For those of you who haven't heard, washed-up martial arts action star Steven Seagal recently decided to branch out into the energy drink market. He's released his very own black-canned competitor to the likes of Full Throttle and Rock Star, a beverage going by the name of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt. "While other energy drinks try to just throw a bunch of cheap caffeine and other drugs into your system," the official website declares, "Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt provides you with the TRUE ENERGY you need."
Clearly, this was the most preposterous thing anyone had ever seen or heard, judging by the number of blogs that spent several days debating whether or not it was all an elaborate hoax.
Well, I'm here to tell you it's for real. Steven Seagal, former bodyguard turned actor, who once claimed to have worked for the CIA, and who now claims to be a reincarnated Tibetan lama (though not a reincarnated llama, which is probably closer to the truth), has taken time out from his busy direct-to-video acting career and burgeoning singing career [!] to develop a brand new kind of energy drink. I know this much is true, because I've purchased and consumed exactly two (2) cans of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt in both of its powerful flavors: "Asian Experience" and "Cherry Charge".
Christ. Where do I even begin?
At the time as of this writing, there are no Steven Seagal movies to be found in the Agony Booth. No Out for a Kill. No Fire Down Below. No Glimmer Man. No Belly of the Beast. This is a tragic oversight, in dire need of rectification in the very near future. In the meantime, I've decided to make up for this omission by taking an in-depth look at what is, in a sense, Steve's newest release. And just like his more recent films, Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt is only available at online retailers. (Okay, that's not entirely true. It's also available at some 7-Elevens. You may recall a TV spot that Seagal did for 7-Eleven last year, so somebody was definitely skillful in exploiting that connection.)
Now, I'm a glutton for punishment. Anyone who's read my detailed recap of Monster A-Go Go—with its endless scenes of identical white people sitting around and doing nothing for hours at a time—can attest to that. But even I never thought I could go this far, or endure this much, as when I sat down with a can or two of the horror that can only be described as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt.
All I know for sure is that I must have done something truly horrible in my life (or I will do something truly horrible in the future), and this is my punishment.
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ROUND 1: ASIAN EXPERIENCE
SUMMARY: Fruit-flavored genocide in a can.
After I bought my 16 oz can of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, Asian Experience flavor, I took a long moment to examine the shiny black can, looking for any information that would prepare me for the power I was about to receive. Instead of fully describing the design, I'll just ask you to do this: Picture in your mind what the packaging of an energy drink made by Steven Seagal would look like. Yep, that's about it.
Inappropriate use of Chinese symbols? Check. Barely coherent copy on the back? Check. Bizarre "Asian" ingredients? Check. Picture of Steven on the front that looks like it was taken in 1987? Check.
And next to Stevie's picture is a personal message from the sensei himself, signed and everything. It lets me know that this is "a natural energy drink packed with vitamins and exotic botanicals." And thanks to Taylor's Dictionary for Gardeners as presented by Answers.com, I know that at least one definition of "botanical" is "a natural insecticide".
All around the rim of the can are the main ingredients, which include unfathomable items like "Goji berry" and "cordyceps". I'm about to die, huh?
The next thing I noticed was "100% JUICE" written above the nutrition facts. Frankly, I didn't quite believe this. Most energy drinks are chock full of lab-engineered chemicals and preservatives, also known as "wings", so I assumed Steve was deliberately flouting FDA regulations. Either that, or he'd assaulted the head of the FDA, punched him right in the nuts, asked him a koan about changing the "essence of a man", and then snapped his neck, thus winning the right to put misleading information on his product.
Yep. The fucker released a CD
But, no. In fact, as I was about to learn, "100% juice" might be short-selling it. It appears to be roughly 300-400% juice. Somehow, Steven Seagal has found a way to put a gallon of juice into a 16 oz can. Judging by the Lightning Bolt website, this is actually one of the drink's selling points: It's (allegedly) the first energy drink to be made purely of juice. While this might not sound too bad at first, there's a major hitch in the plan that becomes much more apparent once you start drinking the stuff. (More on that later.)
Like a moron, I actually began to check out the ingredients list, and didn't get much farther than something called "Yerba Mate". Yerba Mate? What the fuck? Isn't that the birthplace of Richard Nixon? I figured I'd be better off not going down the road of actually knowing what I was about to put into my body. So I decided it was time to, as Steven himself might say, get charged! Sensei Seagal, I am ready to receive the kind of TRUE ENERGY only a reincarnated Tibetan lama could possess!
Then I took my first sip. Nothing in this world could have prepared me for that. The initial thought that came rushing into my mind was from a deep, dark place: Oh, that's bad.
I didn't know quite what I had just tasted, but my mind immediately painted a picture of someone going into a supermarket, opening every can in the canned fruit aisle, pouring all the various syrups into one 16-oz container, and hoping for the best. It was like an evil punch made from fruits that had no business ever knowing each other.
The second sip was even worse. This was when I first noticed the awful aftertaste. Initially, it reminded me of rancid peaches, but it quickly went downhill from there.
It took a third sip for me to really identify what was so awful about this drink: It has the distinct flavor of cigarettes. Seriously, this stuff tastes like Steven Seagal himself put out his cigarette in this very can. I kept peeking inside the mouth hole to see if I could spot one floating around down there.
Thinking back on it now, I probably should have poured the stuff into a glass. At the very least, I could have seen what color it was. But on the other hand, I'm probably better off not knowing. (For the record, the residue around the lip of the can is a putrid shade of yellow.)
Yeah, that's about the face I was making.
Then came the fourth sip, which is when the idea of actually finishing the can began to look masochistic.
The fifth sip came not long after, and it cleansed my mind of everything but one simple thought, piercing the night like the howl of a wounded animal: What kind of person would do something like this? Seriously. I don't know if it was really Seagal, or if he just slapped his name on someone else's concoction, but to whomever did this, I must ask: Can you sleep at night? Do you ever bolt upright in bed, sweaty and confused? Are you gripped by the compulsion to hurry to the nearest 7-Eleven with a sledgehammer, and smash every single can of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt that you can find before it ends up in the unsuspecting hands of innocent children? Because you should.
Right after sip #6, no lie, I actually blurted out, "Mommy!" My stomach began making horrible, churning noises. I went back to the Lightning Bolt website, clicked on the "fan mail" link, and began an email that started with the sentences Are you happy now, Mr. Seagal? Are you happy?!?
I tried to drink faster, in the hopes that the suffering would end quicker. No such luck. The thick, syrupy texture made it impossible to choke down in anything under twenty minutes. It even says right there on the can that it's "long lasting". And here I thought that meant the energy was long lasting. Oh, how naïve I was in those pre-Asian Experience days.
I was also under the foolish assumption that I would get used to the taste, and it would eventually get better. It never did. By my ninth sip, I was still prone to random Tourettes Sweet merciful Jesus!-type outbursts.
Finally, I was on my twelfth sip. The aftertaste, I think, was the real killer. It truly does make you think it's a new and improved formula, now with 20% more ashtray! This is the kind of drink that makes you want to call up your mom and sing the opening lyrics of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in utter seriousness. Life has just begun... and now I've gone and thrown it all away!
Oh man, and you know the worst part? Around my thirteenth sip, I burped and it flooded my mouth with an awful taste, not unlike icky herbal supplement tablets. I was starting to feel woozy.
And get this. By sip #14, I actually started to feel sleepy. Like, even sleepier than that time I tried to watch Under Siege 2. Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt: the very first energy drink to make you tired. Now that's a selling point.
On the next sip, I realized why I was feeling logy: It's that 100% juice thing I mentioned earlier. I mean, sure, if you drank 100% pure orange juice, for example, you might get an energy boost. But when was the last time you chugged 16 ounces of orange juice in one sitting without wanting to take a nap afterwards?
I was totally in a fog by this point, so I don't remember much about the final three sips, except that it was over.
In conclusion, if you like fucked-up berry and tobacco and vitamin pill flavors all mixed together, or something that tastes like they went to your local mall and put the GNC and the Smoke Shop in a blender, this is the stuff for you.
Unfortunately, it wasn't really over. There was still one more flavor out there in the world, just waiting to make me suffer.