Pic once again adopts the “wrong guy at the right time” premise. This time, Seagal’s former CIA black op, Casey Ryback, just happens to be on a train that just happens to get hijacked by wacko terrorists with diabolical plans for world devastation. Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian) is a disaffected strategic arms techno genius who wants a cool billion not to set off missiles from a covert, orbiting death star he created prior to being fired for nuttiness. He has assembled a platoon of steely-eyed soldiers of fortune to take over a train and set up his base camp.
There’s some mumbo-jumbo explaining that as long as the operation is mobile it’s undetectable, thanks to some clever blocking device Dane has concocted.
Thankfully, for the world, Ryback is also aboard, escorting his teenage niece (Katherine Heigl) to L.A. for the funeral of her father. When the Uzis come out, he goes into combat mode. The odds are 50-to-1, but, at the rate of a man a minute, he works from the caboose to the engine, eliminating every obstacle in his path.
The script by Richard Hatem and Matt Reeves cribs mercilessly from the structure devised by Jon Lawton in the original. But the writing duo effect a cut-and-paste job in which the actors battle to maintain some dignity while delivering stilted dialogue.
The exception is Seagal, who strides confidently through the wreckage with the self-knowledge of his standing as a movie star. Unfortunately, he’s betrayed every time he opens his mouth or is called on to display an emotion other than pain.
Bogosian provides some much-needed comic relief to the slogging tale. He turns in solid work, as does Everett McGill as his head strongman, but they and others are saddled with pedestrian dialogue and motivation. Others, including Nick Mancuso, pop in and out of the story without attention to laws of physics, and the scenes at the military command center are downright embarrassing. Director Geoff Murphy handles the action with the precision of a good traffic cop. In this hash, anything approaching flow is an achievement. Tech credits are slick, and several of the stunts and special effects are stunners. But the narrative lurches along with, one suspects, too much explanation left on the cutting room floor and a score too obvious in its telegraphing of action and heightening of Seagal’s heroic profile.
A third “Under Siege” outing without top-flight talent in key artistic positions will effectively guarantee the demise of this franchise. For starters, recasting the lead would be a bona fide improvement.