Steven Seagal. There was a time when he made entertaining action films. Sure, his movies are remarkably similar - Seagal forever playing an unstoppable badass and using martial arts to take down the bad guys - but where they fail to deliver on originality, they deliver on action, fun and even humour (whether they intend to amuse or not.)
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of finding Marked for Death on TV. For me, Marked for Death is easily among Seagal’s best films. The film opens with John Hatcher, a Drug Enforcement Agent beating and bullying drug dealers and shooting a prostitute in the back. Next, we find Hatcher in a confessional repenting for a long and impressive list of sins, like sleeping with informants. The priest advises him to “try to find the gentle self inside you and allow that person to come back.'' So Hatcher retires from the DEA and returns to his hometown.
The emergence of a kinder, gentler Hatcher is squashed when he discovers that his hometown is being controlled by a Jamaican drug gang led by a kingpin named Screwface. After Hatcher interrupts a bar fight between two rival drug gangs, he’s sucked right back into fighting the war on drugs, and makes it his personal mission to take down Screwface and his gang.
Once Hatcher begins chasing the drug dealers, the usual Seagal action movie trademarks emerge - drugs, nude women, bone-crushing, eye-gouging, joint dislocations, and even a little voodoo for good measure. It’s sleazy; it’s bizarre; it’s completely over-the-top, and it’s so bloody good. Add to this an engaging villain who is perceived as inhuman with supernatural powers by those who fear him, and is described as having two heads and four eyes, and the fun just keeps on rolling.
By the final act, Hatcher has chased Screwface to Jamaica and their final face-off ensues. Actually, not one, but two face-offs occur. The big reveal at the end of the film – that Screwface had a twin brother and was actually two people – explains the significance of the earlier “two heads and four eyes” description. When it comes time for Hatcher to take down Screwface, he’s ruthless and merciless. In the first kill, he slices Screwface (aka Twin #1) across the body and then cuts off his head. He then shows the severed head to Screwface’s henchmen to prove to them that their leader is dead. Of course, there’s still one more twin out there.
When Hatcher faces Screwface (aka Twin #2), he’s a little pissed and annoyed by the whole twin thing and unleashes pure hell on the guy. He gouges out his eyes, throws him through a wall, breaks his back and then throws him down an elevator shaft. Blind and crippled, Screwface lands on a large piece of metal down there and is impaled. It’s got to be up there with one of the best bad guy deaths in film.
As with most other Steven Seagal films, Marked for Death doesn’t employ lofty ambitions and fail to deliver on them. Rather, the film is comprised of tried, true and predictable elements and the end result is a cheesy, ridiculously fun action film.