Should I Watch..? 'Under Siege'

Updated on July 2, 2018
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin has been reviewing films for over ten years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!

Poster for "Under Siege"
Poster for "Under Siege" | Source

What's the big deal?

Under Siege is an action movie released in 1992 and written by J.F. Lawton. It is the first film to feature Steven Seagal as the character Casey Ryback, a one-time US Navy SEAL, and is broadly considered to be the best film of Seagal's career - both critically and financially with global earnings in excess of $156 million. It is also the only Seagal film to have secured nominations at the Academy Awards although it failed to win. Despite the clearly derivative screenplay and the renowned acting limitations of its leading man, Under Siege is still a good deal of fun thanks to its non-stop action and charismatic baddies played by Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey.

Watchable

3 stars for Under Siege (1992)

What's it about?

After being decommissioned, the USS Missouri is making her final voyage at the command of Captain Adams. To celebrate the Captain's birthday, chef Casey Ryback is preparing for a surprise party but to his consternation, Commander Krill is having entertainment flown in by helicopter. After provoking a brawl with Ryback, Krill imprisons Ryback in a freezer and sends everyone else off to enjoy the party. Knowing that Ryback can't be thrown into the brig without the Captain's knowledge, Krill leaves behind Private Nash to keep Ryback secured.

But the party is merely a cover as the 'entertainment' is actually a band of mercenaries led by ex-CIA agent William Strannix who quickly take over the ship and imprison the crew. Meanwhile, Krill betrays the Captain by killing him and assists Strannix in his real mission - to offload the Missouri's nuclear payload and sell them to the highest bidder. Ryback soon realises that something is wrong and escapes after Krill sends a couple of his men to take him out. Together with hapless Playmate Jordan Tate, who was waiting at the party in a giant cake, it falls to Ryback to take back the ship before the US Government decides to sink the Missouri in order to prevent Strannix's plan.

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Steven Seagal
Casey Ryback
Tommy Lee Jones
William "Bill" Strannix
Gary Busey
Commander Krill
Erika Eleniak
Jordan Tate
Colm Meaney
Daumer, Strannix's main henchman

Technical Info

Director
Andrew Davis
Screenplay
J.F. Lawton
Running Time
103 minutes
Release Date (UK)
26th February 1993
Genre
Action, Thriller
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing
Gary Busey (left), Tommy Lee Jones and Colm Meaney (right) in "Under Siege"
Gary Busey (left), Tommy Lee Jones and Colm Meaney (right) in "Under Siege" | Source

What's to like?

Surprisingly, given that it's a Steven Seagal movie, there's quite a bit to enjoy. Firstly, the two chief baddies in the form of Busey and Jones who are quietly trying to over-act their way into the Hollywood Psychos Hall of Fame. The movie's simple premise - nobody is pretending that this is anything other than Die Hard on a ship - allows the film to move seamlessly from one action-packed sequence to the next and keeps the movie trundling along nicely.

As bad an actor as he is, few can deny that Seagal was at the peak of his powers here when it comes to the physical stuff. He still convinces as a rough-and-tumble action man, dodging bullets and leaping from explosions with the requisite skill and calmness. Most of his fans acknowledge that Under Siege is his best film and by some margin although considering the rest of his back catalogue, this damns the film with faint praise. I'd also like to add that the film looks the business as well. Few scenes feel like they were shooting on a set - it all looks real and authentic which is credit to the film makers and not something I praise that often.

Fun Facts

  • Jordan Tate, played by Erika Eleniak, was written as the Playboy Playmate for July 1989. The actual Playboy Playmate for July 1989 was Erika Eleniak.
  • Nine cast members of this film returned a year later for Andrew Davis's follow-up, the big-screen adaptation of classic TV series The Fugitive including Tommy Lee Jones who would win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  • Speaking of The Fugitive, Harrison Ford was debating whether to appear in that movie when he saw Andrew Davis's work on Under Siege. He then immediately agreed to appear as Dr Kimble in The Fugitive.

What's not to like?

It seems that for all his success up to that point, Seagal never thought it necessary to invest in acting lessons. He is remarkably one-dimensional and insists on speaking with a menacing whisper throughout the picture. Maybe this is what his fans like but when I watch an action man, I want the leading man to have an actual personality and not simply be a cardboard cut-out.

You also struggle to escape the feeling that because the film feels so similar to Die Hard that you've seen a lot of this sort of stuff before. Granted, few action movies are considered truly innovative but Under Siege doesn't feel brave enough to tinker with the formula too much with the exception of adding Miss Eleniak to provide the film with much needed eye candy. There's also little in the way of surprise or tension but again, show me an action film with a genuine sense of danger.

Explosion aboard the USS Missouri from "Under Siege"
Explosion aboard the USS Missouri from "Under Siege" | Source

Should I watch it?

I would. It's one of those films that despite heavy repetition on TV and the fact that you've probably seen it before, you wouldn't mind sitting down to watch again. It also proves my theory that if studios had allowed Seagal to have a bigger budget, he might have made some decent action films down the years. As such, this remains his career highlight - it's brainless and ultra-macho fun that does well to disguise the shortcomings in the screenplay.

Great For: action fans, lads nights in, the Seagal faithful

Not So Great For: intellectuals, philosophers, Gary Busey's career

What other films should I watch?

The Nineties were a golden age for actions movies with a ridiculous gimmick - Speed springs instantly to mind or if you wanted to go completely loco, try Con Air which coincidentally also featured Colm Meaney or if you're desperate for more Seagal then check out Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. It's not as good as this film but still miles better than most of Seagal's output. Personally, I'd rather stick with the original Die Hard trilogy which was just as action packed but with a more charismatic lead performance from Bruce Willis. Alternatively, if you wanted something a bit more modern then try Taken which has Liam Neeson kicking all kinds of ass all over Europe. I'm sure they deserved it.

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      2 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      I find most Seagal pictures "unnecessary" but hey, I'm open-minded!

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 

      2 years ago from The Garden State

      I actually saw this one during its theatrical run in 1992. In my bo0k it's still Seagal's best movie, he had a great cast backing him up (Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey) and Erika Eleniak was some serious eye candy back then too!

      There were so many "Die Hard" variants like this at that time that they were practically becoming a legitimate sub-genre (How many movies did you see/read described as "Die Hard on a ______"?) but "Under Siege" was one of the better ones.

      "Under Siege 2," on the other hand, is the textbook definition of "unnecessary sequel."

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)