Marked for Death

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Marked for Death
Marked For Death film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dwight H. Little
Produced by Michael Grais
Steven Seagal
Mark Victor
Written by Michael Grais
Mark Victor[1]
Starring Steven Seagal
Basil Wallace
Keith David
Tom Wright
Joanna Pacuła
Elizabeth Gracen
Bette Ford
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Ric Waite
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
October 5, 1990 (1990-10-05)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget Estimated:
Box office Domestic:

Marked for Death is a 1990 action film directed by Dwight H. Little. It stars Steven Seagal as John Hatcher, a former DEA troubleshooter. Upon moving back to his home town, Hatcher finds it taken over by a gang of vicious Jamaican drug dealers. The gang is led by Screwface using a combination of fear and Obeah, a Jamaican syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin similar to Haitian vodou and Santería as practiced in Cuba.

The film is widely considered[weasel words] by fans and critics alike to be one of Seagal's best works (alongside Under Siege and Above the Law), due to the fight scenes integrating heavy elements of aikido, use of weapons, and arm dislocations. Seagal supposedly studied Obeah in depth to make the film[citation needed]. Scenes in the movie show a priestess throwing cowry shells with a picture of Screwface in an attempt to put a curse on him for a rival drug lord.

This was the first time Seagal worked with 20th Century Fox (which would not release another movie featuring him until his appearance in The Onion Movie), and was the only Seagal vehicle from a studio other than Warner Bros. until the 1998 direct-to-video The Patriot.


Chicago DEA agent John Hatcher (Seagal) has just returned from Colombia, where his partner Chico (Richard Delmonte) was killed in a confrontation with drug dealers, and John killed the dealers. As a result of Chico's death and years of dead end work, John has decided to retire and heads to the home of his family in suburban Chicago.

John and his longtime friend and army buddy Max (David), the head coach of a high school football team, reunite for the first time in years and celebrate at a local bar. A gunfight breaks out between local drug dealers and a Jamaican gang called the Jamaican Posse, whose leader is a drug kingpin known as Screwface (Basil Wallace). Hatcher arrests one of Screwface's henchmen as the gunfight ends.

The next day, Screwface and some of his henchmen take revenge by shooting up the house where John, his sister Melissa (Gracen), and Melissa's 12-year-old daughter Tracey (Harris) live. Tracey is shot and is hospitalized in critical condition.

John encounters a gangster named Jimmy Fingers (DiBenedetto). After unsuccessfully trying to get Jimmy to tell him where Screwface might be, Hatcher is forced to kill him. A Jamaican named Nesta (Evans) arrives. John is able to sit him down but Nesta tells him to go after Screwface alone and jumps out the window to his death. The next day, John discovers a strange symbol engraved on a carpet, and with the help of Jamaican voodoo and gang expert Leslie (Pacula), a detective for the Chicago Police Department, he learns that it is an African blood symbol that the Posse use to mark their crimes in places where they commit them.

John then comes out of retirement to join Max in a battle against Screwface. John gets a phone call from Melissa, which is cut short when Screwface and his men invade the Hatcher household and attempt to murder Melissa, but leave upon his arrival. The next day, John and Max get into a fight with three of Screwface's henchmen during a car chase. The fight moves to a mall after the henchmen's car crashes, and the duo kill all three henchmen there. During a meeting with Leslie, John realizes that the only way to stop the Jamaican Posse is to bring down Screwface. One the evening of the same day, John is ambushed by Screwface under the guise of a construction crew working a night shift but escapes and survives after Screwface plants a molotov cocktail in his car.

The two team up with Charles (Wright), a Jamaican Chicago police officer who has been trailing Screwface for five years. They acquire all the weaponry they need from a local weapons dealer - machine guns, submachine guns, pistols, suppressors (silencers), and bombs. After testing the arsenals, they head for Kingston, Jamaica to find Screwface. Upon arrival, Max and Charles ask people in the streets information about Screwface's and his hideout. They meet a Jamaican local who gives them a photo of a woman who is acquainted with Screwface. John meets her in a nightclub and she informs him all about Screwface such as hanging out with him and his hideout. The woman also informs John of a cryptic clue about Screwface; the secret of Screwface's power is that he has two heads and four eyes.

Later night, John, Max and Charles (disguised as members of the Posse) head for Screwface's mansion where there is a party in progress. Secretly infiltrate the premises through a nearby plantation, John guns down three henchmen on the balcony, then goes to a nearby power station and plants a bomb. He infiltrates the inner grounds by climbing across roofs while Max and Charles keep a lookout. Hatcher detonates the bomb, causing the party to erupt in violence and gunfire. Hatcher enters the building and disposes of many henchmen. He finds a sacrificial area but is captured by Screwface and his remaining henchmen. Hatcher is able to break free and kills every henchman before fighting Screwface. During a swordfight, he cuts Screwface's testicles then decapitates him.

Upon returning in Chicago, John displays Screwface's severed head to the Jamaican Posse to get them to end their crimes and leave. However, Screwface's identical twin brother, who runs the Chicago Posse crime business, arrives and kills Charles, causing the gang (and audience) to think that Screwface has returned from the dead. At this point, it is revealed that Screwface's twin was the real perpetrator of all Posse crimes in Chicago (including the attempt to murder John and his sister). The meeting erupts in chaos and the gang members open fire on the duo. During the gunfight, Max holds off the henchmen while John kills more gang members before dealing with Screwface's twin in a swordfight. The fight moves to a nightclub where John disarms the twin by gouging his eyes, breaking his back, then drops the twin brother down an elevator shaft, impaling him upon landing. With both the Screwface brothers dead, the remaining Posse members are presumed to be arrested by law enforcement at the end.

The final scene shows Hatcher carrying Charles' body with Max, shot in the leg, limping next to him before ending with Jimmy Cliff's song "John Crow" being played in the credits.



Critical reaction[edit]

The movie had a mixed reception.[3] Both The New York Times and Washington Post gave it average reviews, noting that it was a fairly standard Seagal action film.[4][5]

Box office[edit]

Marked For Death was considered a box office success, earning a little more than $43 million domestically and $57 million worldwide.[6][7][8]


A soundtrack containing hip hop, reggae and R&B music was released on September 27, 1990 by Delicious Vinyl.


  1. ^ Fox, David J. (1990-10-16). "Fighting Words : Movie: The writers of 'Marked for Death' and Steven Seagal are still feuding over script credit.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  2. ^ Rohter, Larry (1990-10-23). "COMPANY NEWS; Small Budget, Small Star, Big Hit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  3. ^ "Marked for Death". Entertainment Weekly. 1994-07-15. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  4. ^ Janet Maslin, Marked for Death (1990), The New York Times, October 6, 1990, Accessed January 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Richard Harrington, ‘Marked for Death’, Washington Post, October , 1990, Accessed January 13, 2011.
  6. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-10-15). "Seagal's Martial Arts Film Still Has a Punch". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  7. ^ "Steven Seagal Wants His Oscar". The Los Angeles Times. 1990-10-14. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  8. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-10-22). "Seagal Keeps 'Death' Hold on Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 

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