Marked for Death (1990)

By Jake

Directed by Dwight H. Little
Written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor

The mainstream 90s action movie is very reflective of the era. The crack epidemic and gangster rap phenomenon that began in the mid to late 80s was in full blossom by 1990. Terrorism in the United States was almost a laughable fantasy, but would now hit too close for comfort for a lot of people. Action movies in the 2000s generally rely on fantasy (movies based off of comics, video games and toys), getting revenge or wars (the only way terrorism is an acceptable plot device). Marked for Death is a movie that deals with drugs.

Steven Seagal stars as John Hatcher, a wise-cracking, bone breaking DEA agent. The film opens with Hatcher and his partner chasing a drug dealer. When they catch him they stuff him into the trunk of their car. They take him to a drug lord (though they may not be aware he's a drug lord), who turns on them. Hatcher beats everybody up, even cutting a guy's hand off with a sword. His partner is shot by a naked woman, when he opens the wrong door. Hatcher kills her, but his partner is dead.

Hatcher decides to retire from the DEA and move back to Chicago and live with his sister. When he meets his niece, we find out he's allergic to cats, which sadly isn't foreshadowing.

John goes to visit his high school football coach. He thought that Hatcher was dead. He's also extremely upset about some Jamaicans dealing crack and other drugs in the bleachers. Hatcher wants to just leave it alone. They instead decide to go get some drinks.

Sometimes a movie doesn't flow right so they juggle scenes around, even if it makes less sense and creates plot holes. I think this scene was meant to take place before John Hatcher goes to hang out with his football coach. A guy (with some kind of crazy accent) is interested in making a deal with the Jamaicans. We're introduced to Screwface, the leader of the Jamaican posse. The guy with the accent gets some bad vibes (I guess) and goes to a fortune teller/voodoo doctor. He pays her to put a curse on Screwface.

The coach and John Hatcher go out for some drinks at a local watering hole. The Jamaicans burst into the bar and open fire at the guy with the accent's posse. Hatcher interjects himself into the gunfight and beats some guys up.

The Jamaicans ritualistically kill the woman who cursed Screwface. I have absolutely no idea how they knew she cursed him. It must be a sixth sense. They also do a drive-by on John's sister's house and his niece is hit.

Although, they all escape alive, when John returns to the house he finds that there are strange markings. He consults with an expert and is told that he and his family are marked for death (like the title of the film). He races back to his sister's house just in time to save her from a ritualistic death.

Seagal and his coach team up to take it to the Jamaicans. First they have a car chase which leads to a shootout/fight in a department store.

Then they team up with a Jamaican Chicago cop and decide to hit them where they party. Stuff blows up and Hatcher and Screwface (along with several henchmen) face off. Bones are broken and Screwface is beheaded. Hatcher, the coach and the cop head back to another hideout for the Jamaicans in order to get them to leave using the old "you cut the head off the rattlesnake" mentality. But wait: Screwface has a twin brother, who Hatcher also easily kills.

Action movies are pretty overblown by nature, and Seagal flicks are gratuitously ludicrous. While not a good movie in the traditional Citizen Kane sense, it is good for an overblown action movie. It's an escapist fantasy over feeling helpless while watching your city fall apart during the mid-80s/early-90s crack epidemic. In the beginning Hatcher doesn't want to get involved, as long as it doesn't hit too close to home. When it does, Seagal goes crazy and cuts a head off with a sword, just like you might want to if your family was murdered by Jamaican drug dealers.



  1. this is a gr8 review jake. i'll probably never see this movie, but you know how i feel about steven seagal.

  2. steven seagal, though quite the egomaniac, knows how to make one hell of an action movie. of course that's probably where his egomania comes in handy.

  3. I'm actually going to use this review in the discussion on 9/11 we're going to have in my sociology capstone.