Canuxploitation (rightly) called it “an unheralded landmark of Canadian B-film.” Now it’s time to sound the trumpets for Siege, aka Self Defense.
In an experience soon to be lost to the passage of time, this title was selected in an actual bona fide bricks and mortar video store. And in its URBAN SCUM section. Having movies curated for you by people whose knowledge eclipses yours is invaluable, regardless of your age. It works for albums and older brothers/sisters too.
The urban scum sub-genre is one of our favorites. Both this site’s authors have been mugged in Toronto the Good (separately, or else we would’ve inflicted a beating on our assailants worse than the punishment doled out by Paul Kersey to the interchangeable parade of mulleted goons in Death Wish III). And there’s something about the grimy streets and urban decay that is just plum for action settings.
Siege, while it does show a street sweeping machine going about its business, doesn’t pretty up the urban filth. Here, the setting is unusual — Halifax, Nova Scotia — and a police strike that has paralyzed the downtown, apparently based on an actual circumstance the municipality faced. And this pretty Maritime city has never looked so rundown.
The New Order, a frightening fascist organization as befits its name, is seizing upon the opportunity to rid the city of undesirables, menacing a gay nightclub and massacring its occupants with pillows and silencers. One of the bar’s patrons sneaks out a washroom, taking refuge at a nearby apartment whose occupants include a couple, and their friends, including two visually-impaired students under their care.
The gang set up a stakeout around the perimeter and this veers into extremely tense Assault on Precinct 13 territory, although accounting for a lack of first responders by a neat police job action conceit here, better than Carpenter’s contrivance of a power outage preventing calls to LAPD for backup.
In Siege, police personnel fail to answer 911 calls, and even the most serious of these is passed along a bureaucratic phone chain that leads nowhere.
When one of their own is gunned down in cold blood on their front stoop, the apartment dwellers, including a neighbor whose unit attaches to theirs, arm themselves with a rifle, a bow, and anything at their disposal, seemingly over-matched by their well-trained, well-armed and determined antagonists.
This is some terse, action-packed Canadiana.
***1/2 (out of 5)