Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: July 14th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Geoff Murphy Actors: Steven Seagal, Katherine Heigl, Eric Bogosian, Everett McGill, Morris Chestnut, Peter Greene, Patrick Kilpatrick, Afifi, Brenda Bakke, Sandra Taylor, Jonathan Banks
uring a test of the U.S. Army’s Grazer One satellite (a megajoule particle beam device for subterranean manipulation), it’s revealed that the optical and targeting capabilities are phenomenal – a most dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. Meanwhile, renowned Navy chef and special services Lieutenant (SEAL team captain) Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) heads to the train station to meet his niece Sarah (Katherine Heigl), the only family he has left after the death of his estranged brother. Unfortunately, he’s not trained to handle a headstrong teenage girl. Coincidentally, the same Grand Continental locomotive carries ATAC Captains David Trilling (David Gianopoulos) and Linda Gilder (Brenda Bakke), the lead operators and passcode couriers of the Grazer equipment.
As Casey struggles to relate to his niece, jot down notes for his memoirs, and bake a brandy-flavored cake for the passengers, a gang of heavily armed mercenaries hijack the train. With helicopters, automatic weapons, and military Hummers, they storm the cars and gun down numerous crewmembers. Crossing through a dark territory (where reception is limited), smug, maniacal Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian) introduces himself as the mastermind behind the ambush. As a technological genius, he’s designed a plan to use the commandeered government satellite to sell mass destruction to the highest bidder (as well as annihilating the Pentagon for a $1 billion ransom). But little do the evil scientist and trained killers know, an overconfident, mouthy porter (Morris Chestnut) and aikido master Ryback are hidden away on the speeding vessel, ready to take action.
The film opens with roaring patriotic music (by Basil Poledouris), which goofily amplifies viewers’ knowledge that Steven Seagal will inevitably appear onscreen – perhaps enough even to incite some laughter. As characters begin to introduce themselves – such as Kurtwood Smith in the role of a general – it becomes evident that wasted opportunities abound, particularly when just such an actor could have been a great primary antagonist. Instead, the actual villains are a who’s who of familiar but lesser-known bad guy character actors, including Everett McGill (from “Licence to Kill”), Peter Greene (from “The Mask”), and Jonathan Banks (most famous for “Breaking Bad”). Heigl, meanwhile, has little to do save for being a bargaining chip for the soldiers of fortune; Bogosian is more annoying than intimidating; and Chestnut’s comic relief is consistently stale.
There’s still entertainment to be had as Seagal goes through his usual counterterrorism routines, but here he uses guns more than his famous hand-to-hand combat techniques. A truly rare occasion, Seagal’s character takes a bullet in the arm – he usually never gets wounded – but it doesn’t stop him from making bombs, conducting shootouts, and, most ludicrously, dangling from a cliff while a thug grasps at his torso. Reaching into his bag of tricks, Ryback must not only take out numerous soldiers and thwart the sociopath’s ploys, but also save all the hostages, escape the train before it crashes, and contend with having fallen off the careening vessel (and then arrange to miraculously re-embark). And he must do all of these heroic feats before disconnected suits in Washington can destroy the train as a standard military precaution. “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” may be full of copycat “Die Hard” vibes (his catchphrase is “Nobody beats me in the kitchen”), but it also stocks some decent fight sequences and cinematic explosions – which are sometimes enough to keep one’s eyes open.
– Mike Massie