Some time has passed since Casey Ryback, the self-professed "lowly cook" on the U.S.S Missouri, used his formidable skills and Navy SEAL training to save the Hawaiian Islands and, ultimately, the world from nuclear destruction. In that time, he's retired from the Navy and has opened his own restaurant in Denver. The death of his brother in a plane crash leave his niece an orphan, with her Uncle Casey her only remaining relative.
"Ryback hasn't seen his niece for five years," Seagal says. "Her dad, my brother, has just died, and I'm taking her on a holiday train trip from Denver to Los Angeles to try to get reacquainted and to mend some fences."
The father-figure role that Ryback represents to his niece, Sarah, adds a new dimension to the expected breakneck, Seagal-style action. "We knew we had the compelling technology in place for this story," Seagal explains. "Once we had that, I felt strongly that I wanted to add the family element. The idea of having responsibility for somebody that you love and care about, and having that person put at risk, takes the story to an entirely different level."
But the family dimension doesn't come at the expense of the action that Seagal fans have come to expect. As the star reminds, "Of course, all sorts of bad things start to happen on this train ride through the Rockies, since this just happens to be the same train on which this maniac chooses to set up his headquarters."
Midway through the trip, the train is hijacked by a band of mercenaries led by Travis Dane. This obsessed technological wizard with a particularly dangerous axe to grind is played by Eric Bogosian, making his first appearance in a big-screen action-adventure. "Dane had developed this Star Wars-type satellite," says Bogosian of his character's driving ambition. "But my bosses, Uncle Sam and the CIA, have decided my toy's no longer needed, and they take it away from me. Needless to say, I want my toy back. It just so happens this guy Ryback's aboard and has to do something about it. Bad luck for me."
Producer Arnon Milchan was excited by the opportunity to revisit the Casey Ryback character and the extraordinary incidents which befall him. "When 'Under Siege' proved to be such a popular hit, we began looking for a sequel that would further the character of Casey Ryback and be a worthy successor to the first film," says producer Arnon Milchan. "We wanted to produce an exciting companion piece to the first film that took the same intriguing character and put him in an entirely new - but equally compelling and life threatening - set of of circumstances. I think fans of the first film will have a great time, and those unfamiliar with the original will enjoy it on its own merits as well."
Director Geoff Murphy, a veteran of action films, recognized the special demands of working on a picture whose predecessor was so popular. "One of the main things about making a sequel is you're making a film to an already existing audience expectation," he explains. Although the title does have an obligatory "2" in it, Murphy says, "This is much less like a sequel than usual. This is pretty much another film about the same character."
The resulting action-adventure is one part vintage Seagal - intricately choreographed and technically advanced hand-to-hand, martial-arts conflict - and one part next-generation techno-thriller - the computer wizardry at Dane's disposal and the downright awesome satellite weapon. These elements, combined with the endearingly awkward relationship between Ryback and his neice, create a picture that will satisfy both action film veterans and those new to the genre.
"Action films are great, but an action film that has characters that are compelling and a story that people can care about is something even better," Seagal says. "We love to see action heroes that are vulnerable, that are sensitive, that are family people, that are accessible. The rewarding thing for me is to take something that an audience might have pre-conceived notions about and turn it into something that all different kinds of people can enjoy."
And like self-effacing Casey Ryback kept insisting in the first "Under Siege," "I'm just a cook," Seagal asserts, "and all I want to do is repair my relationship with my niece."
But he's sure to add. "It just so happens I have to save the world at the same time."
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