1992, R, 103 min. Directed by Andrew Davis. Starring Steven Seagal, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Oct. 16, 1992
Take a deep breath, suspend disbelief -- a band of outlaws take over a soon-to-be-retired United State battleship, getting aboard by subterfuge and subduing the whole crew. Soon, while fending off the government by holding the crew hostage and threatening nuclear retaliation, they're making international phone calls and auctioning off the ship's nuclear arms to major arms dealers. There's only one thing they haven't counted on, the ship's cook is fighting machine Steve Seagal. Years and years after I first saw Charles Bronson in Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen and Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I would check out his new releases, hoping that he would achieve some of his potential. Bronson, basically a limited actor, could be used beautifully in the right role. Roger Corman cast him perfectly in Machine Gun Kelly and Walter Hill knew how to use him in Hard Times. But after he became a star, he worked mostly with insipid hacks, like the unforgivable Michael Winner and the curiously incompetent J. Lee Thompson, making films that were generally awful. Seagal is the same kind of wooden actor, with less presence and more moves. But this time, at least, he's lucked out, hooking up with director Davis who, not surprisingly, helmed Code of Silence, one of Chuck Norris' finest efforts. If you don't like these kinds of movies, militaristic fantasies, Under Siege offers nothing special. Outside of holes big enough to drive an Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized truck through, this is a fast-moving, effective thriller. A lot of the fun is, as it should be, in villains Busey as a turncoat naval offficer and Jones as a crazed ex-CIA super-operative delivering an inspired, speed-rapping Dennis Hopper turn. The credit belongs to Davis, who not only knows how to utilize Seagal but has a fine sense of how to stage an action film. Ultimately, Under Siege isn't much because, basically, with Seagal as the star there's no real human center. But Davis, playing to Seagal's strengths, has woven a carefully crafted confection around the star, who has enough moves to hold it all together.