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‘Under Siege 2: Dark Territory’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 15, 1995

With "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory," Steven Seagal finds himself on considerably less deadly ground than he was last year portraying a spiritual but violent environmentalist in Alaska. Here, he returns to the familiar territory of 1992's "Under Siege," reviving the character of Casey Ryback, the Navy Seal instructor turned chef who finds himself in the middle of terrorist schemes with summer-movie regularity.

The original "Under Siege" could have been titled "Die Hard on Water," and this sequel simply shifts the actions, and much of its predecessor's plot, to a train, one that's been commandeered by a cadre of homegrown terrorists. Ryback is aboard because he's heading west for a vacation with his late brother's daughter (Katherine Heigl); as fate and the writers have it, when the takeover occurs, Ryback's in the kitchen with dynamite. Uncaptured, he spends the rest of the film evening the odds against himself and, coincidentally, saving the Washington metropolitan area from nuclear annihilation.

Unlike the plot of "Die Hard 3," which is merely silly, "Under Siege 2" overreaches in the apocalyptic tradition of James Bond. The main bad guy is mad scientist Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian), whose firing by the government has made our capital city the target for his top-secret Star Wars-style satellite weapon.

Dane and his mercenaries have commandeered the Grand Continental train as a mobile, hard-to-trace command center. In Washington, there's yet another situation room with some familiar faces (Nick Mancuso and Andy Romano). However, the first film's reluctant heroine has been replaced by a reluctant hero, the terrified train porter (Morris Chesnut, the tragic football player from "Boyz N the Hood"). It's a battle of wills between Ryback and the mercenaries led by the vicious Penn (Everett McGill) and the increasingly out-of-control Dane.

In the first "Under Siege," it wasn't just the hijacked battleship Seagal had to overcome, it was over-the-top villains portrayed by scene-stealers Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey. Neither Bogosian nor McGill is at that level; Bogosian seemed much more dangerous as host Barry Champlain in "Talk Radio."

As for the train, it's as big as a battleship, which provides plenty of room for the gun battles and the martial arts encounters that are Seagal's trademarks. Although Seagal's soft-spoken manner and unruffled demeanor seem labored, at least this time the audience doesn't have to sit through the kind of lecture that ended his last film, "On Deadly Ground." It's fists and feet that do the talking in "Under Siege 2," and they prove eloquent enough.

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory is rated R and contains the requisite violence.

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