Warner Bros. // 1992 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // December 8th, 2006
It's not just a job...it's an adventure!
Terrorists led by rogue CIA operative William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones, Space Cowboys) take command of the USS Alabama, a battleship headed into port to be decommissioned. Stranix plans to offload the ship's Tomahawk cruise missiles onto a waiting submarine, but he didn't count on the presence of Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal, Out of Reach), a former SEAL who was demoted to ship's cook after punching a superior officer. Teaming up with Playboy Playmate Jordan Tate (Erika Eleniak, Dracula 3000) and several members of the crew, Ryback sets out to take down Stranix's team, retake the ship and save Honolulu from being turned into a nuclear wasteland.
I'm going to say one of two things you've already heard a thousand times about Under Siege: It's the best Steven Segal movie ever made. It's not the best movie he's been in (that would be Executive Decision), but it's the best movie he's top-lined. Now I'm going to say the other thing you've already heard a thousand times about Under Siege: It would be an infinitely better movie were Seagal not in it.
The movie has a lot going for it. Jones and Gary Busey chew scenery like it's their last meal before being sent to the chair. The script by J.F. Lawton (who wrote what became Pretty Woman and had a hand in Chain Reaction) is goofy as hell and knows it. And I have no complaints about Eleniak's breasts. But the movie's strongest asset is director Andrew Davis, whose work here helped cement his place calling the shots on The Fugitive. Davis knows how to craft lean, tight, professional action flicks, and here he comes very close to making you forget you're actually watching a Steven Seagal movie. Davis first worked with Seagal on Above the Law, where he apparently learned that the best way to make a Seagal flick is to keep the star off-screen as much as possible. I didn't clock it, but I'd wager that Busey and Jones actually have more screen time than Seagal does. In fact, Seagal's character doesn't truly become the focus of the movie until the third act, which, unsurprisingly enough, is easily the weakest section of the movie.
The transfer is a bit dated; I imagine the master used for this HD release was originally created for the standard definition disc, which was originally released back in the early days of DVD. Color saturation is good; blacks are also good, but not as deep as they should be. Grain and digital noise are noticeable on a handful of occasions, and there is some evidence of flaws in the source elements. The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is front-heavy; the surrounds only really kick in during the more boisterous action sequences. Some of the sound effects show their age, but the music sounds quite good. Dialogue (including Seagal's mumblings) is always clear. The only extra is the movie's trailer.
If anything, Under Siege is guilty of being a damn sight better than it should have been, but not quite as good as it could have been. Case dismissed. Now get my pies outta the oven!
Review content copyright © 2006 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer