Absolution is an unconvincing showcase for Byron Mann, a new action star to whom Steven Seagal halfheartedly tries to pass a torch. As sidekick Chi, Mann has as much screentime as Seagal's John, a conscientious assassin who tries to rescue prostitute Nadia (Adina Stetcu) from Russian mobsters.
But Mann's token status is enforced by the film's typically Seagalian distribution of ass-kicking labor: Seagal does the heavy lifting, and everyone else cleans up. So while Chi gathers intelligence by beating up non-threatening heavies who all look like Euro-trash nightclub bouncers, John shoots and snaps the necks of more imperious thugs, like torture-happy serial killer "The Boss" (Vinnie Jones).
Unfortunately, Mann's not charming enough to carry Absolution whenever Seagal mysteriously disappears. Mann often struggles to look comfortable in character: He glowers listlessly behind a lit cigarette before yelling, then executes a few unremarkable but technically accomplished fighting moves.
Then again, Seagal is as stiff as a glass of turpentine, especially during scenes where he, now out of shape, sneaks around a bad guy's headquarters while clutching at a pistol as if it were a dangerous bar of soap.
Seagal's wooden body language only calls attention to what seems to be his insecurity. When he's not admiring a chintzy oil portrait of himself, John breaks arms and impales villains. That kind of absurd overkill may be Seagal's normal look, but it looks terrible on a 63-year-old leading man.