Under Siege

Last updated

Under Siege
StevenSeagalUnderSiege cover.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Davis [1]
Written by J. F. Lawton
Produced by
Cinematography Frank Tidy
Edited by
Music by Gary Chang
Distributed by Warner 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 a former Navy SEAL who must stop a group of mercenaries, led by Tommy Lee Jones, on the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri. [3]


Released on October 9, 1992, Under Siege was successful in critical and financial terms, receiving two Oscar nominations for sound production and is often considered Seagal's best film to date. [4] The musical score was composed by Gary Chang. It was followed by a 1995 sequel, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory , which was less positively received.


The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) arrives at Pearl Harbor, where then-President George H. W. Bush announces that the ship will be decommissioned in California. Casey Ryback, a Chief Petty Officer assigned as a culinary specialist, prepares meals in celebration of the birthday of Commanding Officer Captain Adams, against the orders of Executive Officer 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 Marine Private Nash on guard. A helicopter lands on the ship's deck with a musical band and a group of caterers ( who are in fact a band of mercenaries led by disillusioned former CIA operative William "Bill" Strannix ) and also long with Playboy Playmate Jordan Tate.

Strannix's forces seize control of the ship with Krill's help. Several officers are killed, including Captain Adams. The surviving ship's company are imprisoned in the forecastle, except for some stragglers in unsecured areas. Ryback hears the gunshots and persuades Nash to call the bridge, inadvertently alerting Strannix of this loose end. Strannix sends two mercenaries to eliminate Ryback and Nash. Nash is killed, but Ryback slays the assassins, runs into Tate, who was sedated during the takeover, and reluctantly allows her to tag along.

Strannix and his men seize control of 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. Strannix intends to sell the ship's Tomahawks by unloading them onto a submarine he previously stole from North Korea, as revenge for the CIA trying to assassinate him prior to the events of the film.

Strannix contacts Admiral Bates at the Pentagon to make demands, but then learns that Ryback has escaped. Krill discovers that Ryback is a former Navy SEAL with extensive training in counterterrorism tactics; Captain Adams kept him on as a cook after Ryback was demoted for striking a superior officer because a mission went wrong due to inadequate intel, and Krill was unaware of this beforehand as Ryback's file was kept in the captain's personal safe. Ryback contacts Bates and is told that the Navy plans to send a SEAL team to retake the ship. Ryback moves throughout the ship, eliminating any hijackers he comes across. 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 correctly assume this will force Ryback to refocus his efforts to rescue his crew mates, and set up an ambush in anticipation.

Ryback and Tate come upon six imprisoned sailors. Together, they overcome the ambush and shut off the water in the forecastle. Ryback shuts down Missouri's weapon systems to allow the incoming Navy SEALs to land, but 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 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 among the rescued sailors, Ryback uses the battleship's 16 inch guns to attack the submarine, killing Krill and everyone on board.

His plan foiled, Strannix launches two retaliatory nuclear-tipped Tomahawks towards Honolulu. As the sailors recapture the ship, Ryback finds his way into the control room, where he encounters Strannix; Ryback recognizes Strannix as his former superior officer from multiple operations they participated in while deployed abroad and the two engage in a knife fight. Ryback gains the upper hand and kills Strannix, then uses the launch code disk needed to destroy 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. A funeral ceremony for Captain Adams is held on the deck of Missouri, showing Ryback saluting the captain's casket in his formal dress uniform with full decorations.


USS Missouri Missouri post refit.JPG
USS Missouri


The film was based on an original spec script by J. F. Lawton called Dreadnought which sold for $1 million. [5]

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." [6]

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." [7]

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." [8]

USS Alabama (serving as a museum) stood in for many of the Missouri sequences, and USS Drum (museum ship) portrayed the North Korean submarine. [9]

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. [10] The technique was also used in the films Outland , Megaforce , Army of Darkness and Andrew Davis' later film, The Fugitive . [10]

"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." [6]

The original title Dreadnought did not test well with audiences, the marketing department wanted to give the film a three word title like other Seagal films and came up with the title Last to Surrender. Lawton and Seagal both hated the title, and Seagal fought to have it changed, and the film ended up with the title Under Siege. [11]


Box office

On its opening weekend, Under Siege made $15,760,003 from 2,042 theaters, with a $7,717 average. [12] [13] From there, it went on to make $83,563,139. Worldwide, it made $156,563,139. [14] At the time, it was the most successful film that had not been screened for any critics prior to its release.

Critical response

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale. [15]

Reviewers praised Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey's performances as the film's villains. [16] [17] [18] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 79% based on reviews from 28 critics. The site's consensus states: "A well-directed action thriller that makes the most of its confined setting, Under Siege marks a high point for early '90s action—and its star's spotty filmography." [19] 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). [20] 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). [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Soviet submarine <i>K-219</i>

K-219 was a Project 667A Navaga-class ballistic missile submarine of the Soviet Navy. It carried 16 R-27U liquid-fuel missiles powered by UDMH with nitrogen tetroxide (NTO), and equipped with either 32 or 48 nuclear warheads. K-219 was involved in what has become one of the most controversial submarine incidents during the Cold War on Friday 3 October 1986. The 15-year-old vessel, which was on an otherwise routine Cold War nuclear deterrence patrol in the North Atlantic 1,090 kilometres (680 mi) northeast of Bermuda, suffered an explosion and fire in a missile tube. While underway submerged the seal in a missile hatch cover failed, allowing high-pressure seawater to enter the missile tube and owing to the pressure differential rupture the missile fuel tanks, allowing missile's liquid fuel to mix and ultimately combust. Though there was no official announcement, the Soviet Union claimed the leak was caused by a collision with the submarine USS Augusta. Although the Augusta was operating within the area, both the United States Navy and the commander of K-219, Captain Second Rank Igor Britanov, deny that a collision took place.

Tomahawk (missile) Long-range, subsonic cruise missile

The TomahawkLand Attack Missile (TLAM) is a long-range, all-weather, jet-powered, subsonic cruise missile that is primarily used by the United States Navy and Royal Navy in ship- and submarine-based land-attack operations.

Steven Seagal American actor, martial artist, and film producer

Steven Frederic Seagal is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, martial artist, and musician.

<i>Under Siege 2: Dark Territory</i> 1995 American film

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is a 1995 American action thriller film directed by Geoff Murphy, starring Steven Seagal as the ex-Navy SEAL, Casey Ryback. Set on board a train traveling through the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Los Angeles, it is the sequel to the 1992 film Under Siege also starring Seagal. The title refers to the railroading term that the subject train was travelling through dark territory, a section of railroad track that has no train signals and in which communications between train dispatchers and the railroad engineers were impossible.

USS <i>Missouri</i> (BB-63) Iowa-class battleship of the U.S. Navy

USS Missouri (BB-63) is an Iowa-class battleship and was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named after the U.S. state of Missouri. Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, which ended World War II.

USS <i>Cheyenne</i> (SSN-773) Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine of the US Navy

USS Cheyenne (SSN-773), the final Los Angeles-class submarine, is the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for Cheyenne, Wyoming. The contract to build her was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia on 28 November 1989 and her keel was laid down on 6 July 1992. She was launched on 16 April 1995 sponsored by Mrs. Ann Simpson, wife of Wyoming Senator Alan K. Simpson, and commissioned on 13 September 1996, with Commander Peter H. Ozimik in command. Cheyenne transferred to her homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1998.

600-ship Navy United States Cold War-era defense plan

The 600-ship Navy was a strategic plan of the United States Navy during the 1980s to rebuild its fleet after cutbacks that followed the end of the Vietnam War. The plan, which originated with Republican leaders, was an important campaign plank of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, who advocated a larger military and strategic confrontation with the Soviet Union.

There are three major types of submarines in the United States Navy: ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, and cruise missile submarines. All submarines in the U.S. Navy are nuclear-powered. Ballistic missile submarines have a single strategic mission of carrying nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Attack submarines have several tactical missions, including sinking ships and subs, launching cruise missiles, and gathering intelligence.

<i>Crimson Tide</i> (film) 1995 film by Tony Scott

Crimson Tide is a 1995 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. It takes place during a period of political turmoil in the Russian Federation, in which ultranationalists threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States and Japan.

A conning tower is a raised platform on a ship or submarine, often armored, from which an officer in charge can conn the vessel, controlling movements of the ship by giving orders to those responsible for the ship's engine, rudder, lines, and ground tackle. It is usually located as high on the ship as practical, to give the conning team good visibility of the entirety of the ship, ocean conditions, and other vessels.

J. F. Lawton American film director, producer and screenwriter

Jonathan Frederick Lawton is an American screenwriter, producer and director. His screen credits include the box office hit Pretty Woman, Mistress, Blankman, Under Siege, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, The Hunted, Chain Reaction, DOA: Dead or Alive, Jackson, and the TV series V.I.P. Under the assumed name J.D. Athens, he wrote and directed Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death and Pizza Man.

Royal Navy Submarine Service Military unit

The Royal Navy Submarine Service is one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes known as the Silent Service, as submarines are generally required to operate undetected.

United States Navy SEALs in popular culture

This is a list of depictions of United States Navy SEALs in popular culture. The U.S. Navy SEALs are the U.S. Navy's principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command and United States Special Operations Command.

Armament of the <i>Iowa</i>-class battleship Armament of WWII battleship

The Iowa-class battleships are the most heavily armed gunships the United States Navy has ever put to sea, due to the continual development of their onboard weaponry. The first Iowa-class ship was laid down in June 1940; in their World War II configuration, each of the Iowa-class battleships had a main battery of 16-inch (406 mm) guns that could hit targets nearly 20 statute miles (32 km) away with a variety of artillery shells designed for anti-ship or bombardment work. The secondary battery of 5-inch (127 mm) guns could hit targets nearly 9 statute miles (14 km) away with solid projectiles or proximity fuzed shells, and was effective in an anti-aircraft role as well. Each of the four battleships carried a wide array of 20 mm and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns for defense against enemy aircraft.

Casey Ryback Fictional character

Casey Ryback is a fictional character and action hero from the Under Siege films of the 1990s. Played by Hollywood action star Steven Seagal, Ryback is a chief petty officer, culinary specialist and former Navy SEAL operator with top training in martial arts, explosives, special-weapons and tactics. He appears in the 1992 film Under Siege and its sequel, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, in 1995.

Ryback is a surname, a spelling variant of Rybak. Notable people with this surname include:

United States battleship retirement debate

The United States battleship retirement debate was a debate among the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Congress, and independent groups over the effectiveness of naval gunfire support (NGFS) provided by Iowa-class battleships, and whether or not an alternative should be implemented. The debate centered on the best way to provide fire support for amphibious assault and other troops near a shoreline.

<i>Battleship</i> (film) 2012 military science fiction film by Peter Berg based on the board game of the same name

Battleship is a 2012 American military science fiction action film loosely based on the board game of the same name. The film was directed by Peter Berg and stars Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano, and Liam Neeson. Filming took place in Hawaii and on USS Missouri. In the film, the crews of a small group of warships are forced to battle against a naval fleet of extraterrestrial origin in order to thwart their destructive goals.

The Interdiction Assault Ship (IAS) was an aircraft cruiser conversion project in 1980 for the Iowa-class battleships that would have removed the aft main gun turret. This would free up space for a V-shaped ramped flight deck, while a new hangar would be added with two elevators, which would support up to twelve McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets. These aviation facilities could also support helicopters, SEAL teams and up to 500 Marines for an air assault. In the empty space between the V flight deck would be up to 320 missile silos accommodating a mixture of Tomahawk land attack missiles, ASROC anti-submarine rockets and Standard surface-to-air missiles. The existing five-inch gun turrets would be replaced with 155-millimeter howitzers for naval gunfire support. These modifications would have required significant time and funding to achieve so it was never carried out, furthermore the Department of Defense and the Navy wanted the Iowa battleships reactivated as quickly as possible.


  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. "The 10 Best Steven Seagal Movies, Ranked". Screen Rant . Retrieved 19 March 2019. Under Siege is possibly Steven Seagal's most famous action movie, and arguably his best.
  5. Kathy O'Malley, &. D. C. (Oct 29, 1991). "O'malley & collin INC". Chicago Tribune. ProQuest   283016657.
  6. 1 2 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.
  7. Beck, M., & Smith, S. J. (Dec 10, 1991). "A bit kinder, gentler steven seagal coming". Austin American-Statesman. ProQuest   256190680.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. Rayner, Jonathan (2013). The Naval War Film: Genre, History and National Cinema. Manchester University Press. ISBN   9781847796257.
  10. 1 2 Marx, Andy (1994-02-21). "Introvision sees the 'Light'". Variety. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  11. Marx, Andy (9 October 1992). "Two-word title twice as nice for Steven Seagal". Variety.
  12. Fox, David J. (1992-10-13). "Weekend Box Office A Bang-Up Opening for 'Under Siege'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
  13. Fox, David J. (1992-10-20). "Seagal Has Blast With Unlikely Success of 'Siege'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  14. "Under Siege". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  15. "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  16. Roger Ebert. "Under Siege". Chicago Sun-Times . Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  17. 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.
  18. Wilmington, Michael (1992-10-09). "'Under Siege' Delivers Laughs, Thrills". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-09-10.
  19. Under Siege at Rotten Tomatoes
  20. "The 65th Academy Awards (1993) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  21. "Andrew Davis Interview". The Hollywood Interview. April 2012.