Out of all the Hollywood action heroes of the 1980s and 1990s, the one man who perhaps had the roughest time at the behest of the BBFC was Steven Seagal. Out of the 11 films he starred in during his first decade on screen, only two were
released uncut in the United Kingdom, with the rest suffering BBFC cuts for cinema and/or home video release. In this special edition of Cutting Edge, we'll be taking a look at the history of Steven Seagal's films at the hands of the BBFC.
Above the Law/Nico (1988): Laying Down the BBFC Law
Re-titled lest the Brits get Seagal confused with Cynthia Rothrock, starring in a film of the same name.
In 1988, Seagal burst onto our screens with Above the Law (or Nico as it was known to UK audiences). A solid cop thriller that aptly demonstrated Seagal's unique aikido skills, Above the Law was left uncut for its UK theatrical release,
with the BBFC passing the film with an 18 rating on 16th May 1988. The film was classified for video on 17th March 1989, again with an 18 rating, but with 15 seconds of cuts to rough violence and hard drug use.
Cuts Just for the Crack
The first scene to be altered was the bar fight near the beginning of the film. After some of the resident patrons offend Nico, he roughs up two of them for their troubles. The second thug to
attack Nico has his nose smashed twice; seen in close-up with heavy impact sounds and blood. Nico then knees him in the face, flooring him. This section of the fight was removed from the UK video version.
A shot at the very beginning of the next scene that shows the young girl Lucy heating a crack pipe was also removed entirely, with the scene beginning instead on Nico kicking in the door.
The final alteration for the UK video version concerns the final fight scene. With Nico about to be killed by chief villain Zagon, Nico manages to grab Zagon in an arm lock. After elbowing Zagon in the face, Nico brutally snaps Zagon's arm before
breaking his neck. The BBFC left the neck break intact but the vicious arm break was removed.
The cut video version was resubmitted to the BBFC in 1998, and this pre-cut version was passed 18 without further cuts and re-released on VHS and later on DVD. Warner Bros. released a repackaged version of the uncut American version on Blu-ray in
2009, the cover of which referred to the film as Nico: Above the Law . This version was not officially classified by the BBFC, and was pulled from UK stores soon afterwards. It was not re-released on its own, but does appear in the Steven Seagal
Collection that was released on Blu-ray, which contains five of his films.
The DVD was passed 18 after BBFC cuts
Special Offer: Limited Time Only! The Nico Blu-ray was accidentally released uncut, but was soon withdrawn. Still uncut in
the Steven Seagal Collection Blu-ray though.
Hard to Kill (1990): Stormy Times at the BBFC
Seagal's second film, Hard to Kill , was released in 1990 and like its predecessor was a hit with audiences. The BBFC passed the UK cinema version with an 18 rating on May 17th 1990, but only after they made 12 seconds of cuts
to scenes that featured sadistic revenge violence.
The first cut occurs after Seagal's character, Mason Storm, rams a broken pool cue into a thug's neck. After the infamous line, fuck you and die , Mason kicks the thug in the face to increase the
pain he is suffering. The cut version removed this kick, with the thug simply seen to fall to the ground.
The boot is given the boot
But the guy is still seen taking the fall
A few minutes later, Mason finds the film's villain, Senator Trent, hiding in a closet. Mason rams his shotgun barrel into Trent's mouth, which causes his mouth to bleed. The UK version removed this whole event, with the film resuming on Mason leading
Trent downstairs. The wide shots of the shotgun in Trent's mouth were allowed to remain, as the BBFC felt these scenes suggested that the shotgun was merely pressed against Trent's mouth, rather than being in it.
The cut UK cinema version was submitted to the BBFC for home video classification, and passed with an 18 rating on September 27th 1990. Nine years later, the uncut version was presented to the BBFC and passed with all previous cuts waived in
June of 1999. It was available on VHS alongside the cut versions of Above the Law and Out for Justice in a special limited edition triple video set.
The uncut version was also released on DVD and Blu-ray, and is the standard version
available to British buyers; the latter of which is available in the Steven Seagal Collection box set.
Uncut on VHS from 1999
Uncut on DVD
Uncut on Blu-ray
Marked for Death (1990) : Marked for Cuts
Seagal also made Marked for Death for Twentieth Century Fox in 1990, a film that is often cited as one of his better pictures. A dark and vicious film, it features Seagal's character, John Hatcher, taking on Jamaican drug dealers. The BBFC
cut the film by eight seconds before passing the film with an 18 rating on December 17th 1990.
Cuts for Drugs Induced Violence
Jewellery store breakage
Giving the bad guys a break at Screwface Mansion
The first cut removed a crunchy arm break in the jewellery store fight in Reel 3, inflicted by Hatcher against a Jamaican thug. Three further cuts were made towards the end of the film in Reel 5, the first of which was to another arm break in the
fight scene in Screwface's mansion.
The final face-off between Screwface and Hatcher was then cut in two places. The close-up shot of Hatcher gouging Screwface's eyes was removed, as was the footage showing Hatcher breaking Screwface's back before he is flung into the empty elevator
Fox submitted the uncut version for home video classification in 1991 but the BBFC demanded that the film cuts be replicated, along with the removal of some more footage. On video, the cuts now totalled around 22 seconds.
The extra change made for the UK video version was the removal of a neck break by Hatcher in Screwface's mansion, which immediately precedes the arm break that was cut for the cinema version. As a result of this change, the entire end of this
fight scene was now eliminated for the UK video.
The cuts were replicated for the UK DVD release classified in April 2001, which was also rated 18. The film would not be resubmitted to the BBFC for another 12 years, and on August 8th 2013 the BBFC waived all of their previous cuts, as well as
downgrading the film to a 15.
Still 18 with cuts on DVD
15 uncut on Blu-ray
Out for justice (1991): Unjustified Cuts
Warner Bros. released their next collaboration with Seagal, the tough urban thriller Out for Justice , in 1991. The BBFC passed the film uncut with an 18 rating for its UK cinema release on May 22nd 1991. However, the UK video
version was heavily edited by 54 seconds before being passed with the same rating on November 4th 1991.
Cuts on Cue
The opening scene of the film was the first sequence cut, featuring Gino's fight with a pimp. Gino twists the pimp's arm and throws him headfirst through a car window, before tossing him into some garbage cans. Gino then flips the pimp him through the
car's windshield. The UK video version removes the entire middle section of the fight, with Gino simply being shown to grab the pimp and then throw him through the windshield.
The fight scene in the grocery store was also trimmed, with some
footage being rearranged to cover the changes. A quick shot showing Gino pinning a thug's hand to the wall with a meat cleaver was removed and replaced with footage from earlier in the fight showing another thug running to pick up a knife from a nearby
bench. The sound of the hand being impaled was played over this rearranged footage.
This shot was taken from earlier in the fight...
and re-inserted to replace this cut scene
General reductions in the sounds of the wounded enemies' screams and their bones cracking were also applied.
Shortly afterwards, the fight scene in the bar was edited to annoyingly comical effect. Shots showing Gino wrapping a cue ball in a
towel were removed to ease the BBFC's fear of imitability. As a result, when Gino uses the makeshift weapon to beat up the villains in the UK video version, the towel appears to have taken on sudden magical powers due to it creating a resounding 'crack'
whenever it strikes somebody.
Another cut occurs during the siege on Gino's house. A brief sequence of events where Gino wrestles a thug, driving him through a window and shooting him point blank in the neck was removed.
The final showdown between Gino and Richie was also cut for the UK video version. The uncut version of the film features a sequence where Richie attacks Gino with a large kitchen knife before having his wrist snapped, with Richie then attempting to
hit Gino with a rolling pin. Gino overcomes Richie again, throwing him to the floor and then headfirst through a window, before beating him with the rolling pin. Almost 30 seconds of this footage was removed in a large chunk, with the final fight
now reduced to undetailed and generic blows.
Some examples from the Gino vs Richie fight that were removed by the BBFC
Eight years later, Warner Bros. resubmitted the uncut version of the film to the BBFC. The Board waived all their previous cuts, and the film was passed with an 18 rating on August 6th 1999 and later released on DVD. This has since become the
standard version available to British consumers.
Uncut on DVD (Not yet available on UK Blu-ray)
Under Siege (1992): Lost at Sea
Seagal's most successful film, Under Siege , was the first of his films to be passed with a 15 rating by the BBFC, and was classified uncut for theatrical release on October 29th 1992. This version was submitted to the BBFC for
home video release in 1993, but the BBFC demanded that 10 seconds of cuts be made before it could be released with a 15 certificate.
Chef's Choice Cuts
The workshop fight was the first scene to be edited. One slaying of a thug was completely removed, which showed Seagal's character, Casey Ryback, slicing the man on the thigh before stabbing him in the armpit. A few seconds later, Ryback pushes
another enemy onto a table with a running band-saw. The uncut version shows Ryback kneeing the man in the groin, forcing him up and into the saw blade which slices into his shoulder, before Ryback turns away. The UK video version re-edited the footage to
remove both the kneeing motion and the blade slicing into the thug's shoulder, so that it now appears that Ryback simply pushes the man into the band-saw before turning away.
Towards the end of the film, Ryback fights with another enemy on the ship's deck. After forcing the man down onto his knee, Ryback rips out the thug's windpipe and tosses it aside. The sequence cuts away quickly in the UK video version
after we see Ryback employ his chokehold.
Ryback's fight with Strannix was also slightly cut. After Ryback drives his thumb into Strannix's eye, a shot was removed showing Strannix's gory eye injury after Ryback has removed his thumb from the eye socket.
Warner Bros. resubmitted the uncut version to the BBFC for DVD release some years later, but the film was once again edited before a 15 rating was awarded on January 15th 1998. Only seven seconds of cuts were removed this time, although the film
actually runs a little choppier in the workshop scene despite having a few seconds of footage reinstated. The reinstated footage consists of the initial wide shot of Ryback slicing the thigh in the workshop fight, although the close-up of the wound and
the subsequent armpit stabbing are still missing. Similarly, the initial shot of Ryback kneeing the enemy into the band-saw is briefly retained, but again the rest of the bloody footage is still removed.
The on-deck throat-ripping is cut
differently too, with brief footage of the enemy sailor falling to the ground reinstated but with the actual tearing of the windpipe still removed. The scene runs a little smoother than the video version, as there is no quick cutaway after Ryback grabs
the sailor's neck.
To date, the uncut version does not appear to have been formally classified by the BBFC, but it is available in the Steven Seagal Collection on Blu-ray.
The DVD was passed 15
after BBFC cuts
Uncut in the Steven Seagal Collection Blu-ray, but no sign of BBFC cuts being waived.
On Deadly Ground (1994): Deadly Cuts
The mid-90s saw Seagal's environmental thriller On Deadly Ground come in to the BBFC for theatrical classification. After the success of the 15-rated Under Siege , Warner Bros. were keen to secure the same rating for Seagal's next
outing. However, the Board was adamant that the violence was too strong, demanding heavy cuts totalling 70 seconds for the cinema version. Anticipating that the film company would later resubmit the uncut version for home video classification later as
they had done with previous Seagal films, the BBFC steadfastly stipulated to Warner Bros. that the cuts were: "not to be restored on video"
Cuts for Unecological Violence
The bar fight at the beginning of the film was the first sequence to be cut. The sight of one patron having his head rammed into a jukebox by Seagal's character, Forrest Taft, was
removed, with the sound of the breaking glass played over the proceeding reaction shot. A groin kick immediately afterwards was removed, as was the sound of another man's arm being broken as Forrest throws him to the floor. Another man has his wrist
broken by Forrest, followed by Forrest kicking another enemy in the groin. Both of these occurrences were cut entirely, along with footage of the final enemy in the scene having his arm broken and being thrown through a window.
Some of the scenes that the BBFC found to be violently unecological and so had to be cut
In Reel 2, Forrest's friend Hugh Palmer meets a grisly end at the hands of two of Jennings' henchmen. After Hugh's fingers are held down and smashed with a club, a pipe cutter is used on his leg as a means of extracting information from him. The BBFC
felt that the suggestion here was that the pipe cutter was being used to amputate Hugh's genitals (there is a shot in the uncut version of blood running down Hugh's leg). The scene was shortened and the sound remixed for the UK version, ending on a tilt
up to a window as Hugh's screams from the pipe cutter torture are merged with the final shots of his fingers being beaten with the club.
The shootout in Hugh's cabin later in the film was also cut. One thug being shot in the groin by an upwards shotgun blast through the floor was eliminated, as was one blow with the aforementioned club to the villain Otto's face.
finale of the film, Forrest creates a makeshift suppressor using an empty bottle. His shooting of a villain in the face was cut to a remove a close-up of the villain's face before he is shot. A minute or so later, Forrest fights another thug. Forrest
throwing the enemy into a wall and kicking him in the face and stomach was removed, along with all of the fight's sounds of breaking bones.
Shot removed for "personalisation of violence"
Heavily edited fight with no bone crunches
The death of the villainess Liles was also cut to remove footage of her terror as she struggles to escape from her burning vehicle. An explosion follows soon afterwards, and the BBFC removed the sight of some enemies on fire as they flailed about.
Shortly afterwards, Forrest's killing of two more thugs was also cut. After the first thug is floored, Forrest striking him in the face with a pipe was cut, as was the next two shots showing another man being struck with the pipe in slow motion and
falling to the floor.
The final cut made to the UK version occurs when Forrest thrusts an enemy's own knife into his face. After Forrest turns the man around, the UK version removes Forrest sadistically slamming the enemy's face against a wall to make the knife emerge
from the back of his head.
The pre-cut UK cinema version was submitted to the BBFC (as per their instructions) and was passed with a 15 rating on August 5th 1994. The uncut version was submitted six years later for a DVD release, but the BBFC demanded the same cuts once
again, and Warner Bros. duly complied. The initial UK DVD release mistakenly sported a 12 rating on the cover, so by law it had to be removed from the market. For reasons unknown, the DVD was not immediately reissued and remained unavailable to UK buyers
until it was re-released in 2010 (with the correct 15 rating on the cover). However, it was still the previously censored version of the film.
15 after BBFC cuts on DVD (Not yet available on Blu-ra)
Under Siege 2 (1995): Terror Train
October 1995 saw the UK release of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory , the sequel to Seagal's 1992 box office hit. Again, Warner Bros. wanted to secure a 15 rating, but the BBFC considered the violence was:
...too pervasive and gloating for any category lower than '18'.
Warner Bros. was willing to make cuts, but the BBFC refused. As a result, the film was passed uncut by the BBFC on September 4th 1995 but with an 18 rating.
The following year, Warner Bros. submitted the uncut version for
home video classification and again requested a 15 rating, reiterating that they were willing to make any cuts necessary to achieve that rating. But the BBFC were duty bound to take into account the unregulated nature of home viewing. With the potential
for underage viewers seeing the film in the home, the BBFC were unwilling to downgrade the rating -- even with extensive cuts. At the time, the Board stated:
The same relish for violence, most of it by the hero
himself, could not be sanctioned at any category.
In the end, heavy cuts totalling just over two minutes were made for the UK video release, and the film was passed with an 18 rating on April 12th 1996. A detailed examination of the missing footage is
contained in the video at the end of this article, but the cuts are outlined here in list form:
A knife being taken from a long-haired male passenger during the terrorists' takeover of the train
Shots of the hot needle approaching Gilder's eye, along with dialogue from the chief villain Dane describing what will happen when the
needle makes contact with the eye
Trilling being threatened with the hot needle and his ensuing panic
Ryback slashing Herb's wrist with a knife
The terrorist being dragged underneath the train after Ryback kicks
him onto the tracks
Sight and descriptions of Ryback's homemade bomb ingredients, including concentrated coconut oil and lighter fluid
Repeated shots of various terrorists burning after Ryback throws his bomb at
them, including the villain Penn shooting one of them in the back
The terrorist shot with the flare gun rolls down the butane-soaked staircase, becoming engulfed in flames before Ryback kicks him out of the train
throwing a terrorist into a wall and breaking both his wrists
Ryback slamming a terrorist's face into a cliff face in slow motion
Peter Greene's character having his head forced back and his neck broken
Ryback throwing his knife into a terrorist's neck and the man dying slowly
Penn's withdrawal of his knife and the stabbing of it into one of his men's necks
Ryback breaking a terrorist's arm in a train cabin
Penn threatening Dane with his knife and twirling it around
Close-ups of the knives belonging to Ryback and Penn before they fight
Ryback and Penn twirling and brandishing their knives during the final fight scene
Dane's fingers being severed by the helicopter door as Ryback shuts it
The pre-cut version was resubmitted by Warner Bros. and rated 18 again on January 9th 1998. This version was re-released on VHS in 1999, and later on DVD. After its release on video, the BBFC's Director James Ferman had second thoughts about the
film's time at the Board, despite sanctioning heavy cuts. He commented:
In retrospect, it might have been more satisfactory on film and video to have reduced the violence even further for the '15' requested.
The uncut version of Under Siege 2 does not appear to have been classified by the BBFC since its initial theatrical release, but it is available in the Steven Seagal Collection on Bu-ray.
The DVD was passed 18
after BBFC cuts
Uncut in the Steven Seagal Collection Blu-ray, but no sign of BBFC cuts being waived.
Executive Decision (1996): Critical Cuts
Seagal would appear in a co-starring role in the 1996 suspense thriller Executive Decision . His character, Colonel Travis, was killed off partway into the film in a surprise move. Despite only appearing in the film briefly some cuts to his
scenes were made before the film was released into UK cinemas. The BBFC removed eight seconds of violence and issued a 15 rating for it on April 23rd 1996.
Cuts for Religious Sensitivity
The cuts apply to the opening raid, lead by Seagal's character Colonel Travis. The focus on his withdrawing of a knife and the subsequent use of it on enemy soldiers was trimmed to
remove close-ups of slashes and stabbings.
The pre-cut cinema version was later submitted to the BBFC twice for home video classification, and was passed without further cuts with a 15 rating on October 25th 1996 and January 15th 1998. However, Warner Bros. also made some
of their own pre-cuts to the film before the video release. Scenes that showed the terrorist leader Hassan praying onboard the hijacked plane were curiously removed, as was footage of Hassan rising from prayer to answer the phone in one scene.
Sadly, these politically-correct edits for religious sensitivity don't stop there. In 2011, the film was released on Blu-ray. The same master was used for all pressings of the disc, and some additional censoring has been applied. The shot of the
suicide bomber in the opening scene holding a Qur'an and a necklace in his hand has been digitally altered to remove the sight of these two items. A similar change occurs later, where footage of Hassan touching his Qur'an and flipping through it has been
altered so his hands do not move as he speaks, nor is the book seen to be fingered. The praying shots missing from the UK video and DVD versions were also removed for the Blu-ray release.
As it stands, the original Region 1 DVD released in 1997 is the only fully uncut version of Executive Decision. Whilst the Blu-ray releases have improved visual and audio quality and have none of the BBFC cuts to violence, fans may wish
to track down the Region 1 DVD to see the film as originally intended.
Original uncut US DVD
Cut US Blu-ray. Strangely listed on the cover as the Blu-ray Edition, at least signifying that it is a new edit.
To date, the original uncut version of the film has not been classified by the BBFC, but the re-edited Blu-Ray Edition is available in the Steven Seagal Collection on Blu-ray and restores the original BBFC cuts to violence.
The DVD was passed 15 after
BBFC cuts for violence
The UK Blu-ray in the Steven Seagal Collection is uncut for violence, but includes the
distributor cuts for religious sensitivities. No sign of this in the BBFC database
The Glimmer Man (1996): Cuts Vanish in a Glimmer
Seagal's penultimate outing under his contract with Warner Bros. was in 1996, when The Glimmer Man was released. The film was passed uncut by the BBFC for UK theatrical release on October 11th 1996, and this version was later
submitted to the BBFC for home video classification. However, eight seconds of cuts were applied before an 18 rating was issued on April 9th 1997. An uncut widescreen version was also submitted to the Board but it too was edited before being passed
with an 18 rating on January 9th 1998.
Topical Cuts as Russian Bad Guys Take a Beating
The first cut occurs as Seagal's character, Jack Cole, brutally pistol whips a defenceless Russian enemy repeatedly. All but the first sight of the beating was removed,
including footage of the Russian's bloodied face. The final fight also removes some repeated punches to the villain Donald's face after Cole throws him onto a table.
This cut version was released on DVD in the UK on May 24th 1999 and is the only version available to British consumers on any format.
18 after BBFC cuts on DVD
Not yet available on Blu-ray
The first of Steven Seagal's films to be released completely uncut on film and video was his 1997 film Fire Down Below , another environmental thriller which proved unsuccessful at
the box office. It would see the end of his multi-picture contract with Warner Bros, although Seagal would later rekindle his box office success with Warner Bros. following the release of Exit Wounds in 2001.
As it stands, the current
situation for UK fans of Steven Seagal is actually the best it has ever been. Most of his films available on the British market are uncut, although some are still yet to see a definitive release.
Above the Law
Available uncut on Blu-ray
Hard to Kill
Available uncut on Blu-ray
Marked for Death
Available uncut on Blu-ray
Out For Justice
Available uncut on DVD
Available uncut on Blu-ray
On Deadly Ground
Not yet available uncut
Under Siege 2
Available uncut on Blu-ray
Available on Blu-ray
(no BBFC cuts but distributor pre-cuts to non-violent footage)
The Glimmer Man
Not yet available uncut
Only two of Seagal's films are unavailable in an uncut form on DVD or Blu-ray, but with former BBFC Director James Ferman long since departed from the Board it is a certainty that On Deadly Ground and The Glimmer Man would be passed
uncut under current BBFC guidelines.
The Steven Segal Collection on UK Blu-ray.
The most economical, and pretty much the only way to get most of Seagal's films uncut.
Only time will tell if these last two remaining films will see an uncut UK release any time soon. Whether they end up being unofficial clones of uncut American discs or fully official BBFC resubmissions still remains to be seen....
Cutting Edge Episode 6: Steven Seagal Special: The Video
This special edition extended episode of Cutting Edge examines the cuts made to Steven Seagal's first nine films in greater detail, and is
hosted exclusively by Melon Farmers:
All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of