Brief Note on the Representation of Violent Individualism in Under Siege 2

In a very familiar scene and situation the wooden Steven Segal explains to his unwilling sidekick that his main concern in his attempts at freeing the train from terrorists is the hostages’ safety and wellbeing. However, Segal’s initial act of defiance (he fails to surrender) causes the brutal death of three chefs (who appear to be his friends). Segal’s reckless and violent individualism causes three innocent lives – something his attempt tried to save – to be wasted brutally. One could easily argue that the utility (forthcoming happiness) which arises out of his action is eventually beneficial because it enables him to stop the entire train – it robs the terrorist of the deadly weapon. However, it is also as easily argued that Segal’s brand of reckless egoism and self-survival causes the destruction of innocent lives at a comparable rate. The very same expertise and egoism which Segal’s character displays can also be found in his antithesis “Travis Dane”. Dane is a former weapons designer whose technology was utilized by the American Government – without the credit being given to Dane. Although Dane is clearly “evil” in his goal to be rich and powerful – breaking all manner of invisible codes of conduct – his actions display the same reckless individualism as Segal. Both characters use whatever means possible to achieve their end, and the only difference being that at the end of the film Segal wins. This contradiction is common in the action genre however it is often overlooked that both good and evil employ an ethics of “anything goes” because of the cathartic effect of violence metered out upon the evil characters. The ethical stance found within this film and the traditional action genre is interesting and seems to employ a Utilitarian understanding of right and wrong. I will write further upon this issue in the coming year.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

2 thoughts on “Brief Note on the Representation of Violent Individualism in Under Siege 2”

  1. Nice post – I’ve been thinking around this area a lot recently what with the release of Gamer, another addition to the ‘innocent death row inmate forced to play deathsport’ sub-genre. How far exactly does the term innocent stretch etc etc?

    …re. Segal, one could also question the effectiveness of his ‘violent environmentalism’ as displayed in On Deadly Ground. Once again there is the dynamic of the ‘good’ action man and the ‘evil’ businessman / intellectual both of whom seen to have a blatant disregard for life in their drive for their desires. Then there is the grand environmental gesture of stopping pollution by blowing up an oil refinery.

    Self reflection is clearly not on the agenda.

    p.s. great blog

  2. @Cinemascream

    The ethics of the action genre is something that has been bugging me for awhile and I decided to pay more attention to it – glad to know I’m not the only person around with those thoughts. Personally I think ‘innocent death row inmate forced to play deathsport’ sub-genre shouldn’t have the innocent part. Though I’m sure the fear would be that we wouldn’t support the characters (would we support Arnie in Running Man (1987) if he really committed that massacre?). A more surprising film would have the final scenes (in that sub-genre) being where the convict is released and disappears into society again and then we find out he was some horrendous pedophile or hatefilled maniac (and thereby forcing us to rethink the character’s actions and our own support of his “do what it takes” mentality).

    Segal’s films are classic in the “do what it takes” ethics and I think I will evaluate some more of his films. I also seem to remember in Fire Down Below (1997) [Couldn’t they come up with a better title name?] that Segal blew up a whole mine which would undoubtedly cause horrific damage to the surrounding environment. Definitely not someone that Greenpeace will be inviting to their next planning session on how to save the whales.

    And cheers for the support!

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