|Marked for Death|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 21 May 2002|
Whether or not you think there’s anything really wrong with ‘Marked for Death’ depends a lot on your sensitivity to racial issues in the 1990s. If the idea of a lone white good guy (supported by a couple of black sidekicks) taking on a whole bunch of superstitious black baddies (who have one or two token annoying white associates) doesn’t make you wince at the outset, then you may enjoy this movie on its modest merits.
In ‘Marked for Death,’ Steven Seagal plays Hatch, a DEA agent who quits after losing his partner and accidentally killing a bystander during a bust. Hatch returns to his Midwest hometown, only to find that the place is spilling over with a posse of Jamaican drug dealers. The leader of the posse is a fearsome fellow called Screwface (Basil Wallace), who has a secret that allows him to terrorize his underlings into submission. When Hatch crosses Screwface, the ex-cop and his family are … well, see the title.
‘Marked for Death’ is a perfectly competent action thriller that manages to be so generic that scenes start to evaporate from memory before it’s even finished. Writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor have constructed an efficient story arc, but though they try to spice it up with some voodoo exoticism, we can pretty much guess the beats at every turn. There isn’t one moment where we feel that we haven’t seen the story, the people and the moves before. The bad guys are cartoonish, the heroes are cardboard and the rhetoric sounds as though it’s been recycled from mid-level episodic cop dramas.
Director Dwight Little stages some good car crashes and firefights, combining the two to good effect in Chapter 13, and he showcases Seagal’s martial arts skills effectively enough. The widescreen aspect ratio does justice to the elegantly lighted interiors (probably the most consistently appealing element of the film) and the sound mix on the gunplay is strong, though screams from frightened people in a crowd (also in Chapter 13) seem a little arbitrary at moments.
‘Marked for Death’ is a reasonable time-passer if you’ve absolutely got to see flying fists and spraying bullets between intervals of expository dialogue. Otherwise, while Seagal has had some first-rate vehicles (‘Above the Law’ and ‘Under Siege,’ to name two), ‘Marked for Death’ is just marking time for both the actor and the audience.