Under Siege: A Review
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What makes an Action Hero?
Martial Arts Domination?
Only one man has all these and more!
Born on April 10th, 1952 in Lansing, Michigan (!), Seagal had humble beginnings in the Great Lakes State’s capital city. Raised by a medical technician and a high school math teacher, Seagal’s parents could hardly guess that little Stevie would someday become an international movie star, producer, writer, martial artist, guitarist and deputy sheriff.
Seagal first came to my attention when I saw Hard to Kill on television, and from then on I knew him as, “that guy with the ponytail who kicks everybody in the chest.” I had limited exposure to Seagal’s work as a child, my dad preferring more big-watt action stars like Willis or Schwarzenegger, so for most of my life (until last weekend) Seagal continued to be “that guy with the ponytail”
“Under Siege” changed all that.
TeeCoze invited me to join him at the headquarters of BFD’s Grand Rapids Chapter (his pad) after a night of 80’s inspired dancing and debauchery. The hook: we would be watching the crowning jewel of Steven Seagal’s lengthy film career, “Under Siege.”
I’d seen the first half of “Under Siege” when I was 10. This is what I remembered:
1. It took place on a battleship.
2. Gary Busey is scary.
3. There were titties.
For those readers at home who are unfamiliar with “Under Siege” (shame on you!) here’s a quick synopsis:
“Under Siege” tells the action-packed story of a pack of highly trained mercenaries (led by Tommy Lee Jones) who, with the aid of a renegade officer (Gary Busey) take over the U.S.S. Missouri in order to sell the tomahawk missiles on board and become really really rich.
The only man who can stop them is the ship’s cook, none other than Steven Seagal, who also moonlights on the side as an unstoppable killing machine.
Tagging along with army-of-one Segal is Miss July, 1989.
Miss July arrived with Tommy Lee Jones’ entourage for the Captain of the Missouri’s supposed surprise birthday party.
The real surprise of the party…. TERRORISTS!
But, before she can perform, Gary Busy slips her a mickey.
(never take pills from Gary Busey)
She then spends the next twenty minutes of the movie asleep in a birthday cake as the terrorists take over the ship.
Seagal, after knifing a couple dozen goons, stumbles across the wedding cake containing Miss July as he’s trying to get above deck. He pushes the cake aside, activating Late 80’s stripping music and causing Miss July to burst from the cake and perform a gratuidous 5 minute striptease.
Titties! Says my inner 10 year old.
Seagal, after watching Miss July shake her chesticles stone-faced, finally interrupts her performance and points out that she’s surrounded by dead guys.
Miss July screams in terror and, after some shenanigans, Seagal earns himself a spunky, sexy late-eighties babe as a sidekick.
One of the “best” aspects of Under Siege is the abrupt transformation of the nature of Seagal and Miss July’s relationship. What starts out as “father-daughter, mentor-student” relationship abruptly changes to a romantic entanglement simply because she’s the only girl in the movie.
Seagal is not a romantic lead. He handles mumbling and elivering kicks to the chest better than most, but when it comes to generating chemistry he falls somewhere between a hunk of granite and Keanu Reeves. this makes the relationship between himself and Miss July really creepy, and many times I thought I might be watching a “good touch, bad touch” educational VHS instead of an action movie.
While the romance in “Under Siege” gets a real big fail, the moive more than makes up for it by having not one, but two great villians.
Gary Busey is at his “guys who’s gone batshit” best as Commander Krill, whose only real motivation is being disgruntled over a poor performance review.
“Do I look like I need a psychiatic evaluation?” says Busey, dressed in drag and looking like your Aunt Doris gone bad.
Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones, CIA super operative turned super terrorist, who spends the movie looking like a long lost member of White Snake.
No one can rant like Jones (see “Batman Forever) and his communications with the table of concerned army brass in Washington are Hi-Lari-Ous.
BIG IMPORTANT ADMIRAL: Look, Bill, if this is about reliving the 60’s, you can forget about it, buddy. The movement is dead.
TOMMY LEE JONES: Yes, of course! Hence the name: movement. It moves a certain distance, then it stops, you see? A revolution gets its name by always coming back around in your face. You tried to kill me you son of a bitch… so welcome to the revolution.
The movies rouge gallery is rounded out by these beloved action movie sterotypes:
– Super tough bald black guy.
– Be-speckled techno geek who can run the ship singlehandedly
– Cultured, Irish accountant who guzzles champagne and always wants to “Handle the situation personally.”
The villains are so top notch, in fact, that the viewer desperately wants them to succeed.
I would much rather have seen Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey on the beaches of Cancun toasting Mai-Tais then having to endure Seagal forcing himself upon Miss July at the end of the movie in the most uncomfortable onscreen kiss since Jack Nicholson sucked face with a ghoul in “The Shining.”
Besides top-notch villians, here are some other highlights of “Under Siege.”
– How Tommy Lee Jones’ gang somehow fit 300+ goons onto one chopper.
– A camero from our greatest president, George H. W. Bush, and out hottest first lady, Barbara Bushy (how did you hit that George?)
– Be-speckled techno geek completely disapearing from the movie during the climax.
– How thousands of Uzi rounds are expended in the bowls of a battleship without damaging anything.
– Segal using the machines in the Ship’s shop to kill the fuck out of some goons (goon’s collarbone + bandsaw = awsome!)
– How, in the final showdown between Jones and Seagal, it’s revealed that they were old special forces buddies, which up to that point had never been mentioned, despite numerous occasions when it most certainly would have come up. (screenwriter: how can we amp up the final fight? I know! They’re old comrades! Hmm, no time to change the rest of the script… oh well)
– How the U.S.S Missouri, on its final ceremonial mission, is armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles.
“Under Siege” is the best movie Steven Seagal ever made and, considering all his recent outings have gone straight to DVD, is unlikely to be surpassed now, or ever.
watch this movie, if terrorists ever take over your battleship, the knowledge gleaned from watching “Under Siege” could save you life!
I’ll leave you faithful BFD readers with a final thought from the king of chest kicks himself, Mr. Steven Seagal:
“I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.”
Um… keep reaching for the stars Steven, someday you’ll get there.