Under Siege or Jonathan Livingstone Seagal

under siege

Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.

Nowadays Steven Seagal is known more for direct-to-DVD films with increasingly ironic titles such as Today You Die, Black Dawn, Pistol Whipped and The Onion Movie where he is credited as “Cock Puncher”. It’s easy to forget that not too long ago, Seagal took up his rightful place with the other gods of the Action Movie Pantheon standing toe to blood stained toe with the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and the rest of the cast of The Expendables. No better example of this is seen than in Under Siege, a brutally brilliant marauder of a movie which showcases Seagal’s innate talents, i.e., less of the pedestrian acting and more of the martial deadliness we now take for granted.

Under Siege is arguably Seagal’s finest hour, though he is ably assisted by a distinguished supporting cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Erika Eleniak and Vada favourite Gary Busey who plays yet another exuberantly psychotic villain. Casey Ryback (Seagal) is a personal chef to the captain of the USS Missouri battleship. Ryback was previously a US Navy Seal who found himself demoted to culinary duties after a botched mission. This is a similar career path to John Torode who became a chef after a hostage situation ended badly whilst serving with the Aussie Guards, and Gregg Wallace who is still employed by the Territorial Army as Quartermaster in charge of EAL (Eating-All-Leftovers).

Ryback is happily going about his chef duties, julienning vegetables, cooking broths, throwing huge knives at boards hung up on the galley, when disaster strikes. A hostile team of mercenaries is airlifted onto the Missouri dressed as musicians and waiters to avoid detection. Commander Krill, (Busey), is the Executive Officer complicit in the plan to take over the Missouri hatched by Strannix (Lee Jones), an ex-CIA officer gone rogue. Strannix hopes to fulfil that classic megalomaniac get-rich-quick scheme – hijack nuclear weapons and sell them to the highest bidder. Soon he has the crew imprisoned and the ship under his command. Everything is going swimmingly. The US government is flummoxed, the crew of the Missouri neutralised, and the hopes of a peace-loving world are seemingly in the balance. There’s only one thing that even the master criminal cannot legislate for: an ex-Special Forces commando with training in martial arts, explosives and the dismantling of ballistic missiles masquerading as a cook.

Ryback quickly starts working his way through the assorted gallery of villains like a katana through a poached egg. Put anything in his hand and it becomes a deadly weapon, even regular household items like paint thinner, spirits, buzz saws, automatic firearms and grenades. Nothing is safe. The mercenaries have all been trained at the Storm Trooper school of Evil Marksmanship and Ryback spends the duration of the film thankfully unscathed (by bullets as least) whilst the mercenaries are killed in increasingly elaborate and gruesome ways that serve to illustrate Ryback’s prowess with guns, knives and explosives. He even finds time to stage an amphibious assault on an enemy submarine, and blow a hole in yet another madman’s machinations.

Strannix and Krill’s flamboyant insanity is no match for the ruthless surgical precision of Ryback and the buxom charms of Eleniak who follows Ryback around like a lovesick puppy carrying a silenced submachine gun. The bureaucrats back in Washington wheeze gesticulate and scream blue murder, safe in their lead lined underground bunker whilst the plucky duo of Ryback and Eleniak take care of the real work aboard the seized ship. George H W Bush also provides a cameo at the start of the film playing the President of the United States, a part he never quite manages to convince us of and bodes ill for any future acting career.

The nagging doubt remains that to truly challenge the one man slicing, dicing, basting, flambéing, boiling, broiling, sautéing, mincing, baking, grilling killing machine that is Casey Ryback, what is required is an adversary of similar dedication, knowledge, ingenuity and deadliness. A foe that is as unflinching, unswerving and unapologetic when faced with the job at hand. Someone with a track record of dispatching the squeamish and promoting a Darwinian only-the-strong survive mentality. Casey Ryback, MasterChef needs you. Torode and Wallace are sharpening their knives in anticipation. Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this.