Warner Bros. // 1995 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 4th, 2011
"No one beats me in the kitchen."
Seagal's finest hour. I'm not kidding.
First they hijacked a boat. And Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal, Under Siege) was there to stop them, sticking his finger in the eyeball of Tommy Lee Jones in the process. Now the terrorists are after a train. And unfortunately for them -- but lucky for us lovers of limbs bent the wrong way -- Ryback is again in the thick of it.
A group of mercenaries led by a douchebag named Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian, Talk Radio) takes over a passenger train to set up as a mobile command center, which is used to commandeer a top-secret U.S. satellite that can cause earthquakes. As Washington sits on its thumbs and Dane blows up lots of stuff with his airborne laser weapon, Ryback springs into action, systematically killing and maiming a series of dopes. Meanwhile, his niece (Katherine Heigl, Killers) splits her time between telling the attractive blond waitress how much a stud her uncle is and getting captured by bad guys, forcing Uncle Casey to continue in his destructive maiming ways.
I don't know what it is. I can't get enough of Under Siege 2. I have taken these symptoms to the nation's leading mental health practitioners but they are uniformly befuddled as to the root cause of my transfixion.
How far are the depths of my unhealthy admiration for what is, objectively, a low-end Die Hard knock-off? In college I once watched Under Siege 2 back-to-back. I know what you're thinking: "I don't care how hard you were working to avoid studying for that Western Civ exam, there's no excuse for that!"
But that's why I have a problem!
I just find this sequel endlessly amusing, for purposes that are both consistent with the filmmakers' vision and inadvertent. With the former, I am on board with two of the main plot elements of the film: 1) a terrorist threat on a large moving conveyance, and 2) Steven Seagal bending the elbows of grown men like a toddler playing with pipe cleaners.
I like trains. Especially movies that use trains in major action set-pieces. And Under Siege 2 employs pretty much every train action beat you can conjure: people get thrown from trains, a bad guy gets run over by a train, the hero gets dragged by a train, a female sniper is tossed from a helicopter and lands on a train, a stealth bomber is blown up in front of a train and, finally, two trains collide in a massive orgy of pyrotechnics and miniatures destruction. It's a rolling fun house of terrorist death and dismemberment!
And who's doing the dismembering? Steven Seagal at the height of his powers. I've poked fun of the guy plenty of times in reviews of his straight-to-DVD films when his fitness level was, well, underwhelming. But early-90s Seagal could bring it, and while I wish he would take at least one punch, there is no disputing the fact that he dispatches evildoers with extreme prejudice and does so while talking trash into their dying, bloody face.
On Blu-ray, Under Siege 2 presents two conflicting truths: the picture quality (1.78:1, 1080p, VC-1 encoded) is surprisingly solid. The resolution is impressive and the clarity pops, a remarkable feat considering the age of the release. But there is a price to be paid for the boosted detail: the visual effects, terrible to begin with, are truly abhorrent. The green screen CGI that is the passing background out of the train windows is laughably bad and when the same tech is used in other realms (e.g., the mountainside fight) it's just as awful and hilarious. These moments are everywhere and high-def is not their ally. Standard-issue, last-gen Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for the audio. No extras.
I'm serious. This Seagal effort entertains me the most. Added benefit: Katherine Heigl before she became a blister on human civilization!
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R