Marked for Death Reviews
What can you say? This is another classic standard Steven Seagal vehicle, but amongst his better ones in my eyes, despite all sorts of flaws. Let´s face it, he is not an A-grade actor, nor does he end up in cohesive and structured action flicks. This is old-school early 90's gritty violence and action with a thin plot line and not that much to show for. Yes, the main message can´t be mistaken, violence needs to be fought with even more violence, and that is questionable. However, the bad guys who are in the crosshair of Hatcher´s violence are not of the nicer kind. Some might see it as a moral dilemma, others not. Technically this is ok, and there´s some nice locations in Chicago & Jamaica. But, the entertaining value comes from Basil Wallace as Screwface who puts on a great over-the-top performance. "Marked for Death" was Seagal's third film coming after "Above the Law" (1988) & "Hard to Kill" (1990).
There isn't much to say about a film like Marked for Death aside from the fact that it is essentially a standard Steven Seagal fare.
The premise in Marked for Death is a pretty cheap one. It's the basic story about a DEA agent becoming a one man army in a war against Jamaican gangs and their influence on the drug trade. It makes this completely obvious by having the most stereotypical Jamaican characters as the antagonists, especially some obsessed with some form of voodoo. So the story is generic and the film just uses Jamaicans in place of the usual Asians as the drug trade antagonists, although they are strangely psychotic characters with strange cultural traditions as the main source of their antagonising nature. The enemies in Marked for Deathdo not feel like they are that threatening as bad guys because they are essentially some form of religious cult with a connection to a drug trade, and so the writing in the film fills a little more ridiculous than in other Steven Seagal films. The premise makes sense but the characters do not and nor do their motives, and that combined with a generic direction for its protagonist end up ensuring that Marked for Death is really a limited film which delivers some entertaining action film but does not fully capitalise on the potential of Steven Seagal's abilities. It may be one of his better films in contrast to his very low quality films, but it still is rather formulaic and unsurprising. But then again, I'm sure that most people would go into seeing the film with that precise expectation.
What you need to look at Marked for Death for is simply its action qualities, and honestly the most die hard fans of Steven Seagal or nuts action junkies will get a thrill out of seeing him kick so many bad guys around and engage in shootouts and car chases. The only problem is that the film does not have a sense that there is a lot of energy in it. It feels slow moving and rather melodramatic which means that it cannot be tense or energetic like a good action film really needs to be, and although it has its moments thanks to some entertaining action scenes, all in all it is dragged down by the thinly sketched melodrama occurring between the scenes and the lack of creativity or originality in the plot which just makes the mood of everything feel more dull than it already is. Everything in Marked for Death feels slow and it isn't explosive or thrilling, and even at a running time of a mere 93 minutes the pace and length of the film feel a lot slower and longer than the project actually is. I guess the problem is that the film is way too busy taking itself seriously to actually have any fun, and so the viewers are not likely to feel the same about it all in the end. There is a fanbase out there for Marked for Death, but I can only say that there was a certain level of entertainment value I felt from the film and it was not consistent or sufficient enough to stand up and prove that the film was good overall because it just wasn't.
The important thing about Marked for Death is how much ass Steven Seagal kicks in it. While the character he plays is nothing more than a generic action hero and he acts it out as such, Marked for Death serves as an opportunity for him to show off his diverse abilities as an action hero. He manages to pull the triggers on his guns with powerful energy and use whatever weapons come his way like a pro. But most importantly, Marked for Death allows him to implement in his natural skill for martial arts. He shows off his skills for Aikido in Marked for Death which are some of his most defining elements, and he ensures that the nature of his action scenes are mostly entertaining enough to please fans. He puts up a great fight by throwing all kinds of techniques around and kicking the ass of every Jamaican he comes into contact with, and so his skills as a martial artist do a lot for him in Marked for Death. If Marked for Death was more focused on that than it was on shoddy plotting and cheap writing then the film could have been a lot better, but it is Steven Seagal who really pulls it out in the end and puts up enough of a fight for the film to at least have some sense of entertainment value to it. His acting may not be at an all time high and his general mood seems rather dull as well, but considering that the film is an action vehicle for him and essentially nothing else, he attributes the necessary aspects to the film.
Keith David makes a decent supporting presence as he supplies the stereotypical tough African American archetype to the story. He makes a team with Steven Seagal as the two of them progress into the strange underworld of Jamaican drug trade, and although he is only given a handful of screen time, he manages to do his job well enough within the matter of a limited time and makes himself a good presence as well as a decent team with Steven Segal when the action rolls around. He does his part.
So Marked for Death is a pretty routine Steven Seagal effort. It is better than his truly bad films and it has some entertaining action as well as Steven Seagal showing off his versatile range of fighting abilities, but it is all shrouded in cheap writing, a weak premise and a story that goes by slowly and free of tension which renders the experience more dull than it is fun.
Scowls, sensitive ponytails, swords and as a unique twist, it has Jamaicans.
Thoroughly enjoyable just as long as you leave your brain at the door.
Marked for Death tells the story of DEA agent John Hatcher (Seagal). He's burnt out. His partner got killed in a Mexican bust gone wrong, and he just wants to enjoy some time off with his sister and niece. But when some nasty Jamaican posses try to murder some rivals in the same bar, Hatcher intervenes and becomes marked for revenge. The ensuing escalation forces Hatcher and old buddy Max (Keith David) to team up and finish off these drug dealers for good.
One of the best parts of this movie is the unintentional hilarity of some of the action scenes. Steven Seagal in his prime is a pretty big guy, and whenever he fights a baddie and they get a punch or two in, it doesn't look like it hits at all. But Seagal has to fake it, so the movie is suspenseful. The result is Seagal taking down guys with extreme prejudice, and faking hits by guys way smaller than him.
Despite that, the movie is truly entertaining. Its packed with ferocious fight scenes, chases, and creepy voodoo scenes. The result is one of Seagal's finest films.