The glowering brutality that is aikido headbanger Steven Seagal’s substitute for a star persona at least gives us a rancid taste of authenticity in this cookie-cutter action picture. This glum lug seems to really enjoy hurting people; he snaps limbs and shatters noses with visible relish. Pitted against a crew of Jamaican gangsters who invade his (white ethnic) Chicago neighborhood and threaten his family, retired DEA agent John Hatcher sets out to solve the case with robotic efficiency, kicking butt in just about every scene. Not quite as pudgy in this 1990 outing as he became a few films later, Seagal looks like the genuine, lethal article in the fight sequences, but like a hopeless amateur when he tries to act his way out of the waterlogged-paper-bag of a script. So what else is new? The one bright spot here is Basil Wallace, a mostly unsung actor who throws himself into the showy role of the Rasta gang-boss Screwface, a garishly scarred psycho with piercing ice-blue eyes.

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 1990
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Run time: 93 minutes
Rating: R

Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD25
Region: A

“Marked for Death” was directed by Dwight H. Little and written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor. Steven Seagal plays Drug Enforcement Agent John Hatcher who returns to his home town to relax after the death of his partner on the job. They say you can never go home again and the case is the same here as Jamaican drug lords have taken over the place and Hatcher has to show them who is boss. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since this film was made but HD has been kind to 20-years-ago Seagal.

John Hatcher (Seagal) is a jaded DEA agent. After witnessing the death of his partner, he resigns from the force and vows to return to family life in a quiet neighborhood of Chicago. However, he arrives to find his hometown teeming with Jamaican drug dealers, headed by the psychotic voodoo cultist Screwface (Basil Wallace, Blood Diamond). Though he does his best to ignore the impending danger, Hatcher finds both himself and his family in the dealers’ sights after interfering in an assassination attempt, prompting him to team up with an old military comrade (Keith David, “The Thing”) and take the fight to the criminals.

Being an earlier theatrical release of Steven’s, we needn’t worry about the production quality like we would with a DTV outing of his and can focus on the film’s strengths. Most noteably, this is one of the most consistently action-packed movies Seagal would star in: it begins with an on-foot chase through the streets of Colombia and goes on to feature no less than five shootouts, four masterful hand-to-hand encounters, a car chase,a couple big explosions, and an awesome swordfight…and those are only the big scenes. The action is some of the best work that Seagal has done: the swordfight wouldn’t be topped by our hero for a long time (see Into the Sun), and the four-on-one fight in Screwface’s lair is second to none in showing practical aikido at work.

Speaking of which, it needs to be said that Screwface is the most original villain that Seagal has ever fought. I’d go as far to say that he’s the best ever featured in a Seagal picture. Aside from being more explosive, animated, and bombastic than Henry Silva, William Forsythe, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey, or Michael Caine ever were, the highly-underutilized Basil Wallace is the first nemesis who truly seems to get under our hero’s thick skin and makes it more personal than Steven’s feuds tend to be. His ability to personally take the fight to Seagal is unparalleled, as is the “twist” about him that tops off the story. As witnessed during the climatic swordfight, he’s also the most well-matched opponent Seagal has ever had in a film – capable of going toe-to-toe with the big man and negating the quick, overly-efficient structure Seagal’s fight tend to have.

Alas, this film is not perfect, but thankfully, points of incompetence are limited and don’t permeate the entire picture. Regarding Seagal, he performs with the same non-flair that we’re used to (thank goodness for the rest of the cast, including Tom Wright of Dumbarton Bridge), but in addition, his character’s initial reluctance to not get involved in the drug problem spreading through his hometown is both uncharacteristic and unfounded, seeing as he retains his tough-guy air even while saying “no”. Then there’s the silly scene in which Seagal’s gladness to be home is expressed by having him clean a concealable pistol while sentimental music plays in the background. There are a few more instances like that, but thankfully not enough to damage the film.
Movie Content: 8/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/MPEG-4 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For a low budget film set in the early 90’s, we have a decent picture quality on Blu-ray. This is not the film that you will call over your buddies to sell them on Blu-ray, but for a catalog release this looks good. The film does hold a darker look and feel. Flesh tones seem to run a bit on the hotter side, giving the actors a redish/orange look. Blacks are not as deep as I would have hoped. There is subtle grain throughout the film which never becomes a hindrance. Details are good and provide for a fairly clear looking picture. The overall image is on the softer side of the fence which tends to hurt all technical areas of the film.
Video Quality: 7/10

The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix. This film does give your sound system a good work out throughout with all the action sequences and the soundtrack. I was not expecting much going in considering that the film was released in 1990 with a low budget. I felt immersed at all times when there was action going on and it made me feel like I was in the middle of all the fighting scenes. If I have a minor complaint, I felt like bass levels were a little bit on the lower side so they could have used a bit more tweaking. Dialogue is clean through the center channel with no issues.
Audio Quality: 8.5/10

Special Features

  • No Special Features

Special Features: 0/10

Final Thoughts

Before Jason Statham and Vin Diesel, there was guys like Steven Seagal that lit up the screen with fun action films. Diesel has fallen off the face of this earth with action films, but Statham continues to make fun action romps like Seagal. This is not one of Seagal’s best films, but this is a very enjoyable mindless action film. The film is affected a bit on Blu-ray due to the low budget in terms of visual presentation, but the audio presentation is well done. I am disappointed that there were no special features at all.
Overall Rating: 8/10