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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Martial Arts > Under Siege (HD-DVD)

Under Siege (HD-DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Film: C



For a time, no action star was more populist, obnoxious and commercially successful at the same time as Steven Segal.  The supposed Buddhist and very supposed former CIA agent (his fear on audio tape in a federal investigation, of being killed recently when organized crime was involved in one of his film productions) was Jean Claude Van Damme’s temporary rival (they are both finished as big screen stars at this point) who had his own problems was never as explicitly annoying on screen.  At his height before pulling a few Tom Laughlins (the Billy Jack star) with his box office clout and imploding, Andrew Davis’ Under Siege (1992) remains his biggest hit and best film by default.


With a script by J.F. Lawton that has some form of substantial narrative, a cook (Seagal) is working on a major U.S. Navy vessel when an officer gone bad (Gary Busey) and CIA traitor (Tommy Lee Jones stealing scenes) are out to highjack the ship in its final voyage.  Despite this, it is armed with nuclear devices (???) and the two have teamed up with some renegade commandos to grab all.  If only they hadn’t skipped lunch!


As always, the character Segal plays is in a low position via his education, socio-economic class, private social position (read has few friends) and is a “great guy” who never causes anyone any trouble.  Inspired no doubt by the faux Liberal portrait of Charles Bronson’s first Death Wish, this then “justifies” who he kicks, maims or karate chops.  There is enough action (and budget) to override this pathetic formula enough, but it is bad, was always bad, has not aged well and is particularly bizarre post-9/11.  Davis proved he could direct action and story well enough that he graduated to The Fugitive (reviewed elsewhere in HD-DVD on this site) a year later.  Segal later did a failed sequel to this film, which did not do as well and was the beginning of the end.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot by Cinematographer Frank Tidy, B.S.C. and looks decent in the way he shot it.  However, the transfer is not so great and though not perfect, since the film has only so much to offer visually, the limits in definition and color are not as annoying as they might be otherwise.  This is better than a standard DVD, but not spectacularly so.  The film was a digital 5.1 theatrical release when Warner was doing Dolby Digital exclusively in the beginning and one of the first such releases after Batman Returns.  That also means that Warner & Dolby made sure there were great audio moments on the film’s soundtrack, which is the highlight of this release, even as infrequent as they are.  The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.  See this for those sound moments and Tommy Lee Jones if nothing else.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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