Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Marked for Death



MARKED FOR DEATH (1990)

Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Michael Grais & Mark Victor
Starring: Steven Seagal, Keith David & Basil Wallace

Man, they sure don’t make them like this anymore. Hell, Seagal doesn’t make them like this anymore. Which is a shame, as Marked for Death is easily one of his best (if not his best) and is a rough and tough action film from an era when Seagal was at the top of his game. The story is nothing revolutionary with Seagal’s tough cop, John Hatcher, returning home to give up his violent ways as a law enforcing officer. When a local drug kingpin, Screwface (Basil Wallace) starts invading Hatcher’s neighbourhood and putting his family in danger, he once again takes up arms and with the aid of his buddy (Keith David), sets about breaking limbs, getting in car chases and shooting lots of people.



What it lacks in plot, and watching the film you do get a sense a lot was cut out in order to keep the action flowing, Marked for Death more than makes up in attitude and action. The eighties and nineties produced hard hitting, violent and stunt filled action films like this, which just aren’t made anymore. They may have been implausible but that was the whole fun factor of them: a lone, almost super, hero taking on an army of deliciously ludicrous villains. Marked for Death is a fine example of this. Seagal actually puts a little more oomph into his performance, almost acting in many scenes, especially those with the always great Keith David (The Thing). His jackets and ponytail may cause sniggers but Seagal’s performance is intense and he certainly excels in the action scenes. Director, Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4, Rapid Fire) directs in a tight and tough fashion, shooting with grit and blending the Jamaican voodoo vibe seamlessly with the over the top action element. He also throws in some very violent scenes including hands chopped off, decapitations and even human sacrifice.



Yet it’s the fights and action we all come to a Seagal film for and this film has some of the best. The pony tailed one (still slim and in shape here) puts his Aikido skills to good use in a number of fights, often against many opponents at once. The action is often brutal and staged with energy, the standout set piece being a car chase cum shootout/fight in a department store. However, the real scene stealer is the villain. The action impresses but Basil Wallace’s Screwface makes the film. Just keeping the right side of over the top, Wallace gives a show stopping performance as the completely demented, voodoo loving, ghost like Screwface. He is so intense in some scenes; the other actors really do look scared.



A great villain, great action and even a good performance from its star make Marked for Death one of the top old school action films. Joanna Pacula and Kevin Dunn are given underdeveloped roles and little screen time, and even Keith David is somewhat underused, which is shame, but the film delivers the action and the tight direction means this is a blast from beginning to end. Forget all his recent direct to DVD efforts and recheck this classic for vintage Seagal.

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