1990s R-Rated Action Blockbuster Is Genre Icon’s Best Character

By Robert Scucci | Published

I’ve been plowing through several Steven Seagal titles because he tends to play the same character repeatedly, and it’s so incredibly amusing to me in every single context. Under Siege is just one of many films starring Steven Seagal in which his character is highly skilled, can do no wrong, always takes the moral high road, and has a secret past that makes him extremely dangerous. While this kind of character archetype gets old fast, especially if it’s not done properly, I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due because Under Siege is an incredibly fun action thriller that has some serious staying power.

Steven Seagal’s Best Film

One of the common motifs that plays out in every single Steven Seagal movie is his elite and mysterious past affiliation with either the CIA or some sort of dangerous top-secret organization that makes him a walking and talking weapon, even though those days are supposedly behind him. In Under Siege, Seagal’s Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback works as a naval cook on the USS Missouri, but eventually shows his true colors when the vessel is hijacked by William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones) and his man on the inside, USS Missouri Commander Peter Krill (Gary Busey).

As laughable as this premise may seem when pitted against Seagal’s later efforts like Sniper Special Ops or Out for a Kill, Under Siege totally works because at least Ryback’s still on some sort of military payroll despite his current duties as a cafeteria worker.

Tommy Lee Jones Like You’ve Never Seen

From the ship’s initial hijacking to Steven Seagal’s somewhat believable expertise in counter-terrorism, Under Siege has relentless pacing and maintains a heightened state of conflict that doesn’t let up until the credits start to roll. Tommy Lee Jones, who is naturally typecast as somebody with a penchant for loudly delegating tasks to his mutinous subordinates, is the perfect villain because he’s unhinged enough to commandeer a military ship but level-headed enough to almost pull it off. It’s also worth noting that Tommy Lee Jones has more screen time than Steven Seagal, allowing for a healthy balance between the film’s protagonist and primary antagonist.

Martial Arts At Sea

In other words, even though Steven Seagal has top billing in Under Siege, his amazing supporting cast makes his role all the more convincing. Seagal is also a 7th-dan black belt in Aikido, which is a defensive form of martial arts and is used appropriately in this film. Instead of being a total Chad who punches first and asks questions later, Casey Ryback’s primary objective in Under Siege is holding down the fort, fighting off Strannix’s men, and saving his crew.

When it’s time for the final showdown in Under Siege, it’s after a considerable buildup that leaves Steven Seagal’s Ryback with no other option but to fight offensively.

An Unintentional Comedy

I’ve watched an unhealthy amount of Steven Seagal movies over the past several months, and I’ve watched them mostly for their unintentional comedy. I’ll be the first person to tell you that Will Sasso’s Steven Seagal impersonations on Mad TV are startlingly on-the-nose, but Under Siege is one of those films that takes every laughable aspect of the “decorated hero who can do no wrong” trope, and does it right.

You Need To Stream Under Siege At Least Once


If you have your reservations about Steven Seagal, which nobody will blame you for having, Under Siege is a solid action movie that was once referred to as “Die Hard on a battleship.” I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment and strongly recommend you check it out on-demand through Apple TV+, Google Play, YouTube, or Amazon Prime Video.