Executive Decision (1996; USA; Technicolor; 133m) ∗∗∗½ d. Stuart Baird; w. Jim Thomas, John Thomas; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, David Suchet, Joe Morton, J.T. Walsh, Mary Ellen Trainor, Len Cariou, B.D. Wong, Whip Hubley, Andreas Katsulas, Marla Maples, William James Jones. When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a mid-air boarding operation. Well directed and suspenseful thriller that makes the most of its formulaic script. Russell scores as fish-out-of-water analyst thrown into the heat of the action and Suchet is also excellent as the single-minded terrorist leader. Only downside is it produces one grandstand finale too many. 
Above the Law (1988; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗ d. Andrew Davis; w. Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal; ph. Robert Steadman; m. David Michael Frank; ed. Michael Brown. Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Daniel Faraldo, Ron Dean, Jack Wallace, Henry Silva. An ex-CIA policeman working for the local police department, while doing an investigation discovers the existence of a big weapon trade. Seagal has the physical attributes but not the charisma of a Clint Eastwood. The plot is used merely as a prop from which to hang a number of admittedly polished action scenes. Aka: NICO: ABOVE THE LAW. 
Absence of Malice (1981; USA; Colour; 117m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Sydney Pollack; w. Kurt Luedtke; ph. Owen Roizman; m. Dave Grusin; ed. Sheldon Kahn. Cast: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Luther Adler, Barry Primus, Josef Sommer, John Harkins, Don Hood, Wilford Brimley, Arnie Ross, Anna Marie Napoles. When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. Absorbing and well-made conspiracy thriller with excellent star turns from Newmand and Field. Adler’s last film. [PG]
The Big Store (1941; USA; B&W; 83m) ∗∗∗ d. Charles Reisner; w. Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. George Stoll (musical director); ed. Conrad A. Nervig. Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O’Brien. A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store’s crooked manager. Although the musical interludes threaten to drown the comedy there is much here to enjoy notably Groucho’s rendition of “Sing While You Sell” and the slapstick finale chase through the department store. Based on a story by Nat Perrin. The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more. [U]
Casino Royale (1967; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗ d. Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest; w. Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Burt Bacharach; ed. Bill Lenny. Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Daliah Lavi, John Huston, George Raft, Joanna Pettet, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kasznar, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O’Toole. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH. Out-of-control spoof is interesting mainly for its cast and Burt Bacharach’s score. The whole thing, though, is ill-conceived and loses its way completely in a free-for-all climax. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]
Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold; ed. Stuart Baird. Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening sequence and the plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. 
UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY (1995, Dark Territory Productions, USA, 100 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, SDDS/Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Action/Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Steven Seagal (Casey Ryback), Eric Bogosian (Travis Dane), Everett McGill (Marcus Penn), Katherine Heigl (Sarah Ryback), Morris Chestnut (Bobby Zachs), Peter Greene (Mercenary #1), Patrick Kilpatrick (Mercenary #2), Scott Sowers (Mercenary #3), Afifi Alaouie (Female Mercenary), Andy Romano (Admiral Bates), Brenda Bakke (Captain Linda Gilder), Sandra Taylor (Kelly, Barmaid), Jonathan Banks (Scotty, Mercenary), David Gianopoulos (Captain David Trilling), Royce D. Applegate (Ryback’s Cook), Nick Mancuso (Tom Breaker).
Producer: Arnon Milchan, Steven Seagal, Steve Perry; Director: Geoff Murphy; Writer: Richard Hatem, Matt Reeves (based on characters created by J. F. Lawton); Director of Photography: Robbie Greenberg (Technicolor); Music: Basil Poledouris; Film Editor: Michael Tronick; Production Designer: Albert Brenner; Art Director: Carol Winstead Wood; Set Decorator: Kathe Klopp; Costume Designer: Richard Bruno.
In this sequel to Seagal’s UNDER SIEGE Casey Ryback gets on board a train travelling from Colorado to LA to start a vacation with his niece. However, in an extraordinary case of deja-vu a group of terrorists take over the train in order to use it as a base from which to hijack a top secret US satellite carrying deadly weapons.
It’s basically more of the same and for anyone who enjoyed the first they will likely enjoy this. However whereas the first had elements of class amongst the cheese – notably Tommy Lee Jones and the tight direction of Andrew Davis – here the villains are even more one-dimensional and the direction is merely competent and lacking in flair. Seagal, if anything, is more wooden when delivering his lines than in the first film, but his physical presence makes up for his shortcomings as an actor. There are good supporting roles for Chestnut as a porter who becomes Seagal’s unwitting sidekick and Heigl as his stroppy niece. McGill, as a heavy, makes a good serious contrast to Bogosian’s wildly overblown chief villain.
The confines of the setting limits the film’s opportunities for action set pieces, which begin to become repetitive as it progresses. The end result is a functional, but overly-derivative action thriller that whilst watchable offers nothing new.
UNDER SIEGE (1992, Northwest Productions, USA, 102 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Action/Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Steven Seagal (Casey Ryback), Tommy Lee Jones (William Stranix), Gary Busey (Cmdr. Krill), Erika Eleniak (Jordan Tate), Colm Meaney (Doumer), Patrick O’Neal (Capt. Adams), Andy Romano (Adm. Bates), Nick Mancuso (Tom Breaker), Damian Chapa (Tackman), Troy Evans (Granger), David McKnight (Flicker), Lee Hinton (Cue Ball), Glenn Morshower (Ens. Taylor), Leo Alexander (Lt. Smart), John Rottger (Cmdr. Green).
Producer: Arnon Milchan, Steven Seagal, Steven Reuther; Director: Andrew Davis; Writer: J. F. Lawton; Director of Photography: Frank Tidy; Music: Gary Chang; Film Editor: Robert A. Ferretti, Dennis Virkler, Don Brochu, Dov Hoenig; Production Designer: Bill Kenney; Art Director: William Hiney; Set Decorator: Rick Gentz; Costume Designer: Richard Bruno.
Action hero Steven Seagal plays a former Navy S.E.A.L., who is now a cook and is the only person who can stop a gang of terrorists after they seize control of a U.S. battleship containing nuclear warheads.
Basically DIE HARD on a battleship, this is a serviceable action thriller typical of the star and of its time. Whilst Seagal has a physical presence on screen, he lacks charisma. Tommy Lee Jones, on the other hand, more than compensates with an enjoyably unhinged performance as the chief terrorist. Busey, however, adopts an overly broad approach that cheapens the thrills and is at odds with O’Neal’s more naturalistic style as the ship’s captain. Eleniak is along as eye-candy and to deliver dumb lines. Director Andrew Davis wrestles between macho action thrills and a tongue-in-cheek humour and mostly succeeds in keeping our interest and stops us from dwelling too long on the improbability of the plot with his well-paced edit.
A sequel, UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY followed in 1975 – this time set aboard a train.