Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) — Seagal can’t afford a plane trip

“Nobody beats me in the kitchen.”

Justin’s rating: Steven Seagal’s acting style is weirdly timid in how he talks. Like he’s embarrassed everyone’s looking at him until an action scene breaks out. Am I wrong on this?

Justin’s review: Under Siege was one of the few Die Hard knock-offs that actually rose to become a very good movie in its own right thanks to a unique setting, a fun couple of villains, and a hero who happened to be a cook with a — heh heh — certain set of skills. While that film has proven to hold up as a great example of ’90s action setpieces, I get the sense that most everyone forgot that it even had a follow-up. Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is what I’ve been labeling lately as a “shadow sequel,” a Part 2 that faded into obscurity rather quickly.

And that’s a shame, because I always had a soft spot for Dark Territory ever since seeing it in the theaters back in college. “Die Hard on a train” is a solid premise that adds the element of speed and movement.

Plus, c’mon, trains are cool. I love me a good train movie.

Cook-slash-special-ops-agent-in-disguise Casey Ryback (Seagal) is out of the navy and taking a break from his restaurant business to escort his niece Sarah (a young Katherine Heigl) back home after her parents were killed in a plane crash. Since a plane doesn’t seem like a good idea at the time, Sarah opts for a train instead and John Candy and Steve Martin are left with automobiles.

ANYWAY.

Casey’s obvious discomfort of babysitting a moody and rebellious teenager with whom he connects not at all is relieved when — wouldn’t you know it — the train is hijacked by a group of militants who want to use its mobility as a stage from which to control a spy satellite that can assassinate people. Oh, and the train is going through the “dark territory” in the Rockies where normal communication can’t get in or out, so that’s how the film achieves its goal of isolating its one good guy amid a whole bunch of growly terrorists. The bad guys are led by Eric Bogosian in an annoyingly mouthy performance. He’s no Gary Busey in a bra or Tommy Lee Jones crowing about rock-n-roll, let’s just say that.

No, it makes absolutely no sense why the cyberterrorists needed to set up their communications equipment on a train. Nominally, it’s to be a moving target, but it’s not like people can’t figure out where trains are coming and going because of, y’know, rails. You’d think that a U-Haul truck or even one of those merry-go-rounds at a playground would be equally effective, but let’s remember that this was 1995 and everyone was still mystified about the World Wide Web. For all we knew, it always took trains to be able to log into Space Internet.

It’s as good an excuse as any for our raspy-voiced hero to enjoy his journey by running up and down the train killing as many terrorists (and perhaps a few unruly drunks, who knows) as he can find. This is recess for Steven Seagal, and he is never so happy as when he’s shoving a knife into someone’s eye or introducing people’s private parts to explosive devices. He almost cracks a grin sometimes.

Like the first film, this movie diverges slightly from the Die Hard formula by giving Seagal a few helpy helpertons. Sarah knows jujitsu because Casey made her an expert in it one weekend, and she gets a few moments. And since this is a 1990s action movie, there’s the requisite annoying comic relief along for the ride — in this case a porter named Bobby (Morris Chestnut) who’s got a thing for Sarah and whining. More the whining.

I may be one of the only people you’ll ever meet advocating for Under Siege 2, because people love to beat up on this movie (if they recall it at all). I love how stupidly silly it is while trying to bark and growl and look like the Real Deal. And even though Seagal is giving maybe 60% of his all here, he’s still fun to watch as a hero on God Mode fighting through disposable baddies. It’s far more entertaining than Sudden Death, another ’90s Die Hard knock-off I watched the other day.

I do wish that they had cranked out a third Under Siege before Seagal’s overblown ego and creeping weight made that an impossibility. But the first and second movies make for a mindlessly enjoyable trip back to the ’90s, so I’ll be happy with what we got.

Didja notice?

  • Nothing like starting your train movie with… a space shuttle launch?
  • That’s the fakest satellite ever
  • The military uses spy sats to perv out
  • The Restaurant of Character Exposition
  • The teddy bear scene. WINCE.
  • Why unplug a radio if you can shoot it in a confined space with a SMG?
  • Strange guys on the track waving flags? Yeah, better stop the whole train for that.
  • These terrorists are so trigger-happy. Even shoot up the luggage and a radio for no good reason.
  • The safety talk is pretty funny
  • Computer hacking by double password entry
  • Satellite dishes are best deployed inside of a train car rather than on the top
  • These hostages have to keep their hands on their heads for this entire movie, which I find to be ridiculous
  • It’s a great moment when the terrorists realize who they’re dealing with
  • Firebombing the bad guys was another good moment

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