Top positive review
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"One thought he was invincible...the other thought he could fly...they were both wrong!"
on November 17, 2014
My feeling is that director Little might have prepared a "director's cut" print of this film, but as of yet it is not available on the buyer's market. If you watch the trailer included on this DVD, you'll see a scene between Seagal and the great character actor Al Israel (whose face no "Scarface" fan will ever forget--and speaking of his character here, he is presumably killed by the gang early on, but we never see what happens to him; his sudden disappearance is further evidence that this particular cut is incomplete) that is nowhere to be found in the movie, but since I cannot remember seeing this footage on one of the countless TV prints I watched when I was younger, I bet it isn't included in most TV versions either. "Marked for Death," much like "Out for Justice," is a film that had a lot more footage shot for it than what we ended up seeing on screen, and I wish that (for us historians, at least) some of these older 80s/90s action film classics would be released upon newer Blu-Rays with restored footage put back into them--I mean, couldn't these additions even be included under a "deleted scenes" menu option? Really, though, I would enjoy seeing a completed print of "Marked for Death"--the editing is too rapid, the kills are too jumpy (in places), and I wonder about the length of the movie too...perhaps 20th Century Fox took the film away from Little and did their best to cut it down. Seagal also had quite a hand in shaping the screenplay, as he apparently not only studied Obeah in depth, but also had a bit of a standing feud between himself and the two screenwriters (Grais and Victor) in the entertainment press. Seagal may never win an acting award due to his one-note presentations, but he is nonetheless great fun to watch on screen, and his Aikido and varied martial arts scenes are the most thrilling and interesting action depictions since the mixed martial arts chaos of the early Bruce Lee movies. "Marked for Death" was produced on a lower budget, and this may have had something to do with the movie's rather quiet critical reception at the time (really, this is a good action movie); nonetheless, the script managed to draw top names such as Keith David (whom you may remember from "The Thing" and "They Live", amongst other genre titles of the 80s), and Basil Wallace, who gives a chilling and intense performance as the determined drug lord "Screwface." The picture on the DVD appears to me to be similar to the one on the new widescreen Blu-Ray transfer (I believe), and the sound--through a good pair of headphones--is actually quite good too. "Marked for Death" has a great deal of "movieness" about it--despite its quasi-realistic depiction of modern day suburbia--and a lot of this strength comes from the presence of Seagal, who commands each scene despite his insistence upon speaking in low tones and not really doing much impressive stuff other than his amazingly choreographed fight scenes. I have no problem with the film's cinematography or its pacing; maybe the plot is implausible and maybe the film suffers in its current film editing scheme, but I nonetheless enjoy the action and excitement offered by the picture, because it's chilling, brutal, and unique, compounding a terrific music score and even sound design (yes, this is the one that Jimmy Cliff appears in) and many truly effective chase scenes (this is the one where Seagal catches up with Danny Trejo, who would have his revenge against Seagal in the rather prepubescent film "Machete"). If you are watching this movie for something more than genre enjoyment, then you have taken a wrong turn. There are sword fights, mystical mumbo jumbo scenes, foot chases, strippers, gun fights to beat the band, hand-to-hand combat scenes that prove why Seagal is a terrific martial artist, night vision scenes, drug raids, assassinations, ritual sacrifices, and even several harshly broken limbs lying about. In short, the film contains much of what makes a good, quality non-stop action adventure "pulp" masterpiece.
What disappoints me is the extras, or the lack thereof. Unlike the recent DVD special edition "director's cut" release of 1985's "Commando", "Marked for Death" does not have an audio commentary (one from Little would have been much desired in this case, or maybe even a recounting from the film's two screenwriters) nor does it have any deleted scenes, nor does it contain any archived interviews with Seagal (I find it difficult to believe that Fox cannot get the rights from television companies to put some interviews with him on these DVD releases). "Predator 2", another 20th Century Fox film dealing with Jamaican voodoo posses and drug lords and violent crime in the streets, has been given an outstanding deluxe treatment on Blu-Ray, encompassing great picture frame, quality hi-def sound, amazing extras, and great menus. Why couldn't "Marked for Death" get the same treatment? In many ways, I think it's more enjoyable than "Predator 2" but I can't give this item a 5-star plug until 20th Century Fox decides to stop cheating the consumer out of these great extras. I know they are out there! B+ (for the movie...C+ for the DVD...it averages to four stars due to the quality picture and sound transfer on this disc)