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  Marked For Death
Dwight H. Little, 1990, USA
Rating: 4.0

Posted: April 25, 2003

It is time to right a wrong and to undo a terrible injustice that I have done to Steven Seagal. I claimed to be a fan of his, and yet when the time came for me to review one of his films, I was sent to see Half Past Dead, not one of his better offerings. I later found out that this was an attempt by the evil puppet masters here at Shaking Through, who, acting on behalf of the German mafia, used me as an unwitting pawn to discredit Mr. Seagal. A word to you evildoers. I am on to you. I give you now a Seagal classic: Marked For Death.

I will not waste your time with the premise. Alright, alright, let's run through it briefly. Federal Drug Agent John Hatcher (henceforth Steven Seagal) retires from his unfulfilling work and, on the advice of a priest, attempts to find his "gentler self." He does this by returning to his childhood neighborhood to stay with his sister and niece. Here's the problem: A Jamaican drug cartel has moved into town, peddling narcotics, causing mayhem, and just generally destroying the local property values. Seagal has a run in with these punks, and draws the attention of their kingpin, the evil Screwface. That's right; I said Screwface. Suffice it to say, the film moves rapidly toward a Screwface Vs. Seagal showdown, and I'm sure you don't need a flow chart to figure out what happens.

I wish to focus not on the storyline, but rather on those features that make this a Seagal classic. First, in true Kung Fu fashion, there is the tired warrior weary of battle, seeking a place of solace and comfort. To his dismay, he discovers that no matter how hard he tries, no amount of inner peace can anesthetize him to the perpetual encroachment of evildoers. Because of this, the warrior is forced into battle once again. Here we strike at the heart of a classic Seagal film, the notion that a just man cannot turn his back on evil no matter how hard he tries. It was as true in Above The Law, Out For Justice and On Deadly Ground, as it is here. This is Seagal the warrior.

When a man of peace is forced into action, brah, look out. When that man of peace is proficient with firearms and skilled in the martial arts, it's a bad day to be a bad guy. Marked For Death is full of examples of this, but perhaps none more so than the Jamaican thug who gets his arm broken backwards at the elbow. Zorro had his "Z"; Seagal has the patented reverse arm break. Another point to ponder: As mentioned, Seagal is highly proficient with firearms, but no matter how many people he busts caps in, the bad guy in charge will hardly ever get shot. That's when Seagal goes old school. It's almost like an exorcism. The hero must lay hands on the villain and forcibly separate him from his mortal coil. This is Seagal the avenger.

Here's the point: Marked For Death is chock full of the previously-mentioned characteristics that make a Seagal film a "classic." What Chuck Norris did to simplify international relations, Seagal does to present the essence of good versus evil. While hell may have no fury like a woman scorned, evil has no greater foe than a good man pushed too far. This is equally true for niche film reviewers. Are you listening, you higher-ups at Shaking Through?

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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