Among Steven Seagal fans, Marked for Death is considered one of his absolute best. This is disturbing to me after watching the film because it is such a ridiculous movie…but I guess we (Americans) have to have our own brand of cheesy, poorly assembled action flicks too. I mean we can’t always rely on those bad ninja movies to be continuously made, can we? Well we probably can, but when you have someone like Seagal around to punch people, shoot guns, and blow stuff up it seems like kind of a waste not to utilize the man’s many “talents.” I am, of course, mocking him but when he makes film after film that is basically the same thing but with a smaller and smaller budget, you can’t help but ridicule the man.
He’s a good cop. In a bad mood. Furiously paced and visually striking, Marked for Death puts action star Steven Seagal (Driven To Kill, Under Siege) up against a deadly Jamaican drug posse. Just retired from the Drug Enforcement Agency, John Hatcher (Seagal) returns to his hometown and quickly discovers that drugs have infiltrated his old neighborhood. Determined to drive the dealers out, Hatcher crosses paths with a ferocious Jamaican druglord who vows that Hatcher and his family are now “marked for death.” Widely considered by fans and critics alike to be one of Seagal’s very best films Marked for Death is pure action, loaded with fight scenes integrating heavy elements of aikido.
I just love that synopsis. “He’s a good cop. In a bad mood.” I mean that just tells you everything you need to know about this film, doesn’t it? It tells you that it’s about a cop that it will likely end with him exacting some kind of revenge for some wrongdoing that was done to him. It tells you that you shouldn’t expect too much stellar acting out of the film because it sounds like it’s going to be pretty mindless. And finally it tells you that you probably are going to waste your time on this film because that sentence, along with the remainder of the synopsis, sounds absolutely ridiculous. They don’t even bring up the fact that the main antagonist in the film is named Screwface. But then again I guess that might be giving away the store if you start to talk about the actual story and characters of the film—it has so few genuine resources that it has to hold them close to its chest lest everything be revealed on the back of the Blu-ray box.
So what goes on in this film? A lot of hilarious and violent things, as that is really all that Seagal is ever capable of. The story is pretty basic for a vengeful cop story (partner gets killed, other partner retires and then inevitably gets pulled out of retirement for some reason) but it’s the action that made this film stand out. Seagal provides not only plenty of weapon-play but also hand-to-hand combat as well. It’s all very dated now since this film is already twenty years old, but it was still entertaining on a very (very) basic level. Of course there’s also the song that Seagal wrote and performed for this film as well…so, hooray for his branching out into other mediums at the expense of the films viewers.
The dialogue in this film is really something that has to be experienced for yourself. It’s so over-the-top and ridiculous that I was laughing way more than I probably should have been. Seagal movies have never been things to be taken seriously, of course, but there is just so much cheese in here that I felt like I could dip some bread and meat straight into my TV (I realize how that sounded and I stand behind that comment). I thought for sure I’d remember some of the more stupid quotes from the film, but looking back at the film each time Seagal said something moronic he trumped it with something else by the end of the film so it was as if each statement overwrote itself so all I was left with was “I hope they weren’t triplets.”
Overall the film is now a ripe twenty-years of age and it’s still considered one of Seagal’s best. Not surprising as it seems to encompass everything that people love about him, what with the violence, horrendous dialogue, ridiculous villains, and the big twist with Screwface at the end was as surprising as it was hilarious. There’s not a lot to love here unless you’re a fan of Seagal, but if you are then it’s a Highly Recommended outing. If you aren’t into the genre though then you can just Skip It–after all if you haven’t seen it twenty years after the fact, chances are you won’t ever.
Fox puts Marked for Death out on Blu-ray in a standard single disc Elite Blu-ray case. It’s a very basic package with only the most basic of inserts and nothing else. The cover is even that of the previous DVD edition, so Fox didn’t even go through their usual cover re-vamp for the Blu-ray release. Also don’t expect any extras from this release either as there is nothing here aside from the film itself.
Video is an AVC encoded effort and considering its age I wasn’t surprised by the overly hazy and un-sharp appearance that the film lumbers along with for the majority of its runtime. The colors are strong and the blacks are pretty decent, but overall it’s a very dated looking transfer and it’s no real surprise Fox didn’t run it through any kind of clean-up process as it just really isn’t the type of film that would warrant such a thing.
Sadly the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix wasn’t given a once-over either, as it very rarely makes its presence known in anything but the front channels. It was very clearly pulled from a stereo source and spit out into the other channels accordingly, as the surrounds are almost entirely quiet (even during the action sequences) and the LFE output is basically null and void. Again, not surprising but still disappointing.
As previously mentioned there are zero extras and as such this release can be tagged as a big fat Skip It. Absolutely no reason to pick this up unless you want to see it in a quality that is not much better than the current upscaled DVD could offer (or so I assume—I’ve never seen the original DVD release, it may be absolute crap).
Marked for Death is now available on Blu-ray.