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Marked For Death
review by Joe Burrows
Here’s a question that has been bothering me: Why hasn’t Steven Seagal ever ran for public office? Think about it…always has a cause to champion, talks tough, has a (supposed) military background, seems to be on the left but obviously hates foreigners, etc. It just seems odd since Arnold became the Governator and all that Seagal would become the next heir apparent to helm a state by his lonesome. Just don’t let him near Alaska. I am not ready for On Deadly Ground Part 2. No one is.
The Plot, as it was:
Seagal plays John Hatcher, a DEA agent that just saw his partner die in Mexico (shot by a topless whore, no less!). Deciding to leave the job behind, Hatcher returns home to Chicago and mellow out. However, his old friend Max (Keith David) warns him that not all is right in suburbia due to Jamaican drug runners infecting the area. Hatcher figures it’s not his problem unless it is made his problem (ominous music). After getting caught in the middle of a shootout between the Jamaicans and the mob, the former groups’ leader Screwface (Basil Wallace) decides to target Hatcher’s family. I think somebody’s problem just got made.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
This offers just what one would expect from a Seagal vehicle: lots of tough talk and crippled bodies at a fast pace and little more. It’s probably the seediest of Seagal’s earlier movies, as all the bad guys are either involved in drugs, prostitutes, voodoo and sacrifices. In fact, there’s a pretty strong case that this film wouldn’t do much for Jamaican/American relations, as our island brothers are portrayed as incomprehensible, dope smoking thugs that are all into voodoo. All of them are loud and seem to be in need of an interpreter, as their characterizations don’t go much deeper than that. My guess is that the Jamaican cop (Tom Wright) that accompanies Hatcher and Max to the homeland was written in just so it wasn’t made to seem that ALL Jamaicans are scum. Aside from the usual xenophobic leanings, this is a pretty tightly filmed action spectacle. Seagal has rarely been more vicious in his action (see below) and director Dwight Little seems very capable with the action/chase scenes. The filming in Jamaica (with legendary reggae man Jimmy Cliff and his band being featured) add a slight touch of class to the more exploitative elements of the film, which there still many. While not up to the caliber of Under Siege or even Out for Justice, Marked for Death is still decent entertainment of the “time killer” pantheon.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Perennial action tough guy Danny Trejo (ConAir, Desperado) is a snitch in the film’s opening moments.
- Danielle Harris (little Jaime in Halloween 4 & 5) plays Hatcher’s niece (note: she has become quite the hottie since then).
- Earl Boen, the guy that always seems to play a doctor, plays…A DOCTOR!
Body Count/Violence: 33. To reiterate, Seagal is a nasty sonofabitch when it comes to his killing. Aside from the usual gunplay, Seagal dispenses his foes with neck snapping, kidney punches, sledgehammers, metal pipes, swords to the crotch (OW!), decapitation, backbreaking, knives to the chest and throat, etc. And when he’s not killing, he’s busy beating the living dog shit out of people, snapping arms and legs with his usually effortless Aikido. He even scares a baddie into jumping through a window and onto a parked car below! Seagal is probably only behind Bronson when it comes to sheer, calculated bloodlust (though Seagal does have more variety in his methods).
Sexuality/Nudity: Screenwriters Michael Grais and Mark Victor have the common courtesy to include no less than three topless women in as many scenes. Liz Gracen gets her top cut open down the middle but that’s just for the Jamaicans to paint her torso with chicken blood pre-sacrifice (yummy!).
Language/Dialogue: Fairly strong language, here and there. Seagal’s one of the few action heroes to make profanity work for him because when he claims he’s “gonna fuck you up”, he means it!
How bad was it?:
Most reviews put it where most of Seagal’s movies not called Under Siege end up: on the backburner. The majority term it as mindless, violent and exploitive, as if they expected high art to begin with. Action critics tend to give it a little more slack, though it’s not exactly in their Seagal “Top 5” list.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Proving that Steven Seagal’s name didn’t always mean “direct-to-video fodder”, MFD was the #1 film in America from October 5-21 of 1990. It handily rebuffed competition from the reissue of Disney’s Fantasia and the remakes of Desperate Hours and Night of the Living Dead. It dropped off as it headed into Halloween and was taken out a few weeks later when it hit 9th place. Still, at $46 million, it was the 4th highest grosser for 20th Century Fox that year (only behind Home Alone, Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Edward Scissorhands.
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.