THE SIEGE Review: Daniel Stisen’s Latest Ode To 90s Action Nostalgia Holds The Fort
The Siege opens in theatres Friday, March 10, followed by Digital and On Demand rollouts on March 14.
Two years after making headway with his first major attempt in feature lead roles with Last Man Down, actor Daniel Stisen returns to us in familiar form with The Siege which marks a switch in gears for Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop helmer Brad Watson. The film also features a cast that’s familiar with this platform, namely Black Widow co-star Lauren Okadigbo who has largely been on my radar in stunts per my coverage in The Hit List in the last decade, as well as actor Phillip Ray Tommy who I’ve cast an occasional spotlight on for a number of his work in short films.
Full disclosure is warranted here as it was Tommy who at one point connected me with Stisen for an interview prior to his coming out party over Last Man Down, and I got to acquaint myself with Stisen and learn more about his steadfast efforts toward film production post-bodybuilding, as well as watch some of his short film content which I found to be a little more admirable than the Fansu Njie-directed 2021 action adventure, on which my earnest thoughts can be found here. Suffice it to say, Stisen’s latest successor from Watson, which takes on a similar intended tone with keenness on appealing to old-school action cinema fans alike, was kind of a breath of fresh air.
Watson also edited the film in addition to scoring its soundtrack, which plays a key role in the film’s progression. More on that later though. Alas, to start, The Siege centers on Walker (Stisen), an international hitman who arrives at a secret facility, supposedly known only to the underworld’s elite assassins who need refuge and a change in identity in case they’ve been compromised. The important part comes when a gang of mercenaries descends unto the supposedly secret facility with guns blazing in search of a pregnant runaway named Juliet (Yennis Cheung) at the behest of crime boss big wig, Big Deal (Byron Gibson) who once bought her from the sex trade.
The catch is clear from there: Juliet has no intention of returning and is under the protection of resident hitwoman Elda (Okadigbo), who insists on acquiring the aid of Walker, who’s got his own personal reasons for saying no. Alas, the fun begins just as the bullets start flying and neutrality is no longer viable when henchmen invade his room only to be laid to waste, and Walker has no choice but to come to terms with Elda and survive the night while protecting the vulnerable Juliet and her unborn child from certain danger.
The Siege isn’t without some of the same frills and failings of Stisen’s predecessor, but it helps that he’s backed by a solid cast of performers and a script from screenwriter Nicole Bartlett that allows for some chemistry to bloom between our characters. Stisen’s role is the archetypal brooding, one-note stoic whose delivery on screen is bolstered by Okadigbo, allowing space for a feasible level of camaraderie to bloom while they fend off waves of bad guys to protect Juliet, while peeling back the layers of one another and learning each their motivations. There’s also a brief romantic blossoming between supporting characters Sarah (Meagan Lockhurst) and the superbly awkward but harmless Smithee (Michael Geary) who work at the secret facility. Indeed it’s short-lived but it’s enough for the film to build on as the story moves forward.
This, on top of Watson’s score which almost feels like a nod to Michael Kamen at times, allows just a little more depth and volume in watching our protagonist, thereby allowing Stisen’s performance to feel a bit less rudimentary and formulaic in presentation. It also lends some purpose to the action courtesy of stunt coordinator Darren Le Fevre and his team showcasing Stisen and Okadigbo in their respective arcs and action scenes, with Stisen and the aforementioned Tommy lending some major weight together in a centerpiece fight scene that’s fun to watch. We also get to see Okadigbo square off with Samantha Schnitzler who broke out in 2018 sci-fi Black Site from director Tom Paton, and has been on a gradual rise ever since. The only issue I have with the action is some of the rickety editing and choice camerawork at times, but most of it bodes presentable and well enough that it accommodates the performers, topped off with a few doses of gruesome violence throughout.
Invariably, Stisen’s latest is a well-tuned improvement from his previous feature debut. It’s not perfect and it will take a little more work before he can truly impress on a solo venture, but this was a welcome effort exuding a great partnership that proves that with the right concept and company put together, something good will always come out of it. For all the talent and effort pooled and presented here, The Siege is worth seizing an opportunity to check out.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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