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.
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Seal Team Commander Casey Ryback has retired from the Navy since the conclusion of the events in the first movie, and is now a chef at the Mile High Cafe in Denver, Colorado. Ryback is taking his niece Sarah Ryback on vacation, to reconnect and commiserate with her after the death of her parents. They board a train traveling westbound through the Rocky Mountains from Denver to LA. With the help of gun-for-hire Marcus Penn a couple dozen of his mercenaries, ex-CIA brain (and mentally unstable) Travis Dane commandeers the train, takes the passengers and crew hostage, and sets up a mobile control center. He hacks into the CIA database and gains control of a Top-Secret defence satellite he designed during his Agency days that has just been deployed. Funded by various foreign interests, he stands to make 1 billion dollars for using the space weapon to blow up the Eastern seaboard by targeting a nuclear reactor housed beneath the Pentagon. Dane taunts the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon ... Written by
Since 2001 Seagal has been quite happy to let his film career crash and burn while he sings the blues and does all his strange little things in his personal life (have you ever tasted his wine or his energy drink?). But there was a time in the 90s when his name guaranteed you an hour and a half of broken bones, severed limbs, bad guys in agonizing pain and a showdown with a head villain who stands no chance against the awesome hurricane force that is Steven Seagal.
I never really like the first Under Siege. I found it to be too low key and slow and after enjoying such brain-free fare as Marked for Death and Hard to Kill in my youth I had come to expect a tougher movie than the what we were given (though the tyrannical BBFC cut the film to shreds and denied me what I wanted to see). I was dismayed at the lousy 15-rating and not even Erika Eleniak's boobs could cheer me up (she's blonde-not my thing).
Flash forward to July 1995 and the awesome poster for Under Siege 2 started showing up in cinema lobbies. It featured the impassive one clinging to the side of a burning train hurtling through the countryside and featured, quite frankly, the best subtitle of any sequel ever 'Dark Territory'. This time it was rated 18 which meant I could look forward to all the blood and gore that the first Under Siege lacked. Obviously I couldn't see this film in the cinema, being only 15 and all, so I had to wait until the video came out in early 1996. By that point the BBFC (those people from the dark-ages again) had censored every last bit of red stuff to the point where it could be shown on the friggin' Disney Channel if it weren't for the swearing.
I would have to wait until 1999, when I bought the uncut US version on DVD, to see the film in it's entirety. And when I did it was like watching a brand new movie.
Casey Ryback, now the head chef of the Mile High Cafe in Denver, had retired from the Navy but still works for the government doing the odd secret mission here and there. When his brother is killed in a plane crash he takes his niece Sarah (the lurvley Katherine Hiegl) on a trip to LA on the Grand Continental, but that particular train just so happens to be hijacked by crazed computer genius Travis Dane and his band of menacing mercenaries featuring dead-eyed Everett McGill and the sleazy Peter Greene. He has a beef with the government and is only too happy to use his skills to blow the Pentagon off the face of the Earth and collect a nice paycheck from the Saudis.
Luckily for Ryback, he was momentarily absent when the hostages were rounded up as he nipped into the kitchen to bake a cake. He teams up with naive porter Bobby Zachs (Morris Chestnut, bringing life to an otherwise ordinary sidekick role) and begins his skulking, lurking mission through the shadows and voids of the train to pull the brake and free the hostages. Do these nasty people really think that they stand a chance against Ryback's awesome power and apparent invincibility? Sit back and watch them get annihilated with a variety of improvised mêlée weapons and other gruesome tools.
The train is a better setting than the boat. This time instead of a plain black backdrop we've got lots of pretty scenery and the constant forward motion of the loco gives the movie a nice momentum. Basil Poledouris' score soars miles above Gary Chang's bland notes of the first one and it honestly ends up being one of the best scores ever and a perfect example of how action music ought to be. And don't worry about this one being slow as the first. Under Siege 2 is edited so quickly that coherence is almost lost. You have to pay quick attention and perhaps watch the film a few times just to catch everything.
The comic-book nature of the plot, the cliffhanger feel of the ever-escalating mayhem and cartoonish villains might normally result in a campy movie but Under Siege 2 is as hardcore and sadistic and mean-spirited as the come. That's probably the reason the BBFC chose to cut it, claiming that it featured 'gloating and pervasive violence'. Well, I never found it to be that evil, just entertaining. Which is why I don't like narrow-minded institutions telling me what I can and cannot watch.
No one could possibly have a bad time watching this film (unless it's the UK version) and if you've had enough of Shane Meadows doing pretentious black and white stuff or Keira Knightely in a frock to last you a lifetime then the brainless and breathtaking action of Under Siege 2 is just what you need.
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