When you think of action films, the first names to pop in your head are probably Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone. Then if you think a little harder you probably come across Snipes, Chan, Van Damme and the king of the ˜straight-to-DVD Bargain Bin’ action film, Steven Seagal. Now a man better known for his expanding wasteline than his explosive moves, it wasn’t always the way for the the seventh-dan black belt is Aikido. In 1992, his most critically and commercially successful film was released, it promised new-found success and possibly a place with the A-List. That film, was Under Siege.
With the Cold War over, the battleship USS Missouri (also seen saving the world from alien invasion in 2012 film Battleship) is being prepared to be retired. During a party for the Captain’s birthday, William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones), a terrorist with the help of Cmdr. Krill (Gary Busey) and Doumer (Colm Meaney) take control, kill the high-ranking officers with a view to stealing the ship’s weaponry. Unfortunately for them, locked in the fridge downstairs is Chief Casey Ryback (Seagal) a former Navy Seal and one of the most skilled counter-terrorist operators in the world.
Under Siege is an odd entity in the action film genre. With films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon there is a sense that while the lead characters are in some form of peril, they’ll probably make it through. It’s the ˜probably’ that gives them their tension and suspense. Under Siege does not see the point of this and removes it entirely. There is not one moment of this rather cool actioner where the result is in doubt. Seagal moves his way through swathes of enemies, impaling, snapping necks and tearing out throats with the disregard of a sociopath.
Never has a title been so appropriate, Under Siege, not because the ship is under siege from the films camped-up super-villains, but rather they’re under siege from a one-man walking army or death and destruction. There’s something rather comforting watching Seagal kill and maim without as much as a flicker of remorse. These men are the enemy, and the enemy must be eliminated.
It’s basic, by-the-numbers mindless action, but it’s handled in such a neat and efficient manner that it stands out in peoples minds. In fact, so impressed was Harrison Ford with the quality of Under Siege, that he signed up director Andrew Davis to helm his remake of 1960s TV show The Fugitive. The action is preposterous, but rather engaging in a 1980s-throwback sort of way.
It’s intensely satisfying to see the cold-hearted Ryback massacre his way through an entire Battleship of villains to get to the frankly barmy duo of Busey and Lee Jones. It’s pure action the whole way. There’s even a stripper-turned navy seal sub-story that makes little sense, but just adds to the camp romp.