Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Under Siege.”
The Movie: “Under Siege”
Starring: Steven Seagal, Gary Busey, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Andrew Davis
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) An ex-Navy Seal turned cook is the only person who can stop a group of terrorists when they seize control of a U.S. battleship.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77 percent
Froemming: Last week’s adventure into clowning has shown me that when it comes to the JOE-DOWN, Brown and I are like a two-party political system. One side gets crazy ideas and throws everything into wack, the other comes along to clean up the (REDACTED) mess and gets things back to stability.
I am here to clean up the (REDACTED) mess.
But one has eluded us for some time. An almost quiet presence of the action blockbuster era, a man of little words, many martial arts moves and a slicked-back ponytail that told the world he was all work in front, but is one to party in the back.
That is right, we are finally getting to Steven Seagal here at the JOE-DOWN, and what better way to dive into his career than with “Under Siege,” a movie that pits this one-man SEAL Team 5 against Tommy Lee Jones and Gary (REDACTED) Busey!
Brown, why don’t you tell us your thoughts while I perfect this pot of bouillabaisse.
Brown: Steven Seagal out at sea. More like Steven Seagull, amirite?!
I honestly have been waiting for the right time to break out some Seagal, only to get some other wild hair up my ass. But, I’m glad that you broke the Seagal cherry for the JOE-DOWN. In the future, I’ll break out some Adam Sandler.
Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Seagal movie before this week. I know my Mom HATES the man, but she also hates JCVD and well, he’s the zygote for which the JOE-DOWN was born.
Seagal also has the best one-liner in an action movie from “Hard to Kill.”
With no context, I just like the idea of Seagal uttering that, and then just looking down at his hands, bored he’s not killing someone and thinking in his brain “Damn, I wish someone heard me say that.”
Now, let’s get the captain and start this party, Froemming.
Froemming: It’s the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the USS Missouri has docked in the infamous area that launched the US into WWII. President George H.W. Bush is there for the anniversary, though he should really be tearing up the lawn of Homer Simpson with his car.
Yeah, that was forced, but damnit, I am not letting an opportunity to show that clip go to waste.
Aboard the ship, we meet some of the crew planning a surprise party for Captain Adams (maybe related to Patch?). One of the crew involved is a man named Krill (Busey), which sounds like a grill sold by Ted Nugent. Krill has an issue with the ship’s cook, Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback, because he talks back to him and whatnot.
Brown: Well, have you seen what Ryback does to jobbers on a weekly basis?!
I’d be scared as well if I were Krill. Hell, the man is named after the bottom of the aquatic food chain!
Froemming: We learn in this film that Krill’s attention to detail and ability to go off the rails is 100 percent the same as Gary Busey’s in real life.
Ryback is a mystery for about 20 minutes of this movie. Why is the star of this movie the guy who cooks and cleans toilets? Why is Captain Adams so secretive about him? Why does Steven Seagal have Russain citizenship in real life? All very troubling questions if you ask me.
Brown: Another troubling question: why is a man with hair named Cueball in this movie?
For reasons, Krill doesn’t seem too keen on Ryback, who is a lot less formal than pretty much everyone on the ship and only stays employed because the captain “likes his cooking.”
I… can’t buy Seagal as a great cook in real life. He probably needs to call someone to ask him how to open a can of soup like Peyton Manning.
Froemming: I can barely buy him as an action star in this. He is dead in the middle of attributes of action heroes. Not ripped like Stallone, but almost as deadpan. Not as schlubby as Bruce Willis, but does attempt one-liners (they fall more on the Stallone part of the spectrum). Has the martial arts moves of Van Damme, but again, not really ripped and no splits. Segal is basically the Anne Veal of action stars.
Brown: The middle, dude? Seagal (REDACTED) sucks.
Dude has no charisma, which sticks out in a movie when you have bonkers Tommy Lee Jones and pre-crisis Gary Busey. Seagal’s action sequences, when you really look at them, are slow and really just lame. Like, if not for fancy camerawork, he moves as fast and fluid as Mac’s karate from “Always Sunny.” That would make sense now when Seagal is a husky schlub, but this was the man in his prime.
His one one-liner in this flick is “I’m the cook,” which is no “Let off some steam, Bennett.” The man whisper-talks and showcases no emotion whatsoever except to complain about taking his pies out of the oven.
Seagal is the one-ply toilet paper of action stars: Functional, but it’s (REDACTED) everywhere and no one is enjoying themselves.
Froemming: To quote George Costanza, Seagal is right in that meaty part of the curve. Not showing off, not falling behind.
Now, the party is flying in a chopper with guests, which include a Playboy Playmate and that blues band men start when they hit the age of 45 and want to relive their youth through covers of white British men covering black blues music.
Froemming: He looks like the lead singer of every sad white-guy blues band I have ever seen play at a St. Cloud dive bar.
Captain Adams gets wise to the party and Busey convinces him to just play along. Which is a red flag because if Garey Busey asked me to party with him, I would run away as fast as I could. There are some things you simply do not do.
With Adams approving the party, Krill goes into the kitchen to tell the staff to head to the party, something Ryback is suspicious of. If you think Gary Busey inviting you to a party is troubling, imagine inviting Steven Seagal to a party, that somehow is even stranger and more troubling in my mind. This results in a scuffle that leads Ryback to punch Krill so hard his cheek is cut, but no black eye or bruises, so that is something that happens in this. They throw Ryback into a freezer because throwing him in the brigg is not allowed since he is the captain’s favorite cook (and he secretly outranks everyone).
Brown: An actual line in this movie: “Now I know why you’re a cook, because you hit like a f—-t.” That is the quality of writing we’re dealing with in this movie. And, Krill complains to the captain that Ryback hates officers and hates America. So… he’s a modern-day Democrat, according to Trump?
Serious question: Would you rather be invited to a Gary Busey party or a Corey Feldman party?
Froemming: Both would result in myself wanting to commit harakiri. So neither. What a gross question.
With Ryback in the freezer like he is R. Kelly hiding in a closet, it is time for the birthday party. The playmate arrives with the band, and takes a bunch of pills to ease her sea-sickness. Pills I imagine Krill got from his good buddy, Bill Cosby, because she passes the (REDACTED) out in the cake.
The band hits the stage, giving me troubling flashbacks of bar bands from my college days, and Krill comes running in dressed in drag and dancing.
Brown, was this in the script?
Brown: I think Gary Busey dressing in drag like the worst Tootsie ever was an actor’s choice. And there was a few times in my notes where I wrote that Tommy Lee Jones was clearly drunk. I’m sure the party scenes were filmed while Seagal was off set to take acting lessons that didn’t work.
Froemming: I cannot sanction Tommy Lee Jones’ buffoonery in this.
Brown: Yeah, I don’t understand how Tommy Lee Jones sanctioned the buffoonery of Gary Busey and Steven Seagal, but Jim Carrey in “Batman Forever” was the one that set him off. Hell, at least Carrey’s Riddler fit into Joel Schumacher’s ill-conceived version of the Batman universe. Gary Busey dressing in drag for literally no reason is the kind of choice that gives a man a stress-induced stroke.
Well, the party is jumping in what I can only describe as akin to the Red Carpet in St. Cloud, Minn. So, you know, more depressing than jumping. And it’s time for Krill to get the captain.
Only now, the ruse comes to an end as Tommy Lee Jones kills the third in command and Krill shoots and kills the captain. All these caterers and musicians are actually terrorists and they force all the seadogs or whatever Navy shipmen call themselves into the forecastle. Krill grabs a disk that I thought for a second was an old Game Genie (it was at least as big as one). And the whole time, Tommy Lee Jones is wearing his sunglasses either to hide his A. disgust for being in this movie, or B. his drunk, glassy-eyed gaze.
Also, dunno if you caught this Froemming, but as the shipmen are being ushered to the forecastle, did you see the Coca-Cola fridge in the background? Does Coca-Cola sponsor our nation’s Navy to the point there is branded fridges with cold, refreshing Coca-Cola Classic in the USS Missouri?
Coke, I’m more of a Pepsi guy, but if you sponsor the JOE-DOWN, my allegiances can change.
Froemming: The crew is ushered into the forecastle, after a brief fight that resulted in someone getting shot, where they are trapped, thirsty and Coke-less in a nightmare scenario. Bill (Jones) now is having his crew take over the ship’s controls or whatever and make a call to Washington DC, to demand a ransom of ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Well, no. He calls the suits in Washington to let them know he is in control. Turns out Bill is an ex-CIA operative who they tried to kill once he became unmanageable, and failed. Which is embarrassing for the CIA guy in the room, because now all these generals and whatnot are pissed at him. Why Bill calls them is anyone’s guess. He is there to steal Tomahawk missiles with nuclear tips to sell to the North Korea government, which the president (and Dennis Rodman) have assured me are very fine people.
In his freezer cell, Ryback tries to convince the kid guarding him to let him out, that things are not right. The kid is obviously a moron, because he is taking orders from Gary Busey. He convinces the kid to call the deck to make sure all is right.
This would lead to this poor son of a bitch’s murder. That is on you, Ryback.
Brown: It also leads to the two henchmen’s death when they try to kill Ryback.
And look, I know aikido is Seagal’s thing. He actually runs a dojo and has a black belt. But man, Seagal is just so… lumbering in his movements. It’s like, guys, why don’t you just shoot him in the face? Why fight hand-to-hand with the dude?
I’m sure Seagal would ask the same question Harry asks here.
I legit don’t remember why the USS Missouri was hijacked but here we are. And to prove how dangerous they are, Tommy Lee Jones (whose character’s name I didn’t learn) orders his group blow up a fighter jet that’s come to check on the boat. And, that was pretty cool, mostly because they had Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” play as they did it and that, IMO, is the best Hendrix song.
Not only do these terrorists have the USS Missouri, but they also have launch codes for nuclear weapons. It was good to know the United States’ codes weren’t something they’d use for their luggage like the government of Druidia.
Froemming: As he is walking through the ship. Ryback is surprised when a topless woman pops out of a cake where the party was supposed to be. This results in her following him along for the rest of the movie for no apparent reason other than, what, sex appeal? Not really that. Her comic relief? Maybe, but she isn’t really funny. To help him on his journey to rescue the hostages? Kinda, she does kill some people to help move things along. I don’t know, Ms. July (Jordan Tate according to Wikipedia, I don’t remember her name being said much in the movie) doesn’t really have a point in this movie. But she is here, so let’s move along.
Brown: She’s no Victoria Silvstedt, Playmate of the Year, in “BASEketball.”
Froemming: After getting her caught up to speed, Ryback tries to keep her in his locker so she can be safe, though that just seems creepy. She pounds on the door and screams, like a normal person who is being held captive by Steven Seagal would do. He gives up and brings this civilliain along on his one-man SEAL Team 5 adventure, which is pretty dangerous and pretty stupid.
Brown: It’s funny that Ryback isn’t even the best heroic chef that we’ve watched here on the JOE-DOWN. That would obviously go to Rev in “Deep Blue Sea.” That dude gave the world a hip-hop prayer. Ryback just whisper-talks words he clearly doesn’t understand.
So our bad guys are building something (technical term) on the ship so they can ship the missiles out onto a submarine Tommy Lee Jones stole from North Korea. Kim Jong Ill probably lost track of that one during one of his immaculate golf rounds.
And I’ll say it again: Seeing Tommy Lee Jones as terrorist Keith Richards is just weird. It’s also weird that even the United States government, while in the control center, is not panicking. Can ANYONE that isn’t Gary Busey emote in this (REDACTED) movie? We’re on the brink of nuclear weapons going to the highest bidder and everyone’s all calm and cool like they just got high.
The U.S. does have a better idea of what’s going on, though, when Ryback and Ms. July find a phone and give some recon like how John McClane did in “Die Hard” except WAY less cool.
Froemming: It showed how much this movie has aged when she compares his satellite phone to a car phone. There were cellphones at this time, Zack Morris (who is trash, by the way) had one and he was in high school.
With the government now knowing Ryback is there to keep them up to speed, they are also sending in SEAL Team 5, which is odd to think about since SEAL Team 6 has been the go-to team since they took out bin Laden.
Though Ryback doesn’t follow orders, like John McClane, but boring. He hears morse code from the shipmen pounding on the walls. So he goes to save them! And leaves a pile of bodies in his path.
He also dismantles the ship’s weapons system. Though it takes a half-hour for that to take effect, which MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL.
This movie plays like a video game. Room one, kill bad guys, go to room two, kill the bad guys, room three is hostages YEAH!
“Under Siege” is basically cutscenes from a bad “Metal Gear Solid” game.
Brown: Dude, “Metal Gear Solid 2” starts on a tanker and has a lot of the same beats as “Under Siege.” Except it’s done way better. Here’s a link to a playthrough.
Froemming: Wow, I never played the game and took a wild guess at that. Knocked it out of the park!
Brown: Great kid, don’t get cocky.
I will say that the part where a beam falls and impales a henchman is pretty gnarly.
Ryback also recruits some out-of-their-prime guys that were taken hostage on the boat to help regain control. And through osmosis (which is the only way I can explain it), Ms. July all of a sudden becomes Sarah (REDACTED) Connor? She learns how to smoothly operate a gun and actually saves Ryback’s bacon from Colm Meaney.
I think Ms. July also picked up by osmosis (again, the only way I can explain it) Seagal’s bad acting. She’s capable of showing her breasts, whining and shedding single tears on command. Which, if we’re being honest, her acting range is better than Seagal’s now that I typed it out.
So the submarine has breached and is about to take some of the weapons. So, Ryback has to MacGyver some bomb to stop the sub from leaving.
Honestly, it’s Seagal so it should have ended up like a MacGruber short.
Froemming: One could say his cooking abilities are — the bomb.
Ryback dons a wetsuit that the SEALs seem to sport (where he got it is anyone’s guess) and sneaks to the sub to plant the explosives, only to be spotted by a wiley Irishman and takes some heat in the form of bullets and hooks. But while they are shooting where they saw him, Seagal uses the time-honored trick of going somewhere else to avoid the hail of gunfire and sneaks onto the boat, only for the drunken Irishman to find him. Good thing Ms. July has no qualms about killing the Irish (she must be from Springfield) because she shoots him dead, no problem.
But Ryback is (temporarily) hurt. Looks like some of the hooks dug into his back. These magically vanish about two minutes after this scene because this movie is painfully stupid.
The bomb does the trick. The sub cannot submerge now until the whatchamacallit (technical term) is welded back together to the doodad (again, technical term).
So the missile heist is at a standstill. Something Tommy Lee Jones is not too happy about. But then, who has ever seen Tommy Lee Jones happy about anything?
Brown: He was probably happy that this movie was over. I mean, Gary Busey did yell at an Italian man to speak English in this movie, which I assume was an actor’s choice. I’d be happy to leave that set.
The power finally goes out, which gives Ryback and co. time to arm the cannons and take aim at the submarine. When those cannons go off, Tommy Lee Jones gets blown back and (I assume) it gave him tinnitus like he’s Sterling Archer.
With his plans unraveling and Gary Busey dead with the submarine, Tommy Lee Jones decides to launch a pair of nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missiles at Honolulu, which I can only assume happened because Bobby Brady held onto that Tiki God.
And now, it’s time for Ryback and Tommy Lee Jones to square off in a knife fight. And… it’s kind of uneventful since Ryback dominates.
Not to mention, Tommy Lee Jones takes the most gruesome death we’ve seen since John Malkovich head was crushed in “Con-Air”: TLJ gets a thumb to his eye socket, a knife to the skull and his entire head rammed into a sparking monitor.
Froemming: Now I was confused because when they meet up for this battle, they seem to know one another. Did they once work together? They make a short reference about not seeing one another for a long time. I think this must have been mostly edited out, which is stupid since it would have made the story a lot stronger. But here we are, with prime Steven Seagal fighting a 45 year old TLJ and we are supposed to think it is an even fight? Ugh.
Yeah he rams the eye out and smashes TLJ’s head into a computer monitor, which is not that thrilling. Then they prevent the nukes from hitting Honolulu somehow and the day is saved.
And here we get to the weirdest part of the movie for me.
Ryback is honoring the deceased captain at a burial-at-sea, and in the crowd of sailors is Ms. July in a sailor outfit.
What. The. (REDACTED)? Did she join the navy, or is this stolen valor? Something isn’t adding up here for me.
Brown: Stolen valor sounds about right, unless showing your breasts on a naval ship is a way to enlist. I’m not a military expert. Neither is whomever wrote this movie.
I say let’s hop out of the cake and get to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No. I seemed to have liked this movie when I saw it as a kid, but seeing it now, it is pretty boring and — mostly — pretty stupid.
Brown: No. My mom was right: Seagal sucks.