I’ve seen quite a bit from Steven Seagal of late. There was his reality series from his deputy job, and many of his numerous catalog titles are finding their way to Blu-ray. All in all, it’s a pretty good time to be a Steven Seagal fan. The latest of these earlier films to reach high definition is the 1990 entry Marked For Death. It pretty much follows the established Seagal formula here, combing martial arts with the vendetta theme, that he has come to personify for so long. It has a little of what the fans are looking for, including the social messages that are a huge part of Seagal’s films. I’ll give him a lot of credit here. He does appear to have a huge heart, particularly for kids, and tends to press issues of importance to them in many of his films. He also manages to accomplish this without getting too preachy.
John Hatcher (Seagal) works for the DEA. He’s in the middle of an undercover operation in Mexico that goes sideways. That means that people are going to get killed, and you can bet your bottom peso that one of those people is going to be someone that Hatcher cares very much about. Playing a family member or partner in a Steven Seagal movie is like putting on a red uniform and beaming down to a hostile planet with Kirk, Spock, and Bones. You’d be safer with a three-pack-a-day smoking habit topped off with a 5th of Scotch and a heroin chaser. No one’s going to be selling you any life insurance. So naturally, since we don’t see any family members running about, Hatcher’s partner is not long for this script. When his partner does die, Hatcher rethinks his job and decides to quit.
Back in his home town of Chicago, Hatcher tries to reconnect with his family and friends. But when you’re a Steven Seagal character, you know that trouble is going to follow you around like a brand new puppy. He finds that his old neighborhood is being terrorized by a Jamaican drug lord who uses the fear of voodoo to keep everyone in line. Now, as hard as it is for a Seagal partner to get insurance, if you’re the bad guy in one of these films, you can forget about it. At first Hatcher decides to try and stay out of the mess. But eventually Screwface (Wallace) goes too far and goes after Hatcher’s family as a warning. His young niece is critically wounded, and Hatcher straps up for battle. He’s joined by his war buddy and local high school football coach, Charles (Wright). Max (David) one of his old DEA colleagues, also joins Seagal’s three-man team. They take the fight to Jamaica when Screwface escapes and goes home. From here on out, it’s war.
Marked For Death is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. This isn’t one of Seagal’s finest films as far as production values are concerned. There isn’t anything really wrong with the production; it’s just not going to tear up those high-definition expectations. I’m not sure you’re getting something special in the transfer. Everything looks fine. Colors are natural, if a little soft. Detail is fine, but I really didn’t find this to be an outstanding transfer.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is more of an improvement over the DVD release. There is a lot more punch here. The subs come alive in some of the battle scenes. The surrounds do well during these moments as well. It’s nice to be surrounded by bullets and explosions. A lot of the film is really just dialog-driven, and here the dialog is exceptional in its clarity and placement. There are a few nice dynamic score elements as well.
First of all, you have to love a bad guy named Screwface. It sounds like something out of a Mad Magazine parody. And Basil Wallace is one scary looking dude. I’m not sure if it’s contacts or just the way the actor looks, but he’s got these amazing bright aqua eyes that exude evil. Seagal is somewhat younger here. This was one of his earlier films, coming out in 1990. It was really only his third film, but he had already established himself right from his first effort, Above The Law. There isn’t a ton of martial arts in the film, and while there’s plenty of action, there are quite a few quiet moments in the movie. It might not be solid acting, but it was already getting to be solid Seagal. It’s all rather a nice film, not as remembered as some of his bigger efforts, but worth a look here. He’s not exactly a one-man army. He’s got a couple of comrades here, but it doesn’t take anything away from Seagal or his formula. “Sometimes 3 isn’t a crowd.”