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Review Marked for Death (1990): Memorable villain but everything else is average.

genre: action, martial arts







Two things I come to realize watching back older Steven Seagal films. One I sure was a lot more accepting and forgiving of bad films back then and second Seagal's style of fighting can be downright boring to watch.

Marked for Death was a film I enjoyed thoroughly the first time I watched it. Now having seen it again I was incredibly disappointed. So much so that at one point I was rooting for Screwface (the main villain of the story) to be successful in killing John Hatcher (Steven Seagal). But the guy apart from being creepy and scary was very ineffective. He basically was all show and talk. I don't mind lengthy monologues by villains as long as they back up those words by action and resolve. If you want to kill someone then just do it already. Don't waste precious seconds with useless rituals. Especially if most of these rituals are made up and make fun of real traditions and religions. 

John Hatcher is a burned out DEA agent who suddenly feels like there is no point in doing his job anymore. I could go into the reasons why he feels that way but it's not that important. All you need to know is that as far as he is concerned he is out of the game. Until he crosses paths with a Rastafarian gang member who he apprehends. From that moment on he is made an enemy of this Rastafarian gang lead by Screwface (played by Basil Wallace). After a drive-by shooting on his sister's place his niece gets wounded and this is when Hatcher has had enough and gets back into it and starts doing what he does best. As if being branded as an enemy was not enough Hatcher now is Marked for Death. For some reason though this newfound determination still is not enough for them to deal with Hatcher. All it does is making him angrier and as you and I know it's not going to be pretty if Steven Seagal is angry. Although it's hard to tell with Steven since he basically always looks the same. I assume he was. 

The action is what you expect but surprisingly enough less hand to hand combat. More like the bad guys waiting in turn to have their limbs torn and bones broken. And as exciting as this might sound it got boring after a while since one thing ruined it for me. No one is truly resisting him. There isn't a single person in the film that puts up a proper fight. Something I could have lived with if at least all of the combat was done stylishly. But it is here where I come to realize that Seagal's style of fighting is not that compelling to watch. In fact it is downright boring. All he does is basically grab other people's arms and then they roll making it seem like he is throwing them. And maybe he is the one doing it. Only it simply does not provide the eye candy I want. Because you see Seagal barely punches or kicks in this one. I know that is very typical to Aikido. However would it have hurt for him to do more? Or that he at least would get into fights with people who could dish out some pain on to him before he takes them out? 

Now there is one thing that redeems the film. No matter how cartoonish or ridiculous the mystique surrounding Screwface does help make him into an interesting villain. (He could have been more so but let's not get into that). You would think twice to take him on. So is this film worth your time? I think this is one best suited to watch very late at night or rainy Sunday. Otherwise stay clear.

Fun fact: Jimmy Cliff appears in this film with song John Crow. Apparently Steven Seagal also performed in this song. 



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