Plot: Tom Jensen (Luke Goss) is part of an elite team of U.S. Marshals who work for the DEA, tasked to handle cases of extreme importance. A powerful drug cartel official has decided to turn over his endless evidence to the authorities, but this man, El Tiburon (Florin Piersic, Jr.) will not have a smooth transition from criminal to snitch. As you’d expect, his former colleagues are not willing to just let him share all this inside information, so he is targeted for execution. This is where Jensen and the rest of this high level task force enter the picture, as they’ve been assigned to protect El Tiburon at all costs, as he knows enough to topple most of the cartel and put a serious dent in the chain of command. As the agents try to keep El Tiburon alive until extraction, former cartel forces rush to take him down, including his former right hand, Sinclair (Georges St-Pierre), who is a vicious and relentless madman. With the full might of the cartel coming down, can even this elite DEA unit ensure the informant survives?
Entertainment Value: I have to think b action movies fan would assume this, but I want to take a minute to let you know that despite his prominence in the marketing, Steven Seagal is not the lead here. He has some screen time, but not much and isn’t a direct part of the narrative. But genre fans likely suspect that anyway, as much of his work from this time in his career has been glorified cameos, but his name still carries weight, so I get why labels do this. Luke Goss is the actual lead and he is fine, but doesn’t show much charisma, so he comes off as more of a generic action lead. I loved the inclusion of MMA legend Georges St-Pierre as our villain, more than up to the action demands and his accent is at least somewhat muted here. He at least sounds like himself, unlike some roles where he has to dubbed to be understood. I would have loved if the movie cut the strings a little and didn’t unfold like a by the numbers action thriller, as it isn’t bad, but not memorable. But if you’re a b action movie fan and can appreciate the Seagal phone in, it has some passable moments.
No nakedness. Some bloodshed, but it is just the usual action oriented, shoot out and fist fights type violence. I think Cartels is at its best during the action scenes, but it doesn’t have a lot of them. Seagal is of course the slowest action hero alive at this point, but that comes with a certain kind of entertainment, I think. George St-Pierre and Luke Goss provide the bulk of the better moments, including a pretty fun brawl that was my personal highlight. Goss might not have much presence, but he is a capable action guy and I think in a more supporting role, he could have really shined. St-Pierre is great in the fight scenes and has that real life experience with martial arts that helps lend his scenes added realism. I just wish Cartel had more action. The dialogue is bland, but covers the basics. Seagal is half asleep as he goes through his lines, which is humorous and St-Pierre, while clearer than in some of his movies, sometimes marble mouths his way around, which I love, of course. But as far as memorable lines and such, not much of that here. No real craziness to speak of and I think the movie could have used some, if just to break up the bland stretches.
Overall Insanity: 0/10