Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)

























You know I genuinely think Seagal gets a boner wearing military uniforms. Watching him right at the end as the credits role, standing straight and firm, no emotion, its quite cringeworthy really. He clearly loves pretending to be a special forces badass because deep down, he probably wishes he was a real special forces badass so he could preach about it to us mere mortals. This observation obviously comes from watching many Seagal movies over the years where he either plays a special forces badass (ex), or a special military police badass (ex). His roles never really deviate from either of these, he loves it.

So the Die Hard franchise had long been established as probably the best action franchise ever, and naturally there were the usual shittonne of clones trying to ride on the coattails of its success. This Seagal franchise was considered one of the better offerings of the time. The first movie was basically 'Die Hard on a battleship', and this sequel went down the ingenious route of 'Die Hard on a train'. At first it did sound pretty daft because obviously...where is there to go on a train?? How on earth could you run around and hide much on a train full of terrorists? That was the first hurdle for the filmmakers to overcome, the second was the fact that 'Die Hard with a Vengeance' had been released earlier in the year and it had been a success, so how could this clone compete? That movie had reinvented itself and the action flick genre with surprisingly good results, so how the fuck could Steven Seagal top it by doing the same shit all over again but on a train. Yes that's literally the plot, terrorists hijack a train en route to LA through the Rocky Mountains. They kill off lots of train crew, huddle all the passengers at one end of the train and set up their hi-tec weapons gadgetry so they can hack into and control a top secret military government satellite weapon. The bad guys then use the weapon to destroy various targets which other terrorists have paid them to destroy. But the coup de grace of targets is the US eastern coast which Middle Eastern terrorists have paid 1 billion to have destroyed. Can Seagal and his plucky black porter sidekick save the day?

The first major issue with this movie is as I already mentioned, its entirely set on-board a train sooo...what can you do with that? Sure there are obvious scenarios that leap out at you straight away but once you've done that what are you left with? the same stuff wash, rinse and repeat. Not really a good start when you're trying to compete against a far better movie franchise that just reinvented itself. But wait! this train is actually pretty darn long in this movie, its one of those huge, double-decker locomotive holiday type trains that travel huge distances in the US. So actually there could be lots of places for Seagal to hide, technically. Well yes and no, most of the carriages would presumably be the same so that would mean once a bad guy finds one hiding spot, he will know where to look in every carriage. I would imagine the hiding spaces become more numerous in crew carriages but again it does seem a bit hard to believe that Seagal would be able to evade all these guys, there are a lot of them. Not to mention the fact all the action tends to revolve around the same few carriages most of the time, but hey! they have managed on planes right.

Thing is there are other issues, numerous. One of the main attractions with these types of movies is the main villain, the boss and his various henchmen. If you ain't got a good villain then you ain't got a good flick basically and here its average at best. In this action thriller the main bad guy (Dane) is played by some bloke called Eric Bogosian, who even to this day I have no clue who he is or what he's really done. The problem is, or was, he just wasn't threatening at all, he looked like your typical dorky, frizzy haired, school prefect type of nerd or stereotypical computer geek. Clearly they tried to go down the more intelligent bad guy route who uses brains instead of brawn. Well it kinda works but ultimately doesn't simply because he just doesn't look like a villain. All the rest of the henchmen are again your stereotypical faceless, useless cannon fodder types for Seagal to kill in unique ways at various points of the movie. You have the odd token minority bad guy thrown in (straight outta the standard bad guy textbook of bad guy character actors you will probably recognise from other similar 80/90's action flicks) and of course the token female henchwoman just to add a bit of sex appeal (if you can call it that). Only Everett McGill really puts in a noticeable performance as the main villains second in command, a real tough cookie with a bleached, green beret style haircut just to really give off the impression he's well ard! You can see McGill is lovin' every minute of this hokey bad guy shit, he really hams it up with his masochistic baddie. Those facial expressions and deep, slow, methodical badass deliveries! Oh my!

The action is somewhat entertaining but nothing overly special to be honest, you will see much better stuff in other movies. But seriously once you've seen Seagal snap someone's neck on a train a few times, it gets dull you know, where's the variety? Sure there are the odd cool moments like when a bad guy gets kicked in front of the train and run over (terribly obvious fake dummy, not the only one you see either), a few guys get thrown into a deep canyon, errr...Seagal snaps some...oh wait I've already said that. The problem is a lot of this feels very dated, even back in the day it felt dated. The hammy lines by some bad guys just before they kill an innocent person, sure its kinda glorious in a retro kinda way, but at the same time its also bad in a retro kinda way because overall the film isn't of a very good quality. This is cemented by the horrendous effects all through the film. Much is shot on a real loco which looks great, clearly there are real stunts on a real loco that aren't Seagal which is fine, and they don't hold back with the cheesy violence and blood (thank the heavens!). But all of the bluescreen work is awful, simply awful and really poor looking. As said there are also clear moments when its not Seagal in the shot but a stuntman, never good to see. And as for the finale, well...fuck me with a bargepole! I haven't seen anything this bad for a good many years folks, it looks bad, real bad, like...really, really obviously two model trains colliding bad. Add to that the terrible fire effects, more terrible bluescreen work, the hilarious shots of Seagal 'running' through the train carriage as the other train closes in behind him demolishing each carriage one at a time, and the basic fact that some shots actually look unfinished. You have a weird shot of Dane grimacing as he lies next to the track (was presumed dead, but low and behold...), before he inexplicably winds up in the next shot climbing a rope ladder attached to a chopper that's rescuing Seagal. Then the shot of Dane falling from the chopper seems completely unfinished, the effect actually looks unfinished or just plain bad, not sure.



What's really odd about this film is the fact they somehow managed to get Basil Poledouris for the score! Yes that's the bloke who created the epic scores for both 'Robocop' and 'Starship Trooeprs'. Its funny because you can instantly tell it Poledouris's work too, the minute the score starts up over the beginning credits you can hear the similarities to his famous 'Robocop' score. Not complaining as its a solid score, but it is a bit too close if you ask me, rehash sprung to mind.

Anyway is this a good retro action thriller? Well yes and no, its certainly not the worst action flick I've seen, and its certainly not the worst Seagal flick I've seen (Jesus Christ there are some stinkers out there now!). But overall its nothing to rave about to be frank, there is absolutely nothing original here in any way. Admittedly this could be the first 'Die Hard on a train' action flick clone, maybe, I'm not really sure. It is entirely possible that later clones of 'Die Hard' actually cloned this on top of cloning the original genre masterpiece, can't be sure though. But yeah, I'm kinda in the middle here really, its a fun ride, a semi-decent action flick, but the God awful effects let it down badly, the villains are weak which is a major flaw, and they don't really take advantage of the idea if you ask me, it feels underwhelming generally. They couldn't come up with anything more imaginative than that very Bond-esque laser satellite weapon??  Still, if you want a cliched invincible hero, with a cliched goofy sidekick, and you wanna know how to make a bomb out of basic bar/cocktail items and ingredients, then this is the popcorn flick for you my friend.

6/10