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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"I like killing politicians. I'm good at it. We have the hostages and we have the train. We'll kill them."
DVD ReviewFollowing in the grand tradition of such train thrillers as Under Siege 2 and Atomic Train, The Last Siege sets a new low standard in the genre with mind-numbing tedium. The plot closely mirrors the "Die Hard on a ______" method that has been copied by numerous other straight-to-video pictures. A group of clever terrorists concoct a devious plan to wreak violence and destruction on the American way of life. It involves taking hostages and making demands that usually are just a smokescreen for their true plans. Luckily, a lone man always seems to be traveling on the targeted vehicle by chance. His physical skills and wits are usually far superior to the terrorists, who fail due to his heroic actions. Their overconfidence and sloppiness eventually get the best of them, but numerous climactic fights must first take place and provide a slight ray of hope for the villain's success.
Of course, the tense moments are designed only to raise the viewers' heartbeats and generate some "fun" amid the action. Along the way, the evildoers are killed one by one as they continue to explore random storerooms and hallways on their own. Nonessential good people die along the way, but we never learn much about their background before the inevitable occurs. The villains need to do something very mean to prove their malignant nature, and these characters provide the perfect outlet. Every once in a while, this type of story does offer an enjoyable ride that is worth two hours of your time. The first and third Die Hard entries, the original Under Siege, and Air Force One are examples of the formula's success. Unfortunately, this version falls prey to the usual clichés, and the result is one of the worst action films that I've witnessed in recent years.
Jeff Fahey (Silverado) stars as suspended ATF agent Eddie Lyman, who disobeys a superior's direct orders in the prologue. This break gives him some time for vacation with his fiancée Valerie (Beth Toussant), which involves boarding a train bound for Sable City. She is a top advisor to Senator Douglas Wilson (Ernie Hudson)—a proponent of a new, strict gun bill that is scaring crazy militia across the country. This train journey is a prime opportunity for a small group of American terrorists to convey their ideas and create chaos. These bumbling idiots are lead by David Anderson (Brent Huff), an infamous killer whose loss of his wife and daughter in an ATF raid has spurred his insanity to greater heights. His support staff includes the vicious Carl (Patrick Kilpatrick) and other technical experts with no qualms at dealing violence. The hostages feature some of the blandest character types available in the action genre: a stern mother and her frightened young daughter, a older military veteran who is now an author, and a nondescript cameraman. The action pretty much follows the school of Action Film 101, with a few neck-breakings, gun battles, and explosions spaced within the film.
While viewing this picture, its uninventive premise and silly dialogue reminded me of Mach 2, an awful Brian Bosworth vehicle with a hostage story set on the Concorde. Then, I discovered the understandable connection; both films were written by Steve Latshaw, who has a large amount of similar releases to his credit. While this type of screenplay does have its place in the video market, it seems there should be other avenues to explore for film writers. Director Worth Keeker honed his craft working on both Silk Stalkings and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for television. While the camera work is fine here, it does have more of a closed, TV-feel that might spring from his background.
Originally called Hijack, it's odd that this title was changed to The Last Siege sometime before its DVD release. Neither name is very exciting, and both pretty much scream "straight to video!" This is especially understandable when you glimpse the front cover, which utilizes the tagline "Never Surrender". If this premise sounds tiredsome, you should probably avoid this tale. However, if you're inspired by watching slightly different variations of the same hostage premise, you may enjoy this dull entry. It even offers the usual ticking digital readout on a nuclear bomb, although disarming this device is amazingly simple. I guess they gave up on even trying to find an original solution for this quandary. Or, perhaps there's not much left to do in the world of bad action movies. This film definitely would provide support for that hypothesis.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
Image Transfer Review: The small budget of this feature allows little room for visual invention within the simple premise. Most of the action takes place within the small confines of the train, and the outdoor shots are dark and unimpressive. This fact lessens this transfer's possible effectiveness, but it does not excuse it from criticism. This full-frame presentation has few significant defects, but it also contains dull, mediocre colors that are not very sharp. Considering its straight-to-video source material, I don't expect a premier picture, but the images still should be much clearer.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The Last Siege features an acceptable 2.0-channel Dolby transfer that presents the silly dialogue in a clear and understandable fashion. The typical action-film score resonates well enough from the front speakers and does not hinder the attempts to generate tension. The main drawback of this transfer is a lack of complexity, but it probably stems more from a simplistic original soundtrack than from problems with this DVD. Considering the quality of this picture, this track works decently to present the drab story.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Extras Review: After sitting through commentary tracks for some bad movies, I don't really miss that inclusion on this clunker. However, it would be interesting to hear the director and/or writer try to explain its worthiness. This bare-bones disc offers only the basic scene selections as a bonus feature, and that saves it from a failing grade.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsThe Last Siege is not the worst action movie ever made. Ernie Hudson provides some punch for the senator, Jeff Fahey gives an adequate performance, and Patrick Kilpatrick is always chilling. Unfortunately, none of the actors really has anything tangible to utilize in their roles. This might be acceptable if the stunts were impressive, but they exist on a minimal scale. There is an explosion near the finale that is one of the cheapest I've ever seen in any movie. Without exciting fights or things blowing up, this story must rely on its characters, who have little personality. If you can make it through the entire piece without looking at your watch, it's a minor miracle.
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