Under Siege 2 – Do Not Get on That Train week

This is Do Not Get on That Train week. Under Siege 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“Action hero Steven Seagal returns as counterterrorist Casey Ryback. Now retired, he and his niece are headed west aboard the Grand Continental train when diabolical Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian) and his henchmen hijack the iron horse. Dane needs a mobile base to level the Eastern seaboard — starting with the Pentagon — using a secret government satellite. It is up to Ryback and a petrified porter (Morris Chestnut) to outwit the criminal genius.”

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captor speaking. There has been a slight change in your travel plans tonight. You have, you will note, been moved to the last two cars of the train for your own well-being. First, I would like to call your attention to the highly trained men with the automatic weapons in your cars. In the event of an emergency, they may be called upon to shoot you. Your safety IS our primary concern. However, if you try anything stupid, Federal Regulations require that I kill you.”

You have to love how far technology has advanced. At the beginning of this film, the military deploy a satellite that is capable of drilling down to look at a girl on the beach. Today I do that on my iPod. Admittedly my iPod does not have weapons but who knows what advances Apple will make in the next few years. As long as the weapons do not require Flash, it could happen.

Steven Seagal returns as cook Casey Ryback. The first Under Siege had wonderful fights in the USS Missouri (in actuality the USS Alabama but still pretty neat). This one has fights in and on a train – not as impressive but still fun. Steven Seagal still has good fight scenes here. His later direct-to-video films are often pretty poor – martial arts movies without much martial arts, what were they thinking?

Should Steven Seagal movies by their nature be held to a lower standard? Seagal films often have huge plotholes and this one is no exception. I suppose it is unfair to pick on Seagal specifically for this as it is a typical failing of martial arts movies in general.

Steven Seagal fans will notice a bit of footage reused from On Deadly Ground to simulate the destruction of a facility in China.

With a title like Under Siege 2 and the poster, you know that this is just going to be Die Hard on a Train.

The plot is simply ridiculous. For suspension of disbelief, a coincidence is acceptable but typically only one. Not only is Casey Ryback on the same train that the villain has planned for his mobile headquarters (meticulously and with some nonsense about having to keep moving to avoid being tracked) but also the only two individuals with the code for the satellite are also on the train and lovers to boot.

Eric Bogosian plays our ubervillain with a great deal of relish. His Travis Dane is no Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) but he has some wonderful bad guy speeches (see above). He actually comes across as a comic book villain but he is fun.

The more credible villain is Marcus Penn, played by Everett McGill (Dune, Silver Bullet) looking quite different than normal. Morris Chestnut plays the somewhat comic relief as a Porter caught up in all the heroics. Most recently he played Ryan Nichols on V.

Fans of Greys Anatomy will appreciate that a very young Katherine Heigl (Dr. Stevens on Anatomy) is the niece of Casey Ryback.

This is a fun action film with a lot of great stuntwork. I recommend it (barely) but you will have to leave your brain at the door as the plans of the ubervillain are almost Austin Powers comical.

For those of you with set top boxes, Netflix does stream this in HD.

People Watch: Veteran character actor Kurtwood Smith appears here as General Stanley Cooper. He would go on to greater fame as Reginald “Red” Forman on That 70s Show.

Broken Arrow – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. Broken Arrow is currently available on instant Netflix.

Broken Arrow

WATCH: Broken Arrow (1996) – Rated R.

“When rogue stealth-fighter pilot Vic Deakins (John Travolta) deliberately drops off the radar while on maneuvers, the Air Force ends up with two stolen nuclear warheads — and his co-pilot, Riley Hale (Christian Slater), is the only hope for getting them back. Traversing the deserted canyons of Utah, Hale teams with park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) to put Deakins back in his box. But can they pull it off?”

“I dont know what is scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there is a term for it.”

“You assured me everything would go smoothly.” – “I assure you – everything is going smoothly.”

“Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?”

First, I have to admit that I love director John Woo. His Hong Kong films were great. The Killers, Hard-Boiled and A Better Tomorrow are all classics and gave a much needed shot of adrenaline to the action genre.

John Woo was not the first filmmaker to feature a two-gun hero but he was definitely the one who popularized it. Many of his action signatures like that one have been endlessly copied by Hollywood.

Unfortunately when John Woo came to the U.S., he hit a triple wall. None of his American movies have matched the dark poetry of The Killer or the adrenaline rush of Hard-Boiled.

Star interference hurt him twice. For his first American feature he was given the notoriously difficult Jean Claude Van Damme as his star. Worse, Mission Impossible II was a Tom Cruise film. When Tom Cruise is in a film, he has the power to film and edit to feature himself (not the film) to best advantage.

MPAA interference meant that his ballets of violence had to be severely toned down. The worst damage however was that John Woo was used to a great deal of autonomy and that did not sit well with the studios. He also liked operatic endings which do not go over well with American audiences.

Broken Arrow, while not one of his Hong Kong classics, is a quite entertaining film. There are several signature Woo Mexican standoffs here as well as a dual gun-wielding hero.

The action setpieces are great. A mine shootout is a particular standout as is the train assault.

Woo has a wonderful time with transportation themes in this film. With helicopters alone, we have helicopter vs. person on foot, Helicopter vs. jeep, and helicopter vs. train. The film starts with a stealth flight and later features jeep chases, boats, and even a train.

One of the nice things about the film is the give and take. Sometimes our villain outsmarts the hero, sometimes the hero outsmarts the villain. As with most Woo films, the hero and the villain have a close personal relationship.

John Travolta has a ball here. His brand of broad stroke acting wonderfully fits the villain for this film. His performances around this time (Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty) are marvelous but sadly they have devolved into self-parody (Battlefield Earth, Swordfish). John Travolta chews up the scenery here and the film is almost worth watching for his performance alone.

Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis play our heroes. They handle their roles capably but do not appear to be having nearly as much fun as Travolta. Football player Howie Long plays the evil sidekick. He does not have much to do but look imposing but he seems to enjoy himself.

I recommend this as a  Watch for an admittedly hammy yet quite enjoyable performance by Travolta and for some wild action scenes. Keep in mind while watching that this is indeed watered-down Woo.

People Watch: Look for veteran character actor Kurtwood (Robocop, That 70s Show) Smith as the Secretary of Defense. After a disappointing last decade, John Woo returned to China to film Red Cliff, an adaptation of the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is supposed to feature some amazing battle sequences.