You young whippersnappers out there may not believe it, but there was a time when Steven Seagal was not a complete joke. Back in ye olden days, his movies actually played in theaters! They didn't go straight to video! No, I'm not making this up – and get off my lawn!
Under Siege is the best Steven Seagal movie, which only sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise. Unlike many of his other movies, it doesn't exist just to show off how (allegedly) cool he is or to (God forbid) give him a chance to pontificate a la Billy Jack. So Under Siege is actually a taut, reasonably intelligent action thriller that just happens to have Steven Seagal in it.
The plot is the usual Die Hard variation. This time a gaggle of terrorists have taken over a U.S. Navy battleship to get at the ship's nuclear weapons. The terrorists, led by Tommy Lee Jones as a former CIA operative, have gotten on board by posing as a rock band playing at a party for the ship commander's birthday. Seagal is Casey, a former SEAL but now the ship's cook, who gets locked in the meat locker by the ship's second-in-command Gary Busey, who's in cahoots with the terrorists. With most of the crew held prisoner, it's up to Casey, a few remaining crew members, and a Playboy Playmate (Erika Eleniak) the terrorists brought along as a decoy, to save the day.
The story is nothing that special, but screenwriter J. F. Lawton throws in some fun dialogue and characters. The banter between Jones and Busey is always a treat, and Eleniak not only holds her own acting-wise as her character plausibly rises to the occasion, but has some of the film's funniest moments (my favorite being when she denies knowledge of the terrorists' plot, proclaiming she's an actress: “I did a Wet and Wild video!”).
In addition to the same deft hand with action that he would show in The Fugitive, director Andrew Davis keeps his actors hitting just the right notes. Busey is just hammy enough to keep things lively. Jones seems like a goofball until his eyes go cold and reveal his character as a killing machine with the soul of a pit viper. Seagal only has two expressions – squinting while frowning and squinting while smiling – but is in good shape and delivers his lines reasonably well.
Under Siege is also a refreshing thing these days, an action movie that doesn't bludgeon the viewer with crash-bang-boom and herky-jerky camerawork. You can actually tell what's happening! You can hear the dialogue! What a concept!
It's not a cinematic masterpiece, but if you're looking for something that entertains you without insulting your intelligence, and if you don't mind Seagal's squint, Under Siege is perfect popcorn fare.
The extras are limited to a trailer and production notes.