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.
Dark Blue is the overlooked performance of Kurt Russsel’s career, and also the best. It’s also a film that brilliantly examines corruption, lies, brutality and abuse of power through a thoughtful narrative lens and via a powerfully moving story . So why then was it received with an unceremonious cold shoulder? Life is full of mysteries. I was too young to see it when it came out, or pay attention to the buzz surrounding it’s release, but I fell in love with it when I was older, and it remains one of my two favourite LA cop films, alongside Training Day. Kurt Russell throws himself headlong into one of the fiercest and most complex character arcs he has ever been in as Eldon Perry, an LAPD detective who comes from a long lineage of law enforcement. Eldon is a corrupt cop, but the important thing to realize about them is that they never consider themselves to be the bad guys which they are eventually labeled as. To him he’s on a righteous crusade, led by Captain Jack Van Meter (a purely evil Brendan Gleeson), a quest to clear the streets using any means necessary in his power. Eldon is blind to to the broken operative he has let himself become, questioned only by his wife (Lolita Davidvitch) and son, who are both thoroughly scared of him. The film takes place during the time of the Rodney King beating, with tensions on the rise following the acquittal of four LAPD officers. Ving Rhames is resilient as Holland, the one honcho in the department who isn’t rotten or on his way there, a knight for the force and a desperate loyalist trying to smoke out the corruption. Perry is assigned a rookie partner (Scott Speedman) and begins to show him the ropes, which include his patented brand of excessive force and intimidation. As crime ratchets up and a storm brews, Perry realizes that his blind trust in Van Meter and his agenda has been gravely misplaced, and could lead to his end. It’s a dream of an arc for any actor to take on, and Russell is seems is the perfect guy for the job. He fashions Perry into a reprehensible antihero whose actions have consequences, but not before a good long look in the mirror and the option to change the tides and find some redemption, before it’s far too late. It’s not so common anymore for crime films to cut through the fat of intrigue and action, reaching the gristle of human choices, morality and the grey areas that permeate every institution know to man, especially law enforcement. Working from a David Ayer screenplay based on a story by James Ellroy (hence the refreshing complexity), director Ron Shelton and everyone else onboard pull their weight heftily to bring this difficult, challenging, sure fire winner of a crime drama to life. Overlooked stuff.