Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
October 10, 2022 2:41 AM - Subscribe

Casey Ryback hops on a Colorado to LA train to start a vacation with his niece. Early into the trip, terrorists board the train and use it as a mobile HQ to hijack a top secret destructive US satellite.

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) has left the armed forces to lead a quiet life as a chef in Denver. While taking time off from his new job, Ryback decides to go on a scenic train trip with his niece Sarah (Katherine Heigl). When the arrival of evil genius Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian) and an international team of hijackers interrupts their relaxing journey through the majestic Rocky Mountains, Ryback must get involved and save the day.

Roger Ebert:

There is always the possibility of being surprised at the movies.

Imagine my astonishment at enjoying "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory." My hopes were not high. Even its star, Steven Seagal, sounded downbeat when he reported, a few days before the movie opened, that he felt "down" while he was making it, because of a split with his wife. He hoped it didn't show too much on the screen.

It doesn't.

Perhaps that's because it's hard to assess the psychic condition of a person running on top of a train, throwing bombs and fighting terrorists with knives. You don't know if he's depressed, or just concentrating.

Marjorie Baumgarten: Ryback's a one-man show. Typical of his bravura style, he, literally, takes on a whole trainload of bad guys this time when (and I don't think I'm being nitpicky here) it would have been so much more effective to hop off the train and gather the cavalry. What he's doing on the train in the first place is a pitifully thin story line which leads to further moments of illogic rather than clarity. In one of the year's most unlikely bits of casting, Eric Bogosian, the noted monologist, plays the deranged villain who commandeers the train as a post from which to kidnap the satellite he once invented. Bogosian has turned into a look-alike for Elliott Gould and appears to have the ability to berserkly chew scenery while Seagal darts about doing his bully-boy thing. At times, you suspect the whole project has taken a few tips from the Leni Riefenstahl school of filmmaking, a style that venerates spectacle regardless of substance. I could go on asking questions like why there's a woman in the bathroom fixing her lipstick while she's being held hostage- but in this direction lies certain madness.

Peter Rainer: Villain-wise, the film is a bit of a letdown. Bogosian doesn’t really get a chance to display his sporty venomousness; he’s just a standard-issue meanie with nerdier hair and buggier eyes. The other actors, including Morris Chestnut as a porter who becomes Ryback’s sidekick, are pretty standard-issue too, though Everett McGill, playing Dane’s right-hand man, has a terrific moment when he’s doused with pepper spray and inhales deeply--he says it’s good for his sinuses.

This seems to be the guiding principle behind “Under Siege 2" as well. It’s the kind of knockdown, dumb-down action picture that’s supposed to clear the sinuses of its undemanding audience.

If that includes you, breathe deep.

posted by Carillon (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am beginning to worry that Carillon either stalked me through the 1990s or is a sock puppet for me, and I'm waking in the night to type these, which would certainly explain my current tiredness.

I saw this on holiday in Denmark I think. The bit that sticks with me is the torture scene where they threaten to put something like a soldering iron in someone's eye to get their lover to talk. Nasty. Also, I could never quite work out what the specific wrist twisting move was that Seagal teaches the young Heigl.

This is very much a film in the "Die Hard on a _______" sequence of world cinema
posted by biffa at 7:15 AM on October 10, 2022

I wasn't impressed with Under Siege 2 when I watched it the first time. And it's a movie I've never bothered to stop and watch if I came across it on cable. I am a fan of Steven Seagal's early stuff when he and JCVD were picking up the slack from Chuck Norris. But by the time of US2, Steven's star was starting to dim. And I think the movie reflects that loss of star-power.
posted by Stuka at 8:21 AM on October 10, 2022

Disagree with Rainier’s assessment. Eric Bogosian is this film’s secret weapon.

Sure, he looks like he’s doing a mid-90s journeyman’s job of having a lot of fun chewing scenery and getting paid to mug and make drab monologues sound snappy and meaningful. And then, to me, it seems he looks into the camera somberly, breaks the fourth wall, and mutters something like “boom” regretfully, as hundreds die instantly a world away on a whim. The film oblingly dissolves to a slo-mo shot of a multi-billion-dollar oil refinery enevloped in explosions, or a widebody jetliner breaking up mid-air, luggage and passengers tumbling away, and then returns to Bogosian’s face, heavy with regret, as he turns angrily to upbraid a henchman or curse Casey Rybeck.

Dane never forgot the stakes and what he was really doing, and Bogosian took care to remind viewers of it. Surprisingly effective, and the film wouldn’t have worked at all without an actor of his caliber in that role.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:35 AM on October 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, Dane was clearly excited by the idea of blowing up a jet with his satellite. That wasn't what he designed it for, but wow! I'm just so clever for repurposing it this way!
posted by SPrintF at 10:40 AM on October 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Watched this a bunch growing up, the finger severing ending has always stuck with me. Bogosian is truly good though, Heigl is solid, the villains menace pretty well. Seagal just moves less and less. The use of fax is great though, I love that detail and how it goes to a restaurant where it gets ignored. I pretty much agree with Ebert, it works when you don't think about it too hard and surprisingly fun.
posted by Carillon at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2022

I'm a fan of director Geoff Murphy (The Quiet Earth, Utu, Young Guns 2), so I'm here for this movie.

This is the quintessential 90s action movie. It may not be the very best, but it has every thing a 90s action movie should have.
- The name is Hit Movie 2: Colon Different Title
- A cast of fine actors, and a star that... isn't regarded for his acting abilities
- Gratuitous boobs (despite the co-worker telling the tech to stop)
- One-liners from the hero
- Slick and efficient bad guys until the hero starts wreaking things
- Unskilled sidekick dude comes out on top because of what the Hero taught him
- High tech weapon secretly funded by The Agency
- The latest in technology: CD-ROMs, PDAs, Faxing, Pagers, stealth fighters
- Clear Product Placement
- Black Female character with no lines (but she's the only one that actually hits the hero)
- Bad guy disciplines his minions physically
- Hero and Bad Guy fight one-on-one
- Biggest explosion possible at the end
- Villain comes back from the dead for one more stab at the hero
- Movies star appears on the soundtrack

The only reason people watch this movie is because of Steven Seagal, but Steven Seagal is easily the worst part of this movie. His acting veers between wooden and rubbery. After watching a few times, it's easy to spot when it's him moving or his stunt double. He beats the bad guy by waving his hands. But it's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.

I vehemently disagree with Marjorie Baumgarten that the storytelling is "inchoate and blemished". It's as efficient and clear about where it's going as the train on its tracks. The hero can't leave the train because the girl is on it. The sidekick sensibly starts off as an frightened civilian, but becomes a gunslinging killer by the end. The story is tight and well paced and full of quotable lines. "Assumption is the mother of all fuckups" "Sane people do not build weapons like this" "Thank you very much. Just be quiet please".
posted by WhackyparseThis at 2:15 PM on October 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

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