Steven Seagal is Marked For Death

In this, Steven Seagal’s third, and arguably best movie, he continues the trend of having titles that could come after his name as descriptions.

Steven Seagal is ABOVE THE LAW.

Steven Seagal is HARD TO KILL.

and this time around Steven Seagal is MARKED FOR DEATH.

You see how that makes each title cooler? Instant title, situation, and character recognition right there. It’s the same way with a lot of his films. One of the many reasons Seagal used to be awesome.

Yeah used to be. I said it. The guy just aint what he once was, he’s a little on the tubby side now, hasn’t gotten really any better with the whole acting thing, and doesn’t really make many good movies anymore. But he used to be pretty cool, in his own crazy sort of way.

The movie starts off with Seagal chasing down Danny Trejo in some small Mexican village. He’s some sort of guy workin for some drug dealers, and Seagal and his partner have a little bit of undercover work to do. Unfortunately the opening deal goes sour, and when a dude tries to cut Seagal with a machete, he turns it around cuts open the dude’s throat and then cuts another guys hand off. It’s a pretty cool way to open the first fight. Seagal then beats up some thugs, shoots some other thugs, and then lets his partner get shot before driving off.

The next scene is Seagal showing his sensitive side, he goes to a church, confesses to a priest that he just killed a bunch of people, isn’t always the best cop, and isn’t always the most moral guy, but he says he always does stuff in the name of justice. The priest says he needs a new way of life, needs to go home, and try to get away from all the bad shit. So Seagal goes back home, to the old suburb where he used to live. He goes to live with his sister and his niece. I think it’s supposed to be in the Chicago area, but there’s palm trees every once in a while so it’s a little strange geographically.

No sooner does Seagal go to visit his old friend Kieth David do we discover the real bad guys in the movie. JAMAICAN DRUG DEALERS! They seem to just hang out all over this suburd, like they’re honestly introduced selling pot and crack on the grounds of a high school. Where is local law enforcement? I figure these guys might be part of the same gang of evil voodoo obsessed Jamaicans that messed up shit for Danny Glover in Predator 2. They act about the same anyway, they say ‘mon‘ a lot, shoot things, and deal drugs.

Keith David is pretty pissed about the Jamaicans bringing drugs to his town, and he’s always complaining about it. Seagal just says “Hey man there’s nothing you can do about it, try to ignore it”. Cause ya know he’s trying to avoid trouble. Keith understandably thinks that’s bullshit.

It’s not till the two have a night hanging out in a bar interrupted by some Jamaicans with machine guns does Seagal step in. He disarms and beats up a dreadlock-ed dude and stops a rival hispanic mafia-type guy from getting killed, and turns the guy in to the police. As the guy is getting put into a cop car he yells a whole spiel about how Seagal is marked and is gonna get killed. Hence the title of the movie. At that point it’s official, Seagal is MARKED FOR DEATH.

We meet SCREWFACE, the evil gang leader, played by Basil Wallace, and find out he’s kind of crazy, and into voodoo. “He’s like yeah, we’re gonna kill the shit outta Steven Seagal”!

So the Jamaicans do a drive by on Steven’s house, wounding his niece. He has to rush her to the hospital. Her mom is freaking out, and Seagal is looking kinda pissed. He tells the doctor on hand that “Money is no problem, you treat this girl like she’s the President of The United States.”

To which the doctor replies something about how they treat all the patients with the same amount of care.

So to prove his point, in what is probably the best exchange of the film, Seagal just repeats himself. “You treat this girl like she’s the President of The United States.” You know he means it, cause he says it in that half threatening cocky whisper talk he does.

The scene ends before the conversation can loop around again. Keith David and Seagal have one of those moments where they look at each other and acknowledge that in the words of Mr. Will Smith, “Shit Just Got Real”. So they walk out of the hospital like pissed of badasses.

So Seagal goes to ruff up some guys for info, he ends up shooting one dude in the head, and another guy jumps out the window. Afterwards when Keith David asks what went down he responds with “One thought he was invincible, and the other thought he could fly. They were both wrong.” It’s pretty lame, but Seagal manages to once again sound cool by half whispering and smirking at how hardcore he is.

But then the Jamaicans do a voodoo ceremony on Seagal’s sister and so it’s even more personal.

Big Steve and Kieth, they decide to try and stick up some guys dealing dope around a playground, which leads to a pretty decent car chase, which leads to a great stunt with a car flying through the front of a jewelry store. It’s pretty impressive actually. Then Seagal proceeds to beat the shit out of all the drug dealers by throwing them into various things in the jewelry store. It’s a pretty good fight scene, it showcases Seagal’s ability to karate chop people into stuff, and hit people with their own weapons. It’s the highlight of the 2nd act.

Then there’s a few scenes of the good guys getting some more guns and supplies. It turns out they’re gonna take the fight right to Screwface. They’re going to Jamaica!

They literally just take a passenger plane there. Air Jamaica. They somehow get all their guns and stuff through customs, it’s never really explained. After some snooping around they show up at Screwface’s house proceed to fuck everyone’s shit all up, and then Seagal has a sword fight with Screwface. It’s the shortest sword fight this side of Equilibrium. Seagal hits him in the balls with the sword, spins around and decapitates him.

So they decide to take the head back to America to show Screwfac’s gang that he’s dead. And somehow they get it through customs. I feel that that’s a major plot hole really. I think a severed head would be even harder to get through than guns, even in 1990, when airport security was a little more lax.

When they get there, the gang is reasonably freaked out, but there’s a twist: Screwface has an identical twin brother! So there’s some shooting, and Keith David gets wounded, Seagal beats up more thugs before having a longer sword fight with Screwface 2: Electric Boogaloo. Butwhat happens at the end of the sword fight might be one of the best villian deaths in action movie history, or at least Seagal’s history. First he gouges out Screwface’s eyes, Seagal then breaks him over his knee, and then he tosses the guy down an elevator shaft onto a spike. It’s overkill at its finest.

After looking down the elevator shaft at his handiwork for a few seconds he says: “I hope they’re not triplets.”

BAM! What a zinger!

Then Seagal and Keith David leave and the movie ends.

Overall Marked for Death is a top notch work. Seagal hasn’t turned all crazy/new age yet, he’s in great shape, and spends the whole movie whisper talking. He’s still got his long ponytail and I’ve noticed that he keeps his shirt tucked in most of the time. He wears a pretty silly looking jacket with some dragons on it, and has a bad sense of fashion, but it’s not like his later stuff where he wears asian robes all over the place.

I think everyone let his initial silliness slide because of the how easily he dispatches thugs. He never really seams to have a hard time, he hardly even has to break a sweat, and it’s enjoyable cause we know whomever tries to fight him is probably gonna end up broken. He always kinda has this “Yeah I know I’m pretty badass” look, and it’s enjoyable here, cause the movie is still a good one.

The action scenes are well done, there’s a good variety in content, there’s gunplay, fisticuffs, akido, swordplay, and a car chase; so the action never gets stale. The bad guys are over the top, doin voodoo stuff and having funny Jamaican accents. There’s some side characters, but the movie never tries to throw more than a glance at anything resembling romance, and Keith David works great as a foil for Seagal. Providing backup when needed and being gruff and angry to Seagal’s smarmy and karate choppy.

If you like Seagal then you owe it to yourself to see Marked For Death, as it’s easily one of his better films. If you like action movies, you’ll enjoy Marked for Death, cause it has shootins and fightins. If you don’t really care for Seagal cause of his later career silliness, the you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the amount of quality found in Marked for Death, and if you’ve never seen a Seagal movie before, you should probably start here.

I highly recommend reading Seagalogy: A Study of The Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal by Vern, it’s an amazing book, and will give you a better view on the man’s body of work.

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