'Under Siege': THR's 1992 Review
On Oct. 9, 1992, Warner Bros. released Under Siege. Set on the USS Missouri, an actual battleship that was decommissioned six months before the film's release, the film revolved around a terrorist plot to take control of the ship and sell off its nuclear arsenal. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
Under Siege will vault topside at the boxoffice. Die Hard on a ship, this Steven Seagal starrer is a hard-charged, perfectly detonated actioner that should especially delight especially macho mainstreamers. It will likely be Seagal’s biggest moneymaker.
This time the setting isn’t a fancy-dinner high-rise or the bowels of an airport, it’s much more daunting and riveting — the innards of the USS Missouri, the U.S. Navy’s most storied battleship. The cavernous bilge, the towering foredeck, the phalanxes of Tomahawk missiles — the 900-foot dreadnought is itself a mesmeric site, and director Andrew Davis conveys the hard-iron majesty, as well as mystery, of the battleship to the hilt.
The time out, Willis, or rather, Seagal, is Casey Ryback, a lowly cook, stirring away in the lower decks on his bouillabaisse and edging toward his 20-year retirement when a gang of renegade commandos take over the ship. Their mission: to sell off the ship’s nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missiles to the highest Third World bidders. The hijackers are a formidable force — they’re highly trained specialists and they’re out-and-out monstrous. Like most successful teams, their leaders are looney-tunes egomaniacs who are very, very good at what they do: Commander Krill (Gary Busey) and William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones) — a disgruntled, former CIA op — are highly skilled professionals with a taste for bloodletting.
Not surprisingly, there’s more to Ryback than his excellent pie-baking expertise: He’s a former Navy SEAL with enough commendations of valor to stock an entire military supply post. Not that he’s got to save the ship on his own, not to mention Honolulu from total destruction. He’s assisted by a former Playboy foldout (Erika Eleniak) who’s on ship to ostensibly jump out of the captain’s (Patrick O’Neal) surprise birthday cake, as well as his fellow cooks, several of whom have once fired a gun.
Forging this formula tale with a superb mix of no-nonsense action, low-key exposition and well-placed humor, screenwriter J.F. Lawton has delivered a terrifically explosive narrative salvo. Davis’ visceral direction is terrific; in particular, he conveys the ship itself as a major character and his scopings of the massive destroyer are themselves major highpoints.
Seagal’s methodical, cool performance is aptly heroic and his fighting pyrotechnics riveting. As the film’s chief black hat, Jones, with his wondrous cackle, is a terrific nemesis. — Duane Byrge, first published on Oct. 9, 1992