I know this movie is probably more of Chris' territory than mine, but I always remembered Steven Seagal's magnum opus "Under Siege" being his best movie. Unfortunately, I rewatched it recently and I think I might have to mentally file it in the "I remembered this being much better than it actually is" category.
But before we get into what is sure to spark some unpleasantness between Chris and myself, lets talk about something that "Under Siege" got oh so right...THE TRAILER. First, let's all take a look at it.
For my money, that trailer personifies the modern day action trailer. There have been countless jokes about "the movie guy", "Mr. Voice", etc and how ridiculous these things got as we progressed into the late 1990's. I think one legendary bit by comedian Pablo Francisco is probably the best parody of the entire genre of action film trailers. His "Little Tortilla Boy" piece wouldn't exist if the "Under Siege" trailer wasn't as awesome as it is. You can watch that right now...
So that's the trailer. What about the movie? I think the main problem lies in Andrew Davis' overly pedestrian directing of this film. Seagal, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey, Erika Eleniak's tits, etc are all fantastic in the movie. The script puts an ample amount of one liners, 90% of which work off the "cook" concept, and action in our hero Casey Ryback's plate. Unfortunately, I think there are like only 2 good action scenes in the entire film. For whatever reason, Seagal's trademark aikido takedowns, joint locks, etc. are underutilized and Davis relies more on shooting gunplay. Frankly, Seagal with guns is boring. If there is anything that distinguishes him from the other action stars, it is his martial arts style. The only guy whose on screen martial arts rivaled Seagal's coolness factor was Jeff Speakman, and he made like 1.5 good movies.
Thankfully, the final fight scene between Tommy Lee Jones and Seagal involves knives and is still one of the best on screen knife fights in cinema history ("Beat it" was more of a mini-movie so I can't count that). After viewing the film again, it's clear that Casey Ryback is probably Seagal's best movie character, hence the underrated "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory". The idea of him being underestimated because of his prowess as a cook really doesn't get old, and definitely puts a unique stamp on the entire film. Unfortunately, the director just went ahead and made a by the numbers '90s era action film, which gets elevated purely based on Seagal's presence.
On a side note, "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" isn't as strong of an idea, where the first was "die hard on a ship", "die hard on a train" just doesn't work as well. The film basically follows the same template as the first, but the action is noticeably better. Seagal's talents are much better utilized. Also, it has an early appearance by Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" fame as Casey Ryback's estranged niece and a nice turn by Morris Chestnut as Ryback's reluctant black porter sidekick.