Tuesday, March 1, 2011

UNDER SIEGE (1992) - Steven Seagal's first (and last) great movie

I think it's safe to say that Steven Seagal movies are somewhat of an acquired taste, like chopped liver, driving Oldsmobiles, taking a dip in Tijuana hotel swimming pools, and sipping Four Loko with dinner. Growing up as a kid raised in the 90s, I was lucky since it was in this decade that Seagal's career reached its peak (however brief it actually lasted). My parents were pretty cool at the time, seeing as how they let me join in on watching those glorious R-rated action movies on weekends, and about the only off-limits things were the gratuitous, bouncing titty scenes or the really gory stuff, and as a result, I've seen just about every Seagal movie ever made. I think I can safely say that Under Siege is by far the best flick he's ever made, and it might be the only one really worth watching.

Can't have a Seagal movie without brutal knife fights.
The USS Missouri is one of the last battleships in the US Navy, and she's about to be retired out of service. The President has decided that the ship's nuclear missiles will be removed before her decomissioning, so the ship departs on her last voyage from Pearl Harbor to California. Aboard the Missouri is Chief Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal), who works as a cook in the ship's galley, is good friends with the Captain, and one of the most popular guys on the boat, as evidenced by the fact that he has dance-offs with the other galley crew. Also aboard the battleship is Commander Krill (Gary Busey), an officer who hates Ryback and is an overall asshole. Krill orders Ryback to stop cooking and clear out the galley, since he is bringing food and entertainment by helicopter for a surprise birthday party for the ship's Captain. Ryback gets suspicious, and ends up punching Krill in the face, which leads to Krill locking him up in the meat freezer.

Gary Busey + Playboy playmates =  the winning formula for 90s action movies.
The helicopter arrives, bringing a rock band, caterers, and "Miss July '89" Jordan Tate (Erika Eleniak) for the party. Soon enough, all hell breaks loose when members of the band and caterers start killing officers on the ship. The band is actually a gang of ex-CIA mercenaries, led by William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones). Stranix and Krill, working together, are planning to steal the nuclear Tomahawk missiles, smuggle them out via submarine, and sell them off to the black market. To make sure no one interferes with their plan, Krill shoots the Captain, and sends men to kill Ryback as well. It's too bad for Krill though, since Ryback ain't just a cook: he's an ex-Navy SEAL who enjoys stabbing dudes and loves building bombs, booby traps and all sorts of other wicked shit. Ryback escapes and sets off to save the day. He finds a new partner in the half naked Jordan, (who pops out of a birthday cake with glorious boobage exposed, of course), and they then have to deal with plenty of Stranix's mercenaries, stop the nuclear annihilation of Hawaii, and survive plenty of knife fights.

Tommy Lee Jones is hilarious as the deranged Stranix.
What undoubtedly makes Under Siege better than all the other Seagal movies is the supporting cast, which is outstanding. You couldn't have picked a better duo than Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones to play unhinged psychopaths and have an end result as satisfying and entertaining. These two guys made this movie - you hardly notice Seagal's and Eleniak's stiff acting, or the flimsy plot, since Stranix and Krill are such fun characters. A lot of action movies take themselves too seriously and end up as $1.99 bargain bin fillers. Under Siege follows the Die Hard formula (hey, if you're gonna copy someone, copy from the best) pretty well, mixing some comedy between the shootouts, fist fights and assorted macho moments.

Gary Busey dressed as a woman. His best work to date.
This flick is one of the best pure action movies of the 90s, and has aged pretty well all things considered. Yeah, it's a Die Hard clone. So what? It's an example of how to make a good derivative movie. If you only see one Steven Seagal movie in your lifetime, make sure it's Under Siege.

TL;DR - Steven Seagal's only good movie & classic 90s action flick - 8.5/10


  1. I agree with you man, the ONLY Steven Seagal movie worth watching, although Hard to Kill does have it's moments (his coma beard is pretty epic).

  2. i never saw this, watched all of your other recommended movies and will be watching this knowing that i will enjoy it. thanks

  3. @MRanthrope: I forgot about the coma one! That one is pretty hilarious haha I might have to review that one soon, might make for good screencaps.

    @left: I hope you enjoy it!

  4. The cake scene is a classic.

  5. Hmm... I have never seen this Segal movie. I have seen a few with him and I must say I wasn't a fan. I would much rather watch jackie chan do some back flips and Arnold blow people up. But this review actually makes me want to watch this movie. I guess I should see his best work if I'm going to judge him.

  6. ahh the birthday cake scene was so forced in that movie haha


  7. I think "Cock Puncher" was his finest hour.

  8. That might have to be the next review, Sucio...

    @ Candlej: Hey, you gotta work in those double Ds one way or another, right?