Steven Seagal made one of his best flicks with Under Siege, but does the sequel live up to the first one? Well for me it outdoes it, Under Siege 2: Under Siege Again is an improvement and a slam bang action flick. Jokes aside this one’s called Dark Territory, it’s set on a luxury train instead of an ocean liner but Seagal’s navy seal turned gourmet chef Casey Ryback has lost none of his deadly talent with guns, knives, fists and kitchen utensils.
This time Casey is looking forward to a nice relaxing train vacation with his young niece, played by Katherine Heigl before she went all chick flick on us. Relaxation isn’t in the cards though, because soon a squadron of evil mercenaries hijacks the train for nefarious purposes. They’re led by computer guru Eric Bogosian, a no less wacky but way nerdier baddie than Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey the first time round. The guy wants to hack into US satellites (much harder to trace him from a moving target like say… a train!) and hold the government ransom but really he just wants to blow shit up and monologue, and trust me this fucking guy can talk. He starred in Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio where all he did was jabber on and we get the same kind of performance here, just a motor mouthed hedgehog aboard a speeding locomotive. He’s back up by a literal army of mercs led by Twin Peaks’s Everett McGill in full psycho badass mode, taking doses of pepper spray to the eyes without flinching and terrorizing Heigl without restraint. His backup are a colourful gallery including Patrick Kilpatrick, Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks, Nils Allen Stewart and the legendary Peter Greene.
Elsewhere, the military’s top dog (Kurtwood ‘Red Forman’ Smith) tries to neutralize the whole thing along with Tom Breaker (once again played by the great Nick Mancuso) who’s some sort of super spy double agent but I was never really clear on him. Morris Chestnut also provides help as a porter who sort of becomes Seagal’s sidekick and Heigl’s love interest. There’s a lot going on here but the interest lies in Seagal beating, kicking, punching, stabbing and shooting his way through this gauntlet of a train. The action is spectacular, as are the stunts and pyrotechnics, and there’s an explosion to rival the one in The Fugitive. You’ve got to take a Seagal flick for what it is, I mean they’re not in the realm of classy action fare of anything, but if you get the right one you’ll have a shit ton of fun. This was the first one I ever saw, watched it with my dad at way too young an age, it remains my favourite of his career and for what it is, it’s a blast.
Gunmen is one of those sleazy, inconsequential pieces of shizz you’ll find on TBS Superstation (I’m aware that channel’s shelf life expired over a decade ago) at like 2am, full of guns, tits, dust, sweat, double crossing and whatnot. It’s a fun one because sometimes I’ll bring it up in conversation and say “the one where Patrick Stewart is in a wheelchair” and people will be like “yeah, X Men”, and I’ll say “no the other one” with a straight face and watch how confused they look. Heh. It’s a Mario Van Peebles flick, an actor I could never get that excited about, but it’s also a Christopher Lambert flick too, a guy I’ve always inexplicably loved, like a scrappy lost puppy that just won’t go away. I don’t remember the plot so don’t even ask, I’ll just spark-note it in bullet points: guns. DEA. South America. Violence. Incomprehensible storyline. Shootouts. More guns. One thing that was cool was Denis Leary as a psychotic arms dealer, gunning down a ten year old girl’s parents in cold blood and than calmly reassuring her, “trust me kid, you’re better off without them.” Yeesh. He plays Armour O’Malley, lieutenant to drug baron Patrick Stewart, which leads to predictable bad blood, and so it goes. Peebles and Lambert are a DEA agent and a weirdo smuggler on the run from all the crazy dudes I just mentioned above. It’s trash though, and as I type I’m recalling a scene where Lambert is ploughing a chick in some whorehouse and she begs for more, but he sweatily laments in that horrendous accent of his, “there is no more!!”… Then two seconds later Peebles busts in and kidnaps him at gunpoint. You know your flick has abandoned plot for cheap thrills and gotten so stuck in B movie quicksand that not even AAA can snag you out when that happens. That’s about all I remember, I was way too stoned to soak in all the cheaply rendered exploitive excess when I watched it way back when, I wish you the best of luck though!!
The finest Los Angeles film noir to ever come out of Hollywood, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential is a serpentine wonder, a two and a half hour parade of hard boiled detectives, sultry dames and shady dealings, all wrapped up in a multiple murder story that kicks everyone’s arc into gear, taking you places you didn’t think you’d see some of these people go. ‘Triple homicide at the nite owl’, barks the headline of a gossip rag run by a sleazy Danny Devito, and indeed the crime scene has everyone buzzing, from the shirt tuckers in the highest ranks of the LAPD, to the burly brass knuckle wearers on the brutish task force. Something is amiss with the case, and Sgt. Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) is a dogged straight arrow with a nose for corruption. He isn’t quite the formidable force needed to barge down certain doors or break certain bones though, and that’s where Det. Bud White (Russell Crowe) comes into play. The two are initially at each other’s throats following a cleanse of many of the department’s corrupt officers, spurred by Exley himself. It soon becomes clear that they have no choice but to work together, in order to smoke out the evil source of the crime, which may be closer to home than anyone thought. Crowe and Pearce were not the stars they are now back then, but came up from the farm league in sensational style, barging onto the Hollywood scene in shotgun toting, shit kicking style. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for her poised, complex turn as a call girl who works for a pimp named Pierce Patchett (a glib David Strathairn), an eccentric who pays surgeons to deck his girls out to look like movie starlets. My favourite performance in the film comes from a diabolical James Cromwell as Captain Dudley, a dangerous rogue who you don’t want to cross for fear of his unpredictability. Kevin Spacey is all style and self loathing as Jack Vincennes, a media mogul of a cop who advises on TV shows and hogs the press limelight like a boorish politician. The supporting cast is all across the board, including work from Simon Baker, Graham Beckel, Tomas Arana, Ron Rifkin, Brenda Bakke, Jack Conley and an amusing cameo from Paul Guilfoyle as Mickey Cohen. Adapting a novel by the great undisputed king of LA noir, James Ellroy, Hanson weaves a deadly web of sensation, intrigue and steamy goings on that never follows a readily discernable pattern of narrative, and constantly has tricks up it’s sleeves. Remember Rollo Tomassi.