blogging by Andrew Wickliffe


Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995, Geoff Murphy)


It’s never good when the worst thing about a Steven Seagal performance isn’t the Steven Seagal performance.

Kidding.

Sort of.

And while he’s terrible in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, he’s far from the worst performance. Stunt cast villain Eric Bogosian is much worse, for instance. As is Seagal’s sidekick, Morris Chestnut, who’s playing a Black sidekick out of the sixties. But Territory humiliates Chestnut (and all the female actors) regardless of their abilities. So the worst performance must go to Everett McGill, whose “soldier of fortune” tough guy only shows any enthusiasm when he gets to be pervy with fourteen-year-old Katherine Heigl. The rest of the movie, McGill’s a joke. That scene, it’s real creepy.

Heigl is playing Seagal’s niece. He’s meeting her train in Denver, and they’re going together to Los Angeles. It’s unclear why. Her parents have recently died in a plane crash—hence the train travel—but since Seagal refuses to talk for most of the film (not a bad move), we don’t get any information on what they’re planning on doing in L.A.

They just happen to be on the same train as Brenda Bakke and David Gianopoulos, who are two employees at a secret military installation run by Kurtwood Smith. The tedious opening titles reveal Smith and his gang, including the CIA guy from the first movie, Nick Mancuso (who’s the butt of a joke he doesn’t seem to get), have a secret agent spy scope that pulls in the moon, the stars, the planets, and the satellites, and the little bitty space men. It can even perv on women sunbathing, which the film gleefully explores.

Anyway.

Bogosian designed the satellite (an earthquake gun out of a Bond movie), only then he got fired for being unstable, so he faked his death, teamed up with domestic terrorist wannabe McGill, and hatched a plan to ambush Bakke and Gianopoulos on the train for their spy codes. Much of the film feels rewritten between scenes, though it never seems to get any better, just makes less sense.

McGill’s crack team of red shirts for Seagal to take out later on include familiar faces like Jonathan Banks and Peter Greene, along with Scott Sowers as “the racist one.” Why’s he racist? Because.

Dark Terrority’s also got the interesting problem of director Murphy. He’s not good at any of it. He’s not good with the actors, he’s not good with the fight scenes (he bungles every one of Seagal’s fisticuffs), and he’s not good with the pyrotechnics. The movie’s got lots of good explosions; it just doesn’t shoot them well.

However, much of the action is green screen and cinematographer Robbie Greenberg’s atrocious lighting for it. On the other hand, the actual stunt guy (not Seagal) climbing on the train is fantastic.

Basil Poledouris’s score is bad but could be worse. It’s kind of funny how obviously Poledouris wants to give Seagal the Robocop theme.

There’s some actual “Die Hard on a train” inventiveness in the second act, but the movie quickly forgets about it, especially since Murphy can’t direct it.

Also returning from Part 1 are Andy Romano and Dale Dye. Romano’s actually pretty dang good, all things considered. And, unlike almost everyone else, Dye doesn’t embarrass himself.

Oh, and the bad mid-nineties CGI.

Dark Territory’s a briefly fascinating time capsule, but otherwise, it’s terrible, boring, and gross about teenager Heigl every chance it gets.


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