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Casey Ryback (Seagal) is a valued cook on the USS Missouri, which is undergoing one last party in Pearl Harbor before it goes to San Francisco to be decommissioned. The captain of the ship wanted Seagal to show up in his dress whites with full decorations, but he refused; he eventually said that the captain's birthday was tomorrow and he needed to make bouillabaisse for it, which lets him off the hook.
The captain's birthday is coming, and a surprise party is arranged. Food will be flown in, and so the pesky cook has to be Locked in a Freezer — though not before the bouillabaisse is spat on and he attempts bodily harm on the XO making the plans. He is guarded by someone on orders not to let him out or listen to him. He isn't let out...
Anyhow, this is an elaborate surprise party. There is a band featuring Tommy Lee Jones and a cake containing Miss July. Everyone is allowed off shift — though the captain didn't want that. And there's a clown car's worth of mercenaries ready to take over the ship once everyone's had enough champagne. That's right — a hijacking!
The captain and operations officer are killed; most of the rest of the crew is locked into the forecastle, and a few other soldiers get locked in the engine room. The hijackers now have control of a ship with nukes on it. It occurs to them that the kitchen, where our cook is, is not blocked off from the weapons room, so they send someone in to finish off the pesky cook...
Of course, the pesky cook kills him first, and leaves a bomb in a microwave when he finally escapes. He sneaks up to the captain's room, finds him dead, and finds the cake with Miss July in it, unopened. She's alive, but she's missed everything. She's also a self-proclaimed pacifist and The Load...
The XO then finds the cook's service record, which had been locked in the Captain's "eyes only" safe. When they do find it, they learn that he was a Navy SEAL, one of the best ever, who, after a mission in Panama went wrong, lost all his ranks, leaving him only qualified to be a yeoman — or a cook. Unfortunately for them, he still has the skills of a SEAL...
They try to keep to the plan anyway — the plan being to transfer the nukes to a sub that the CIA thought had been destroyed by mercenaries. The leader of the mercenaries in question is the band leader helping with the hijacking.
Good triumphs eventually, but it triumphs messily.
It has a sequel, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), which involves a plot to hijack a train which happens to be carrying Ryback, which is part of a larger plot to hijack a new orbital satellite-based superweapon, and use it to destroy the United States eastern seaboard for fun and profit. Naturally, asskickings ensue.
- Acquired Poison Immunity: The Dragon in the sequel has been pepper-sprayed so many times that now, all it does is clear out his sinuses.
- Action Girl: In the first film, Jordan starts off as a quivering mess but evolves into this trope.
- Actor Allusion: Jordan Tate is "Miss July '89" — actress Erika Eleniak who played her, was, in real life, Playboy's Playmate of the month of July 1989.
- Affably Evil: Strannix is very much this, before his Villainous Breakdown.
Strannix: (looking at the carnage Ryback has left behind) Doumer, Doumer, Doumer... why did you not hire this man? Whatever it would have cost, he would have been worth it.
- Almighty Janitor
- Berserk Button: It's not really a good idea to spit in Ryback's soup. He takes it kind of personally.
- BFG: The 16" guns of the Missouri. Which Ryback uses to sink the sub.
- Bond One-Liner: "Keep the faith".
- Hasn't lost the touch in the sequel; after a hostage distracts a mook ("My bra broke!") for Ryback to off him, he quips: "Tits to die for."
- "Nobody beats me in the kitchen."
- Captain Obvious: Bates declaring "We gotta lot of trouble on that ship" when he's just finished talking with Ryback in the middle of a heated gunfight is certainly redundant.
- The Cameo: Kane Hodder as one of the commandos.
- Chef of Iron: And how! Seagal's character is obviously not to be messed with.
- The Chosen Zero: The main character, of course.
- Cutting the Knot: In the sequel, one of the hijackers informs Casey that he's too late to stop the Kill Sat at that, even if he weren't, he'll never be able to crack the encryption on his laptop to do it. Casey's solution? Shoot the laptop.
- Da Chief: Averted by Admiral Bates in the first film. Upon finding out that Ryback has ignored his orders to avoid contact if possible and is busy trying to kill all the terrorists himself, the Admiral's response is thus:
Chief Ryback: I'm sorry, sir, you can court-martial me if I live, sir!
- Darkened Building Shootout
- Defensive Feint Trap
- Die Hard on an X
- First movie: Boat!
- Second movie: Train!
- Distracted by the Sexy: Happens to some poor mook in the sequel.
- ~Doesn't Like Guns~: Casey claims he doesn't like guns and so does Jordan, but both end up using firearms. Casey is generally more at home using knives.
- The Dragon: Marcus Penn is a texbook example in the second movie, and like many dragons before and after him, it's clear he is the most formidable of the villains.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: The above-mentioned threat video made by Travis Dane.
- Every Helicopter Is a Huey: In Under Seige 2 the terrorists hijack the train in a matched pair of Hueys, one of which apparently vanishes into thin air sometime before the climax. This appears to happen more because it'd be a really cool way to hijack a train than because it makes any logistical sense at all.
- Eye Scream: used with a combination of To the Pain as a rather effective interrogation technique in the sequel.
- In the first film, Ryback gouges out Strannix's eye before killing him off.
- Finger in the Mail: Strannix recounts a tale of how he sent his CIA superior the fingers of two assassins who were sent to kill him.
- Hidden Talents
- Just Eat the MacGuffin: In the sequel, Ryback gets his hands on the encoded CD the villain needs to complete his plan fairly early in the film, and spends most of the rest of them movie trying to keep the villain from getting it back. He should have just broken the darn thing, and permanently derailed the villain's plot.
- The one who gets the CD is the porter who's fairly dim. Also, neither of them really know what the CD does (it has targeting codes for the Kill Sat but only the bad guys know that) so it may be needed to reverse what they're doing.
- Jumping Out of a Cake: At the beginning.
- Kill Sat: The main threat in the sequel.
- Lethal Chef: Inverted and played with. Ryback is known in-universe as a great cook, but he still can kill you by other means.
- The Load, although she shows Action Girl potential in the last 20 minutes of the film
- She's also pretty Genre Savvy. He tells her to stay back "where it's safe". Her reply, "The safest place on this ship is three feet behind you!"
- The sequel has Morris Chestnut's porter character who is semi-helpful but spends most of the movie getting lectured by Ryback and getting into lethal situations that require rescue.
- MacGyvering: Ryback improvises explosives and other tools using a combination of everyday objects like paint thinner and military implements like gunpowder from a grenade.
- In the sequel, he makes a bomb out of resources from the train's minibar.
- The Mole
- Ms. Fanservice: We are introduced to Erika Eleniak when she jumps out of a cake topless.
- Never Bring a Knife to A Fist Fight
- Never Found the Body: Lampshaded by Penn and later Travis Dane, in the sequel, in regards to Ryback.
- Not So Different: Flipped around, from Segal's protagonist to Jones' antagonist.
Ryback: "We're the same, you and I."
- Oh Crap: Seal Team 5 in the first film when faced with a heatseeker-wielding mook aiming at their helicopter. Ryback and his gang watching the same scene from too far away to assist.
- Only a Flesh Wound: "You think this is being shot? This ain't being shot."
- Our Presidents Are Different: Subverted in that the real president at the time, George H.W. Bush, is shown sending the ship off before its final voyage, even if he's not involved in the bulk of the movie.
- Pretty Little Headshots: While there is some brutal violence, the headshots (most notably in the first film) are clean and leave small, relatively bloodless holes.
- Psycho Supporter
- Recycled in Space: Under Siege 2 is Under Siege ON A TRAIN! Small wonder that a common joke after the release of Snakes on a Plane would reference this by suggesting that the sequel would be Snakes On A Train.
- Retroactive Recognition: Katherine Heigl as Rybeck's niece in the sequel.
- Sentry Gun: The Phalanx CIWS aboard the Missouri.
- Shout-Out: Strannix and the submarine crew use names like "Roadrunner" and "Wile E. Coyote" as codenames, referencing the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Guess which studio Under Siege is from.
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Thriller on the Express
- Villainous Breakdown: Strannix goes completely insane after Krill is killed, firing cruise missiles randomly. Shell shock from the deck gun blasts probably contributes, but still. Dane in 2 also has a bit of a breakdown when the Kill Sat CD is stolen, but goes back to normal when he gets it back. Of course, he has another one once Ryback starts messing his plans up big time.