Director – Gustavo Graef-Marino, Screenplay – Mark Amin, Sam Bernard, Kevin Bernhardt & Robert Boris, Story – Mark Amin, Producers – Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy & Natan Zahavi, Photography – Steven Wacks, Music – Terry Plumeri, Digital Effects – Look! Effects, Inc. (Supervisor – Kevin Mullican), Special Effects Supervisor – Ionel Popa, Production Design – Radu Corciova. Production Company – Trimark Pictures/Tapestry Films
Peter Weller (Steve Mitchell), Daryl Hannah (Erica Long), Tom Berenger (General Buck Swain), Adrian Pintea (Goran Mladanov), Uwe Ochsenknecht (Colonel Peter Vojanovic/Giorgio Borghelli), Jeremy Lelliott (Chris Mitchell), Radmar Agama Jao (Sergeant Tim Nakajima), Brion James (General Stubbs), Francis X. McCarthy (General Parker), Mircea Boddlan (Ambassador John Gannon), Irina Movila (Petra), Francesco Reyes (Pascal), Audrey Rimbaud (Nicole)
The CIA conducts a daring operation to snatch wanted Serbian war criminal Peter Vojanovic from the Russian embassy in Belgrade so that he can stand trial in The Hague for war crimes. Three months later, computer expert Steve Mitchell is sent to update the antiquated systems at the US embassy in Bucharest. Steve is forced to bring along his teenage son Chris, whose custody he has been left with since the death of his wife. When Steve arrives, he finds that his old girlfriend Erica Long has also taken an assignment to be near him. The embassy is then invaded and taken over at gunpoint by Serbian terrorists under the command of Goran Mladanov. The terrorists demand that Vojanovic is released or they will kill one hostage every hour. Steve and Erica remain at large because they were in a hidden monitoring room at the time of the break-in. From there, Steve tries to foil the raid. However, when the CIA attempt to move Vojanovic from his cell, he is stabbed and killed by a sympathiser of one of his victims’ families. The CIA are left having to recruit a lookalike – Giorgio Borghelli, a Pizza Hut employee from Rome – to act as Vojanovic’s double. However, what the CIA is aware is that there is also a nuclear warhead, a relic left over from the Cold War, hidden in the basement of the embassy.
Diplomatic Siege is a routine action film, one of numerous of its type that were produced for direct-to-video distribution. Like many of those being made around this period, it borrows the basic premise of Die Hard (1988) – a lone individual free inside some building or structure defending it single-handedly against an incursion by terrorists/criminals.
There are occasional aspects about Diplomatic Siege that make it interesting. It certainly takes up a number of international political issues – the terrorist raid occurs because the CIA have captured a wanted Bosnian war criminal (you could almost write the name Milosevic or Karadic, both of whom were still at large when the film was made, in for that of Vojanovic) to take for trial in The Hague (although the script sort of has to ignore the fact that the United States refused to become signatory to the International War Crimes Tribunal). There is an amusing opening where said war criminal (Uwe Ochsenknecht) is at a Russian embassy function where a violinist allows him to kiss her hand, he unaware that this has poison on it, which makes him diarrhoeic and forced to rush to the bathroom. While there is a disturbance at the door distracting his bodyguards, the toilet that Ochsenknecht is seated on sinks down into the floor where he is whisked away by awaiting CIA. There is an amusingly suspenseful scene where the CIA try to convince the terrorists that the Italian double of Uwe Ochsenknecht is their leader. Ochsenknecht has a ball with the scenes as the double, like when he trying to take the CIA for what he can get in return for his cooperation. Other elements of the script end up being far-fetched – like the ever-so-slightly improbable notion that the US hid nuclear warheads inside each of their East European embassies during the Cold War.
The action element is routinely handled, although for once it is moments of an okay script that keep up interest in the film, rather than the action scenes. There is some suspenseful lurking around the embassy trying to avoid infra-red cameras and some so-so shootout scenes. There is a very cheap looking scene trying to duck under a roomful of laser sensors. One suspects – the problem shared by many lower-budgeted action films – that a decent A-budget might have made Diplomatic Siege a whole lot more watchable.
Though listed as the stars, neither Peter Weller nor Daryl Hannah are in the film much. Nearly three-quarters of the action keeps them in the monitoring room and has things play out between the terrorist leader (Adrian Pintea) and Tom Berenger’s US general. This is probably a good thing as when the film finally comes to focus on the two of them in the last quarter, its credibility collapses altogether. [PLOT SPOILERS]. There is an improbable twist that turns Daryl Hannah into a sudden villainess who activates the nuke in order to demand a $25 million ransom from the US government. This fails in a bad way because the whole calculating femme fatale thing is something just not suited to Daryl Hannah, causing the scene where the revelation occurs to collapse into the unintentionally absurd. Peter Weller gives a performance during these scenes that is not much better. One suspects that this side of things failed to come off through miscasting – Peter Weller is a great and underrated character actor, although he is just not the sort who radiates a heroic certainty and resolute determination required of an action hero. The scene where he pulls a gun on Daryl Hannah and announces “The jig baby is up” is one of the silliest that one has seen in some time. The film also goes out on a lame romantic fadeout where Daryl Hannah phones Peter Weller to tell him that she is waiting for him – where we are suddenly expected to forget that a few minutes earlier she had been trying to blow up the whole of Bucharest, including Weller, if she didn’t get $25 million and celebrate this for some kind of unfulfilled passion.