Plot: The U.S.S. Missouri is on its final trek, the last leg of a journey that began in the wake of Pearl Harbor and continued for over five decades. The event is going to be marked with a special celebration, including a surprise party for the ship’s captain that includes exotic dancer Jordan (Erika Eleniak) and some rock music, to make sure things end in style. But before the party really kicks off, one of the band members (Tommy Lee Jones) pulls a weapon and guns down an officer, then his fellow terrorists follow suit and seize control of the Missouri. As it turns out, it is also somewhat of an inside job, as some of the crew helps hold the ship. But locked in a freezer is Casey Ryback (Steve Seagal), ship’s cook who also happens to be a special forces trained master soldier, though he prefers the kitchen to the battlefield. Can even Ryback even the odds again an entire squad of terrorists or will the Missouri’s weapons arsenal be turned over to foreign military interests?
Entertainment Value: This is peak Steven Seagal, a fun, colorful action movie that makes no sense, but has a great cast, some capable action scenes, and polished production values. The narrative is of course beyond ridiculous, but that doesn’t matter in this case, since Under Siege makes up for that with action and an attention to detail elsewhere, such as the visuals and technical elements. This is a slick, well executed movie all around, from the editing to direction to general production design, a big studio, big budget action flick that delivers. I also like that the movie has a good sense of humor, both in terms of the usual one liners and giving us some colorful characters, not just generic archetypes. So we have a capable hero and interesting, often over the top villains, always a plus. The action is mostly martial arts style fights, as you’d expect from Seagal at this point in his career, but there’s also a good amount of gun related mayhem to keep things balanced. I found the pace to be good, helped by the cast and the movie’s comic moments when the action slows down. This is rock solid action with Seagal in his prime, so for fans of big budget 90s action movies, Under Siege is one you need to have in your collection.
Although he would eventually slip into low rent, direct to video purgatory, at one time Steven Seagal was one of the world’s biggest action stars. And you can see why in this movie, as Seagal has great screen presence and handles the action scenes with ease, while also having the charisma to round out the hero package. I like that he wasn’t a musclebound action star like so many of the 80s genre heroes, but he came across as a tough guy with martial arts skills. Now he is more or a less a meme a lot of the time, but Seagal had a lot of tools and he puts them use in Under Siege, as well as other films from around this time period. I still think Above the Law or Marked for Death would be my favorite of his 90s action flicks, but Under Siege is one of his best movies and one of his best performances. Tommy Lee Jones has a wild role here and he dials things up to match that, while Gary Busey is fun to watch as always, including a memorable drag scene as a highlight. The cast also includes Bernie Casey, Erika Eleniak, Raymond Cruz, and Colm Meaney.