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August 31, 2007
Under Siege - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/11/19926/12/2006Warner BrothersAndrew Davis
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DD5.1 640kbpsMA15+Steven Segal

In the early 1990's Steven Segal burst onto the movie scene as an action star worth keeping an eye on. His early movies including Above the Law, Out for Justice and Hard to Kill earnt him much praise and commercial success. In 1992 though he released what remains one of his biggest, and most popular movies to date, Under Siege. Does this movie hold up well after 15 years? You better believe it.

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Steven Segal as Casey Ryback...
USS Missouri welcomes aboard musicians and caterers set to provide entertainment during the famed battleship's last voyage. The visitors throw a party, all right. A war party. Led by a rogue CIA operative (Tommy Lee Jones) and a turncoat officer (Gary Busey), they're really killer-elite commandos out to hijack the ship's nuclear arsenal. They overpower the crew. Except for one man. "I'm just a cook" that man says. But he's a cook with a recipe for action. He's ex-Navy SEAL and highly decorated combat operative Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal).

I fell in love with this movie at the cinemas and having not watched it for several years was keen to see how it holds up compared to today’s action movies. Fortunately my love for this movie hasn't changed. Be it the crazy antics of Tommy Lee Jones' character, the hard-arsedness of Gary Busey, or the innocence of Erika Eleniak as Jordan Tate everyone plays their role in the movie. Steven Segal if often criticised as playing the same character in his movies, but this really is his standout role. The action is pretty good from start to finish and the finale is exactly what one would expect from a 1990's action movie. It's not the greatest movie ever admittedly, but it still holds up as a solid action title to this day.

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At least Tommy Lee is happy to be there!
Being released in late 2006 this was one of the earlier releases on Blu-Ray in Australia, but the good news is that Warner Brothers have used the VC-1 codec to encode the movie. The result is that while not perfect the transfer of this 15 year old movie is quite a bit better then we expected. Initially we were concerned as the movie had some telecine wobble on the opening credits however when the actual image bursts onto the screen this is soon forgotten as you see the gorgeous USS Missouri steaming into Pearl Harbour. The amount of visible detail on the ship as the camera pans over and around it is impressive and you truly get a sense of scale with the sailors moving around the deck. This really is a great scene to show off a difference between Blu-Ray and DVD. The colours throughout the transfer are bright and clear and even in the darker nighttime scenes detail is impressive.

There are a couple of issues though. As well as the previously mentioned telecine wobble the movie does have some grain present, particularly in the darker scenes. Some of the scenes are also a little on the soft and blurry side. While that was probably hidden by the lower resolution of VHS tapes and DVD the higher resolution and sharpness we've come to expect from Blu-Ray shows off flaws like this - which in all honesty may have been a part of the source material rather then the compression for this disc.

Warner Brothers have a solid track record of audio on their Blu-Ray discs, but they're not really pushing the format much at all. There's no High-Definition audio (such as DTS-HD) on this disc which is a disappointment. What we do get is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps. Compared to today's big budget movies the sound is a little flat - but we can't mark a movie down too much due to the limitations of the time. Having said that Under Siege has a wide range of impressive effects including explosions, gunfire and ambient 'ship' noises. All are wonderfully reproduced in this audio transfer. Dialogue is clear throughout and it's not a stretch to say this is the best we've ever heard - and will likely ever hear - this movie sound.

Warner Brothers have also included a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 640kbps and a Spanish Stereo track at 192kbps. Strangely we didn't find the audio on the French track - which is the same bitrate as the English one - as clear with less fidelity to the sound. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and English for the Hearing Impared.

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Yar, nice hat Segal...
Those looking for a decent set of extras will need to look elsewhere are this is a pretty barebones release in that department - with only a trailer to keep you entertained. Given that the movie grossed $US156 million worldwide in 1992 it's pretty depressing that this movie has never really been given a Special Edition treatment.

Theatrical Trailer (1:49):

    The trailer for Under Siege presented with MPEG-2 compression and in Standard Definition.

As Steven Segal's best movie it's nice to have this on Blu-Ray, and with a RRP of only $AU29.95 it really is great value. The video and audio is acceptable given the age of the movie and while the lack of extras disappoints this is still a solid enough disc to add to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Warner Brothers. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.