Under Siege (1992): Breakdown by Rantbo
Die Hard on a boat. Chef Seagal opens up a can of whoop-ass, serves up some dead terrorists and carves up Tommy Lee Jones like a thanksgiving soldier of fortune.
With the downtrodden hearts and minds of Action fans the world over starting to visibly show due to the barren two-year stretch without a new Die Hard sequel, Steven Seagal and director Andrew Davis decided that if Fox wasn’t going to keep their destructive ball consistently rolling, it was up to them to fill the void with the next best thing: A remake. OK, so not quite, but UNDER SIEGE’s story is so similar to the adventures of John McClane, it might as well have been called one. Not to say that this was in any way a bad thing. Far from it actually.
Seagal is Casey Ryback, retired Navy SEAL and current cook for the USS Missouri battleship. On the eve of the ships official retirement from duty, which also happens to be the Captain’s birthday, a small army of terrorists (who are really exceptional thieves, masquerading as B-Day entertainers), lead by William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones) and the turncoat first mate (Gary Busey), take control of the ship and it’s armament of nuclear warheads and with them, hold the country for ransom. So, guess what “unlikely” hero has to save the fuckin’ day?
As I mentioned before Seagal reunites with Andrew David, the director of his break-out film ABOVE THE LAW, and combined with the proven Action formula of ‘one-man in an isolated place, takes on vast numbers of bad guys with limited resources’, made arguably the most successful and popular film of Seagal’s career. And while I still prefer the more up-close and personal gritty cop movies that he did before going mainstream, UNDER SIEGE is easily the best of the Die Hard knock-offs and pure ship-kicking entertainment. The action is hardcore, unapologetic and totally Seagalian, but on a massive scale. Up to this point in his career, the stakes of his character’s badass endeavor had never been higher and as such an extra effort to one-up his previous performances was ever present. And all without the aid of his ponytail.
Seagal has also never had an A-List actor as his nemesis. Sure, one could argue that Tommy Lee wasn’t “A-List” at this point, but I say, if you argue that, you can take a long walk off a short battleship fucko. ‘Cuz Lee sure as shit plays Stanix like he’s being paid in Oscar gold. And short of having Alan Rickman re-play the “Hans” role, it couldn’t have been better. Lee exhibits a crazy, wild-man energy that chews the scenery like a fuckin’ shark. He’s funny, twisted and when need be, deathly serious and always believable. And he has the always entertaining Gary Busey as his psychotic, assholish second in command.
Only one thing really annoyed me in this movie, and subsequently kept it from getting a top score: he inclusion of a side-kick. And we aren’t talking a minimal role, like an Argyle or Officer Al, (that happens in part 2). No, they gave Ryback a dumb blonde bimbo to baby-sit: Erika Eleniak playing, essentially herself, Miss July ‘89.
Lawd Have Mercy! What a babe. Too bad she fuckin’ sucks. But, I’ll talk about that more in the Exploitation and Misogyny section. So, while it’s not the best entry in Steven’s catalog, I will admit that this film is a arm-snapping good time and if you dig DIE HARD, you owe it to yourself to see this one. And part 2, that’s a good one also.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
“He’s more than a good cook, you have no idea.”
“Ryback is an ex-SEAL… Expert in martial arts, explosives, weapons and tactics. Silver Star, Navy Cross, Purple Heart with cluster and security clearance revoked after Panama. That means he couldn’t hold any ranking except that of a yeoman or a cook. How little did I know.”
“He had an extremely distinguished career until Panama, when most of his team was killed due to poor intelligence at the airport.”
“Ryback’s a warrior. He’s the best there is. When he got back from Panama he punched out his officer in charge. Captain Adams took him on board Missouri as his personal cook so he could finish his 20.”
“This guy’s a pain in the ass!”
“Why didn’t you hire this person? I don’t know what his price would have been, but it would’ve been worth it.”
Oh, and to reiterate, he’s played by Steven Seagal.
[THE BODY COUNT: 100+]
Well, if you’re going to straight up rip off DIE HARD, down to the jumping off of the “building” to avoid a helicopter explosion, you better at least try and one-up it. And it’s in the kill count that UNDER SIEGE provides. Seagal himself takes out 30 guys, to McClane’s 10 and even gets partial credit for blowing up a sub that contained at least 20-25 more. That’s pretty fucking impressive. But the chaos and destruction doesn’t end there. The Stranix Army manage to chalk up 46 sailors and SEALs, and Team Ryback racks up another 7 making the body count of the film over 100. Snap your arm, rip out your throat and eat your heart out, McClane.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Stranix Gets His Comeuppance—And Then Some
After working his way up from the bowels of the ship, Seagal finally makes it to the top and Tommy Lee. Seagal allows Stranix to deliver his evil speech before kicking the gun from his hand. Who says Seagal is incapable of mercy? Then the knife fight of the century is on. The two exchange cuts for a minute or two, but then Seagal gets bored and decides to end it. First he gouges out Tommy’s right eye with his thumb, then he shoves his knife into the top of his head—to the hilt AND THEN shoves his head through a computer monitor. Effectively killing the corpse dead.
“Keep the faith, Strannix.”
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
First off, this movie takes place on a Navy boat full of sailors. I could stop right there, but for shits and giggles, I won’t.
During the first act, a guy named Q-Ball visits Seagal’s kitchen and dances with Joey Six from THE SUBSTITUTE to Snap’s The Power. That’s pretty gay. And then there’s this…
Yikes. You know that toy clown that comes to life and tries to strangle the buck-tooth kid in POLTERGEIST? Yeah, it’s got nothing on the terror I feel when seeing Gary Busey in drag.
But, other than that, this is a Seagal picture and much like Charlie Bronson and Bruce Willis, he’s pretty not-gay. However, the moment Miss July ’89 shows her tits, Seagal yells out, “Whoa! Shut the music off!” Which I believe to be but half the line… “Are you trying to make me sick! This is a Naval Ship, Lady! Put those things away!” Sure, it’s a stretch, but it’s the best I can do with Seagal. This guy just loves the pussy.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Miss July ‘89: I am the girl. Why do I have to carry everything?
Ryback: Listen, I support women’s lib, don’t you?
Miss July ’89: Yeah, when it works in my favor.
Spoken like a true feminist.
Jordan Tate. She’s blonde, stupid, helpless, annoying and blonde. She’s 90s woman, listen to her complain. When she gets scared and starts to incoherently talk/cry, Seagal yells at her, “What kind of babbling bullshit is this!”. He tires of her shit soon afterward and shuts her in a closet, but she protests by whining and crying even harder.
Miss July ‘89: I hate being alone~sob~
Ryback: Do you hate being dead?
This is answered later on to the negative as she actively jumps head-first into every possible sure-death situation, leaving her pathetic life in the hands of a Seagal rescue, time and time again. I personally think she juts hates being around herself as much as everyone else does.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Toward the end of the film, Gary Busey and a crew are about to escape on a sub with a bunch of nuclear warheads in tow. Casey ain’t havin’ that shit. So, together with his small team of rescued sailors, Team Ryback open fire on the sub with some really large cannon thingy, that fires shells the size of garbage cans. On the second try, Seagal and crew make contact, effectively blowing up the sub, annihilating the crew and eviscerating Busey’s traitorous, cross-dressing ass.
The best one-liner surprisingly doesn’t belong to Seagal, but rather to Stranix when speaking with a former ally of his…
Breaker: Look, Bill, if this is about reliving the 60s, you can forget it, buddy. The movement is dead.
Strannix: Yes, of course! Hence the name: movement. It moves a certain distance, then it stops. You see a revolution gets it’s name by always coming back around in your FACE! You tried to kill me, you son-of-a-bitch—so welcome to the revolution.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
It’s not the size of the terrorist’s numbers on the ship that counts, it’s the badassness of Seagal.
[THE SYMPTOMS OF SEAGAL: 3 outta 5]
[X] Background With Government Organization
[X] Performs An Overkill
[X] Snaps A Bad Guy’s Appendage
[ ] Speaks Another Language
[ ] Sports a Ponytail
[THE CHECKLIST: 17 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[X] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Under Siege 2: Dark Territory]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice*
*Miss July ‘89 takes out the 3rd highest baddy. And since she decided to actively participate in the goings on instead of staying hidden below (especially since she’s not a sailor or terrorist), I’ll count it.
WE CAN DO IT! After the men teach us how to.
Under Siege (1992) © Warner Brothers Pictures and Home Video
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