Maximum Conviction was directed by Keoni Waxman (Contract to Kill, Alpha Code), written by Richard Beattie (Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil, Shark Killer), and stars Steve Austin (Chain of Command, The Package), Bren Foster (Deep Blue Sea 3, Infini), Steven Seagal (Beyond the Law, Hard to Kill), Aliyah O’Brien (Bates Motel, Preggoland), Steph Song (War, The Thaw), Michael Adamthwaite (Cold Pursuit, Ninjago), Ian Robison (Replicant, Altitude), and Michael Paré (The Wild Man: Skunk Ape, Righteous Blood). It follows two men that are assigned to decommission a prison. Two new prisoners arrive and shortly after a team of mercenaries raid the prison to find them.
The Plot: Maximum Conviction’s plot and its beats are all pretty bog-standard, with Cross and Manning (Seagal and Austin) being ex-black-ops and knowing every trick in the book. They’re assigned to a prison to ensure that it is shut down without incident. Obviously, it’s not. When the two prisoners Charlotte and Samantha (O’Brien and Song) arrive they mention that they may be in danger due to their knowledge of something. What makes this noteworthy is that in a prison of persons of interest, no one thinks to prepare for conflict, even if it never comes.
Considering the value of the prisoners, one would expect precaution. Nope. Eventually, the corrupt Chris Blake (Pare) and his team infiltrate the prison and take it over. Cross is at a meeting with some guys when it happens so he gets a chance to not be in the movie for a while. Once everyone is back at the prison it becomes what you’d expect. Good guys pick off bad guys, bad guys get mad, bad guys hunt good guys, good guys hunt bad guys. The end. It’s a formula that can work with relative ease, but here there’s so much missing and a lot of padding to bring it down.
The Characters: Characterization is weak in Maximum Conviction. Manning isn’t anything special but at least it has Austin to play him. Cross is generic and acts like most Seagal characters: coolheaded, badass, mysterious. Cross’s team which consists of Bradley (Foster) and two other guys who barely get any lines are perfunctory at best. Samantha only exists as an excuse to have this plot and has no personality aside from being attractive. Blake is a generic crooked CIA/cop/FBI guy who wants something and will do anything for it.
To call these “characters” archetypical is an insult to archetypes. Performances are mediocre too, with Austin being the only one to show any degree of enthusiasm, but even his engagement level seems to be low for most of the time. Seagal seems bored, as he has been since the early 2000s. And he even looks directly at the camera in one of the opening scenes, which is hilarious. Pare is fine as the bad guy, but with the script nothing to do, he never makes an impression.
The Action: Action scenes range from tolerable to subpar. There is a lot of quick cutting during melees and lots of shot-reverse-shot camerawork during gunfights. Most confrontations take place in dark hallways that provide no sense of geography which leads to every gunfight feeling similar and eventually blending into a sort of homunculus of “eh”. There is one cool sequence when Manning uses a propane tank as a projectile weapon. For a movie starring a wrestler, there is a startling lack of fights with Austin involved, and only one of them is something you’ll remember for more than a few hours.
The Technics: From a technical perspective Maximum Conviction is pretty subpar. The sound effects are most likely from a sound library, and some of them sound really low in quality. Transitions are something I normally don’t point out, but for the first half of Maximum Conviction, most of them are done with a scrambled video feed effect that becomes overused fast and very out of place in most cases. Keoni Waxman’s direction is rarely felt, the whole movie feels churned out with little effort or love put into the production.
Waxman’s first unit direction is most comparable to the average director’s third unit. Beattie’s script could have done with some trimming. Particularly in the events leading up to the prison infiltration where there are unnecessary scenes of Manning working on a trash compactor and Cross driving. The entirety of Cross’s team, including Bradley, could have been cut from Maximum Conviction and it would have added more tension and upped the pacing by tipping the odds towards Blake and his men.
The title should give it away; Maximum Conviction is a generic and subpar VOD action outing with little to make it stand out besides one sequence with Steve Austin in the latter half of the movie. As someone who has seen a couple of Waxman’s movies: he’s not a good director. Stay away and look up the kitchen fight scene on YouTube.
Maximum Conviction is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay. It’s also available on several Digital platforms including Tubi.