Lacking both the star power of "Crimson Tide," and the underlying lightness of the Die Hards, this leaden terrorist film sinks under its own weight.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Under Siege 2" is proof positive that all action movies need humor and good actors to deliver their violence. This one has neither. Lacking both the star power of "Crimson Tide" and the underlying lightness of the "Die Hards," this leaden terrorist film sinks under its own weight.

Here's the mix: computer enhanced violence, villains with psycho haircuts lurking to ominous music, and a cast of lackluster actors. As for the script, try this line, delivered with solemn profundity: "Time goes by; it seems to fly, and before you know it, things happen."

This decrepit formula is meant to fly in the hands of Steven Seagal, who plays ex-CIA deep cover agent Casey Ryback, now a kindly uncle taking his niece to her father's funeral. Wearing a frightful wig, lacking any stage presence, and speaking in a high, dreary monotone, Seagal assumes an attitude that is supposed to impart the certainty of immortality. Instead, he looks rather like Frankenstein, striding forward, then stopping to stare straight ahead for full effect on his enemies and the audience. If that is too grand a comparison, he also looks like the captain of everybody's local bowling team.

Fueled by a commendable determination to save his niece, who is a hostage, Uncle Casey dispatches his enemies with innovative brutality. It is a time of hijacking, exploding eyeballs, shattered bones, needle probes, bombs, fireballs, slow strangulation, and a steady diet of machine gun fire that overwhelms the soundtrack--and you get all that in just 100 minutes.

The mayhem peaks in a duel with carving knives in the galley of a train. Yes, a train. At last, for once, a train. The very sight of it streaking across the country reminds us that decades of the best cinematic romance and drama took place on trains, where people fell in love, killed each other, and stole wartime secrets. Just the sight of the dining car, with its splendid white table cloths, makes the heart sing. Oh, the pity of such a majestic setting falling victim to Steven Seagal, who couldn't do it justice on his best days.

If the film doesn't even do well what it is supposed to do best, consider the question of the subject matter. The evil genius (Eric Bogosian) repeatedly broadcasts his determination to blow up the Pentagon. In ordinary times, he would be perceived as a mad bomber. But in 1995, when mad bombers and terrorists carry out their threats with increasing regularity, the theme is irresponsible.

The best thrillers usually have one small toe in reality, while body and soul are rooted in escapist fantasy. In a world where the world chooses its toothpaste because of subliminal marketing messages, how can we escape the probability that repeated suggestions of terrorist targets will not find fertile soil? Basing a movie on a demented man's determination to blow up Washington is a rotten idea.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 490
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h40m

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