Under Siege (1992)

under siege

“Nah. I’m just a cook.”

The Scoop: 1992 R, Directed by Andrew Davis and starring Steven Segal, Tommy Lee Jones, Erika Eleniak and Gary Busey

Tagline: In 1992 a battleship’s been sabotaged by nuclear pirates out to steal its warheads. Now surrounded by terrorists, a lone man stands with a deadly plan of attack.

Summary Capsule: You know, the official tagline does a great job summing things up. Plus, NUCLEAR PIRATES!

Justin’s rating: Man, and I wanted to eat that birthday cake. Bummer.

Justin’s review: Steven Seagal — a man who God gifted with above-average martial arts abilities and a two-note acting range — reigned for about a decade as the king of dispensable action flicks. Movies with titles like “Target To Kill,” “Hard To Target,” “Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth The Bicep,” and “Marked For Fatal Death,” all of which fed the appetites of those looking for mindless violence. It’s a testimony to his niche in the action industry that his most notable role comes from a movie that copies, line for line, a much better action film starring an actual actor and not a stuntman-in-actor’s-clothing.

Yet unlike so many rip-offs of successful films, Under Siege avoids critical and consumer “blah” by trying not to be too different than its spiritual ancestor. Its by-the-numbers approach to remaking Die Hard on a battleship saved it because it kept all of the elements that made Die Hard so superb. Follow the parallels with me, now… be one with the Justin:

  • Die Hard had a group of terrorists crash a party in a technological skyscraper in order to pull off a complicated robbery
  • Under Siege has a group of terrorists crashing a party in a soon-to-be-decommissioned battleship in order to pull off a complicated robbery
  • Die Hard’s hero was an unlikely party guest/cop who found himself in the wrong place at the right time
  • Under Siege’s hero is an unlikely cook/Navy S.E.A.L. (Steven Seagal) who finds himself in the wrong place at the right time
  • Die Hard’s terrorists were a colorful, eclectic group with some of the best personalities in the flick
  • Under Siege’s terrorists include a Navy drag-dressing Commander (Gary Busey), a rock and roll leader (Tommy Lee Jones), and other various quirky strong-arms
  • McClane jumps off the skyscraper right as the roof explodes (but is tied to a hose)
  • Ryback jumps off the ship right as the helicopter explodes (but is tied to a line)
  • In Die Hard, the authorities that show up are antagonistic to our hero, instead of being supportive and helpful.
  • In Under Siege, they aren’t much nicer.

The genre that Die Hard brought about appealed to so many because it cross-bred the One Man Going Against An Army Alone movies (Commando) with a sneakier, more MacGuyver mindset. The bad guys are given actual brains and shown to have intelligent plans, for once, plans that would probably succeed if it wasn’t for the rotten egg that shows up in the form of a stowaway hero. We love watching the good guy going around taking out the baddies one by one; we chortle in glee as the lead villain, who was once firmly in control, starts to slowly unravel as his masterful plan falls to pieces.

About the only major divergence that Under Siege takes is that they force our hero to babysit a whiny, crying, largely useless Playboy Playmate. Granted, it’s one step up from some wide-eyed tot for a sidekick, but you’re likely to sustain eyeball damage from all the rolling you’ll be doing when she’s talking. Our bunny says stuff like “I’m an ACTRESS” after she leaps out of a cake half-nude, and then pontificates “I don’t kill. Ever!” as terrorists are jumping out at them left and right. Her pout was only possible with the help of hornet stings. She’s peachy.

Assuming you’re not a redneck couch jockey who stumbled onto Mutant Reviewers reeking of moonshine and chewing tobacco, you probably have at least a slightly refined taste when it comes to action flicks. If you’ve run out of all the big budget powerhouses and yet don’t want to sink down to the level of Dolph Lundgren, make this your next stop. The only Steven Seagal film worth watching — accept its imitation.

I just thought we’d want Gary Busey in drag preserved for the ages on this site

Intermission!

  • Prez Bush’s (senior) cameo
  • Cueball’s got the power
  • Gary Busey in drag, being felt up
  • Microwave bombs
  • The birthday cake scene. It’s kind of unforgettable.
  • “Tweety Bird to Road Runner” sounds ten times more funny with a German accent
  • The girl is really annoying and stupid
  • I’ll become the hatch for you, Steven!
  • Supposedly shooting at a submarine only one mile away, the battleship’s guns are elevated to about 35 degrees.
  • The USS Alabama (BB60) Battleship museum in Mobile, Alabama, was used as the USS Missouri (BB63) in the movie.
  • Erika Eleniak, who plays Jordan Tate “Miss July 1989” actually was Playboy Playmate of the Month for July, 1989.
  • Eight of the actors in this film, including Tommy Lee Jones, returned a year later to appear in The Fugitive, also directed by Andrew Davis.
  • At the time of its release, this movie was the highest grossing movie not to have been pre-screened for critics.
  • At many points through the film, Casey’s rank is referred to by different titles. He holds the rank of Chief Petty Officer. Early in the film, Ensign Taylor refers to him as “Petty Officer”, something an officer would never do, even as a sign of disrespect. Commander Krill refers to him as “Mr. Ryback”, a title usually reserved for junior officers. Many junior sailors refer to him by his first name, unlikely, although not absolutely so, considering he comes from the SEAL community. Most everyone should call him “Chief”.

Groovy Quotes

Tate: So who are you? Are you, you, like, some special forces guy or something?
Ryback: Nah. I’m just a cook.
Tate: A cook?
Ryback: [Whispering] Just a lowly, lowly cook.
Tate: Oh, my God, we’re gonna die.

Doumer: You’re incredible, Ryback. It’s a shame you’re not cooking for us.

Taylor: We still have a week together.
Ryback: I guess that means I won’t get to see you go through puberty.

Tate: You’re not a cook. Ryback: Yeah, well… I also cook.

Strannix: Doumer, Doumer, Doumer. Why didn’t you hire this person? I don’t know what his price would have been, but it would have been WORTH it.

Tackman: I do laundry. I was ironing during the Gulf War. I ain’t cut out for this hero bulls**t.
Ryback: You’re in the Navy, remember? It’s not a job, it’s an adventure!

Tweety Bird: Any sign of Wile E. Coyote?
Strannix: No. Meet at the bird cage as planned, Roadrunner, out!
Krill: You’re the roadrunner?
Strannix: Yeah, never been caught. Beep beep.

Admiral Bates: This is Admiral Bates speaking. I am trying to get a hold of Chief Ryback. Is he about?
Tate: He’s in a gunfight right now. I’m gonna have to take a message.

Tate: I hate being alone.
Ryback: Do you hate being dead?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Die Hard
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

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