollywood martial artists and tough guys who made their names headlining the noisy action-fests of yesteryear but haven’t tasted success since are now very much back in demand thanks to the mega franchise. But what if your reputation was so tarnished that Sylvester Stallone and his friends wouldn’t touch you with a barge pole? Well, thankfully the burgeoning Chinese film industry has no such moral proclivities, as new release China Salesman demonstrates.
There was an age where the prospect of Steven Seagal and Mike Tyson facing off against one another would have generated no small amount of buzz. Surely a fight between history’s most brutal boxer, and Aikido’s most notable practitioner would be something that every red-blooded male needed in their lives. Right? Sadly, times have changed.
Both fighters have been forced out of the limelight due to a series of high-profile scandals. In Iron Mike’s case, convictions for rape and drugs offences resulted in prison sentences and bankruptcy. For Seagal, the arrival of the #MeToo movement could not have come at a worse time. Already under fire for his support of Vladimir Putin and the Russian authorities, he has since been hit with a string of domestic violence and sexual harassment allegations from previous female co-stars.
Made on a budget of $20m, China Salesman was released in eastern theatres last year, gaining something of a cult status in markets such as Malaysia. Set in the middle of an African civil war, it sets Seagal and Tyson up as opposing mercenaries, both using lethal force in an effort to securea lucrative telecoms contract for their employers. The movie’s official synopsis is as follows:
“A dangerous and epic adventure to Africa where a Chinese engineer comes face-to-face with a corrupt competitor over the contract for the first mobile telecom technology in Africa. Local tribesman Kabbah (Mike Tyson) and mercenary Lauder (Steven Seagal) get drawn into the conflict in a classic, brutal hand-to-hand fight while the entire country faces civil war battles.”
If the rest of the movie is anything like the teaser we’ve watched, then it may was well have been lifted directly from the 1990’s. As the two competitors go at each other in a bar, Tyson punches holes in the furniture whilst Seagal skips around him, landing retaliatory flicks and taps on his opponent’s nose and ears. And whilst Iron Mike appears as if he is in desperate need of a good meal, Seagal looks like he could do with laying off the pizza and pasta buffet.
Personally, we’re going to be giving this one a miss, but feel free to judge for yourselves. China Salesman will hit selected screens on June 15th and streaming services after.