Under Siege

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Under Siege
StevenSeagalUnderSiege cover.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Davis[1]
Produced by
Written byJ. F. Lawton
Music by
CinematographyFrank Tidy
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 9, 1992 (1992-10-09)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$156.6 million

Under Siege is a 1992 American action-thriller film directed by Andrew Davis and written by J. F. Lawton. It stars Steven Seagal as an ex-Navy SEAL who must stop a group of mercenaries, led by Tommy Lee Jones, on the U.S. Navy battleship USS Missouri.[3] It is Seagal's most successful film in critical and financial terms, including two Oscar nominations for sound production. The musical score was composed by Gary Chang. It was followed by a 1995 sequel, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.


The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) arrives at Pearl Harbor, where George H. W. Bush announces that the ship will be decommissioned in California, making the trip her final voyage. Casey Ryback, a Chief Petty Officer assigned as a cook, prepares meals in celebration of the birthday of Captain Adams, against the orders of Commander Krill, who is having food and entertainment brought by helicopter.

Krill provokes a brawl with Ryback. Unable to imprison Ryback in the brig without clearance from the captain, Krill detains Ryback in a freezer and places a Marine, Private Nash, on guard. A helicopter lands on the ship's deck with a musical band, along with Playmate Jordan Tate and a group of caterers who are really a band of mercenaries led by ex-CIA operative William "Bill" Strannix.

Strannix' forces seize control of the ship with Krill's help. Several officers are killed, including Adams. Ryback hears the gunshots and begs Nash to free him, but Nash refuses, having been told by Krill that they heard party poppers instead. The surviving ship's company are imprisoned in the forecastle, except for some stragglers in unsecured areas. Strannix intends to sell the ship's Tomahawks by unloading them onto a submarine he previously stole from North Korea. The CIA tried assassinating him prior to the events of the film. Strannix and his men take over the ship's weapon systems, shooting down a jet sent to investigate, and plan on covering their escape by using missiles to obliterate tracking systems in Pearl Harbor.

Krill realizes they forgot about Ryback and learns the kitchen is an unsecured area. Strannix sends two mercenaries to eliminate Ryback and Nash. Nash is killed, but Ryback eliminates the assassins.

Ryback contacts Admiral Bates at the Pentagon on satellite phone, whereupon the Navy plans to send a SEAL team to retake the ship. Krill discovers Ryback is not just a chief petty officer but a former Navy SEAL with extensive training in anti-terrorism tactics. To keep the missile-theft plan in place, Krill activates the fire suppression system in the forecastle, leaving the crew members to drown. The terrorists expect that Ryback will try to save his colleagues, and set up an ambush.

Ryback hears six sailors banging on pipes in Morse code and rescues them. Together, they overcome the ambush, shut off the water in the forecastle, and eliminate several terrorists. Ryback shuts down the Missouri's weapon systems to allow the incoming Navy SEALs to land. However, the submarine crew shoots down the helicopter carrying the Navy SEALs with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. The Pentagon responds by ordering an air strike that will sink the Missouri. Strannix regains control of the ship's weapon systems and loads the Tomahawks onto the submarine. With the aid of a retired World War II Gunner's Mate, who was among the six sailors rescued earlier, Ryback uses the battleship's 16 inch guns to sink the submarine, killing Krill and everyone on board.

Strannix suffers a major concussion from being in the proximity of the Missouri's guns as they are fired. He launches two nuclear-tipped Tomahawks towards Honolulu. As the sailors recapture the ship, Ryback finds his way into the control room, where he is surprised by Strannix, both of whom realize they know each other from prior covert experiences. Ryback disarms Strannix, and the two engage in a knife melee. Ryback gains the upper hand and stabs Strannix through the top of his head before ramming him into a computer monitor. Ryback takes the launch code disk needed to self-destruct the Tomahawk missiles. A jet destroys one of the missiles, and the other is deactivated just in time; the Navy calls off its airstrike.

The remaining crew members are freed as the ship sails towards San Francisco harbor. Ryback is checked by a Navy doctor, kissing Jordan as the crew looks on and cheers. A funeral ceremony for Captain Adams is held on the deck of the Missouri, showing the Captain's casket with a flag draped over it and Ryback saluting in his formal dress uniform with full decorations.


USS Missouri
  • Steven Seagal as Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback, a former Navy SEAL who now serves as the personal cook for the captain of the USS Missouri.
  • Tommy Lee Jones as William "Bill" Strannix, a renegade, embittered ex-CIA operative who leads the team of terrorists.
  • Gary Busey as Krill, Missouri's sociopathic, corrupt executive officer who serves as Strannix's inside man & second-in-command.
  • Erika Eleniak as Jordan Tate, a Playboy Playmate model who came on board to entertain the ship's personnel, and becomes Ryback's sidekick for the course of the movie.
  • Colm Meaney as Daumer, Strannix's third-in-command
  • Patrick O'Neal as Captain Adams, Commanding Officer of Missouri.
  • Andy Romano as Admiral Bates, a high-ranking member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Dale Dye as Captain Nick Garza, Admiral Bates's advisor. Garza is a SEAL who vouches for Ryback.
  • Nick Mancuso as Tom Breaker, the CIA director and Strannix's former boss.
  • Damian Chapa as Tackman, a sailor on board Missouri.
  • Tom Wood as Private Nash, a naive United States Marine.
  • Troy Evans as Granger, an officer aboard the ship.
  • Dennis Lipscomb as Trenton, National Security Advisor.
  • David McKnight as Flicker, an officer aboard the ship.
  • Lee Hinton as "Cue Ball".
  • Bernie Casey as Commander Harris.
  • Glenn Morshower as Ensign Taylor, an arrogant junior officer who strongly dislikes Ryback.
  • Leo Alexander as Lieutenant Smart.
  • John Rottger as Commander Green, Operations Officer.
  • Raymond Cruz as Ramirez, Ryback's assistant cook.
  • Sandy Ward as Callaway, a retired World War II Gunner's Mate on board Missouri.
  • Eddie Bo Smith Jr. as Shadow, one of Strannix’s henchmen.
  • Richard Andrew Jones as Pitt, Strannix's technician.
  • Dru Ann Carlson as Captain Spellman, Admiral Bates's aide.
  • George Cheung as a commando, Pitt’s technical assistant (credited as George Kee Cheung).
  • Kane Hodder as a commando.
  • George H. W. Bush as himself (archive footage, uncredited).
  • Barbara Bush as herself (archive footage, uncredited).


The film was based on an original spec script by J.F. Lawton called Dreadnought which sold for $1 million.[4]

Warners wanted Steven Seagal to star in the film but he turned it down at first. Seagal later said he had problems with the role of a character "who is at first a bimbo jumping out of a cake and gets paired up with me." But he said that in revisions of the script, the role became a character "who gradually reveals her intelligence."[5]

Lawton said "We are trying to make him [Seagal] more mainstream . . . getting him out of the pure action genre and into an acting role." The writer added "I'm trying to bring the budget within a reasonable range. The original script was almost irresponsible, with things like battleships getting blown up... The way it was, Dreadnought would have cost $100 million-plus to make. Now we're looking at the $30 million range... It was Steven's idea to fit the Pearl Harbor Memorial into the film, because all these incredible ships would be there - a spectacular sight."[6]

Director Andrew Davis had previously made Above the Law with Steven Seagal. Davis later said "Terry Semel wanted us to get back together again saying that Seagal was "only in the movie 41 minutes. Tommy Lee is in the movie longer than Steven. It was fine, it was fine. It worked out well. We had a nice time down in Mobile and had a lot of fun making the movie, and that was the movie that got me The Fugitive so it was worth it."[7]

The USS Alabama museum ship stood in for most of the Missouri sequences, and the USS Drum portrayed the North Korean submarine.[citation needed]

The film makes extensive use of the Introvision process, a variation of front projection that allows realistic three-dimensional interaction of foreground characters with projected backgrounds without the heavy cost of traditional bluescreen effects.[8] The technique was also used in the films Outland, Megaforce, Army of Darkness and Andrew Davis' later film, The Fugitive.[8]

"Most people are surprised that the film is as sophisticated as it is," Davis said. "It appeals to people who have a point of view about nuclear weapons and the story thrusts you into an incredible situation that is not far-fetched."[5]

Critical and box office reception[edit]

On its opening weekend, Under Siege made $15,760,003 from 2,042 theaters, with a $7,717 average.[9][10] From there, it went on to make $83,563,139. Worldwide, it made $156,563,139.[11] At the time, it was the most successful film that had not been screened for any critics prior to its release.

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[12]

Reviewers praised Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey's performances as the film's villains.[13][14][15] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 77% based on reviews from 26 critics.[16] This is one of the few Steven Seagal films to be certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, along with Executive Decision and Machete, being called "Die Hard on a battleship" by film critics.

It was also the only Seagal movie to receive an Academy Award nomination, earning two nominations for Best Sound Effects Editing (John Leveque and Bruce Stambler) and for Best Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Frank A. Montaño, Rick Hart and Scott D. Smith).[17] However, it did not win in either category.

Harrison Ford saw a rough cut of the film and approved director Andrew Davis for The Fugitive (1993).[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fox, David J. (1992-10-20). "Seagal Has Blast With Unlikely Success of 'Siege'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  2. ^ Muzila, Tom (November 1992). "Seagal Strikes Back at Terrorists in New Flick". Black Belt. 30 (11): 106.
  3. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (1992-10-26). "The Talk of Hollywood; Director Who Blends Action With a Bit of Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  4. ^ Kathy O'Malley, &. D. C. (1991, Oct 29). O'malley & collin INC. Chicago Tribune (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Proquest.com
  5. ^ a b Fox, David (October 20, 1992). "Under Siege' Blasts Off for Seagal : Movies: The action-film star credits some 'human moments' and humor for $30.3 million in box-office sales in 11 days". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ Beck, M., & Smith, S. J. (1991, Dec 10). A bit kinder, gentler steven seagal coming. Austin American Statesman Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/256190680?accountid=13902
  8. ^ a b Marx, Andy (1994-02-21). "Introvision sees the 'Light'". Variety. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  9. ^ Fox, David J. (1992-10-13). "Weekend Box Office A Bang-Up Opening for `Under Siege'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
  10. ^ Fox, David J. (1992-10-20). "Seagal Has Blast With Unlikely Success of 'Siege'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  11. ^ "Under Siege". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  12. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  13. ^ "Under Siege". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  14. ^ Canby, Vincent (1992-10-09). "Review/Film; Steven Seagal on a Ship in Hot Water". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  15. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1992-10-09). "'Under Siege' Delivers Laughs, Thrills". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  16. ^ Under Siege at Rotten Tomatoes
  17. ^ "The 65th Academy Awards (1993) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  18. ^ "Andrew Davis Interview". The Hollywood Interview. April 2012.

External links[edit]