Title: Under Siege 2: Dark TerritoryDirector: Geoff Murphy
Starring: Steven Segal, Eric Bogosian, Katherine Heigl, Morris Chestnut, Everett McGill, Brenda Bakke
Plot: Having retired from the Navy Casey Ryback (Segal) is now working as a chef in his own restaurant, while following death of his brother he plans to take his niece Sarah (Heigl) on vacation in an attempt to reconnect with her. Things however don’t quite go to plan when the train they are on gets hijacked by ex-CIA programmer Travis Dane (Bogosian) along with his hired mercenaries with plans to blow up the Eastern seaboard by targeting a nuclear reactor hidden beneath the Pentagon.
Review: While rewatching this film for the umpteenth time I was suddenly hit with the realisation that this might actually be my go to action movie, a position unsurprisingly held previously by “Die Hard” whose legacy has been in many ways tainted by its oversaturation in pop culture, let alone hipsters citing it as their favourite Christmas movie.
Following on from the equally great original, here the sequel trades up the Naval Warship for a cross country train which also has the great touch of being in an area of zero radio coverage known as “Dark Territory” and despite the initial reservations when I saw this about how exciting a train could be as a setting especially one which wasn’t out of control, it somehow really works with director Geoff Murphy truly utilising the setting while film also marked his last mainstream release after “Young Guns 2” and “Freejack” before moving onto doing 2nd unit work for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Casey Ryback is really the closest that Segal has come to getting a trademark character and compared to the interchangeable hero roles he plays in his other films, it only makes it all the more sad that this would be the final outing for the character, despite Segal maintaining that they are working on a third film which I can only assume would take place on a plane seeing how between this film and the original they already covered boats and trains. That being said we kind of already had that movie with “Executive Decision” a film which crushed many fanboys at the time as Segal didn’t get quite the leading role the poster promised. Still despite having put on weight since his previous outing leading to Segal wearing a girdle the character of Ryback here really hasn’t lost a step as we re-join him to find he’s still the same killer combination of badass and chef!
While Ryback has to once more deal with a group of trained mercenaries, this time lead by a bleached Everett McGill; what really makes this film stand out is just how great a villain Eric Bogosian makes as Travis Dane a role which was also offered but turned down by both Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum the later of which I would have also have liked to have seen. At one point Gary Busey was set to return despite being blown up in the first film and was rumoured to have fallen out with Segal after he defended Erika Eleniak from his persistent advances. However thanks to Busey’s “Pay or Play” deal he was paid his full $750,000 salary which Segal as producer had to ironically pay without Busey working one day on the film.
Bogosian here essentially steals every scene he’s in as he embodies the role of Travis, a former CIA hacker / programmer who after feeling he was wrong by his former employers plans to use the Earthquake generating Satellite to wipe out Washington D.C and much of the Eastern seaboard. At the same time he’s a focused maniac constantly working it seems two moves ahead of everyone else as he foils with ease any attempt made to regain control of the satellite. Interestingly he also has no kind of combat skills and never even picks up a gun as he prefers to hide behind his henchmen lead by Penn (McGill) who he lets get on with dealing with Ryback while he plays mind games with the government.
While it might in many ways just relocate the plot of the first film, there is still a lot of fun action throughout the film with Murphy really managing to make the most of what would on first appearances appear to be a very limited setting but somehow Murphy really manages to make the most of the training setting as the action not only takes place inside the train, but also on top and underneath as well as a brief spot of “Cliffhanger” inspired action off the train aswell. Despite Segal being known for his Aikido skills here the action is instead more based around heroic gunplay and honing his inner MacGyver and in many ways foreshadowed the path. We do however get a tasty looking knife fight between Ryback and Penn to fill the required big showdown requirement while it was nice to see that they didn’t have Travis suddenly turn into a secret badass in the finale.
An incredibly fun action film and one certainly helped by its quick pacing and colourful villains which help to cover for the shortcomings the film has such as Segal limited acting range and Katherine Heigl’s equally bland performance as his niece which seems to only have been included to add some kind of emotional connection to the story. Still despite this there is much to enjoy here as in many way it surpasses the original while providing a rare highlight for this period of Segal’s career and one which he has long since fallen from.