Marked for Death

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Marked for Death
Marked For Death film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDwight H. Little
Produced by
Written by
  • Michael Grais
  • Mark Victor[1]
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyRic Waite
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 5, 1990 (1990-10-05)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$58 million[3]

Marked for Death is a 1990 American action film directed by Dwight H. Little. The film stars Steven Seagal as John Hatcher, a former DEA troubleshooter who returns to his Illinois hometown only to find it taken over by a gang of vicious Jamaican drug dealers 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.


Chicago DEA agent John Hatcher returns from Colombia, where drug dealers killed his partner Chico. As a result of Chico's death and years of dead end work, John retires and heads to his family's home town of Lincoln Heights in suburban Chicago. He visits the local school to meet his old friend and former U.S. Army buddy Max (Keith David) who works there as a football coach and physical education teacher.

As John and Max celebrate their reunion at a club, a gunfight breaks out between local drug dealers and a Jamaican gang at the venue. The gang, known as the Jamaican Posse, is led by a notorious psychotic drug kingpin named Screwface (Basil Wallace) full of West African Vodun and sadism. John arrests one of Screwface's henchmen as the gunfight ends. News of Posse crimes occurring in Chicago and across the United States spread as the Posse expands its operations and recruits more members. The next day, Screwface and his henchmen do a drive-by shooting on the house where John, his sister Melissa, and Melissa's 12-year-old daughter Tracey live. Tracey is injured and hospitalized in critical condition.

John encounters a gangster named Jimmy whom he is forced to kill. A Jamaican gangster named Nesta arrives and is subdued by John, who asks about Screwface. Nesta gives information but 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, a detective for the Chicago Police Department, he learns that it is an African blood symbol used to mark their crimes. John decides to come out of retirement to join Max in a battle against Screwface.

At the same night of their rendezvous, John gets a phone call from Melissa, which is cut short when Screwface and his men invade the Hatcher household, but they leave upon his arrival. The next day, John and Max encounter another batch of Screwface's henchmen which results in a car chase wherein one of the henchmen is killed. The chase ends in a mall wherein the surviving three are subsequently killed by the duo amidst the chaos of shoppers fleeing the scene. During a meeting with Leslie, she informs John that the only way to stop the Jamaican Posse is to bring down Screwface. That evening, Screwface ambushes John under the guise of a construction crew; by planting a molotov cocktail in his car, but John manages to escape before the car explodes.

The two team up with Charles, a Jamaican-American detective of the Chicago police, who has been trailing Screwface for five years, and trying to get to the root of the drug problem in the city. They acquire weaponry from a local weapons dealer, and, after testing the arsenal, they head for Kingston, Jamaica to find Screwface. Upon arrival, Max and Charles ask people in the streets for information about Screwface. A Jamaican local presents them a photo of a woman who is acquainted with Screwface. John meets her in a nightclub, and she provides him details of Screwface such as her frequent hangouts with him, his drug business, and the address of his mansion, as well as the death of her sister in Screwface's hands. The woman also informs John of a cryptic clue: the secret of Screwface's power is that he has two heads and four eyes.

By nightfall, John, Max, and Charles (disguised as members of the Posse) head for Screwface's mansion, where a party is being held. Secretly infiltrating the premises through a nearby plantation, John assassinates three roving henchmen on the estate's balcony with his silenced sniper rifle, plants a bomb at a nearby power station and infiltrates the inner grounds by climbing across roofs. While Max and Charles keep a lookout, John detonates the bomb, causing the party to erupt into violence and gunfire. With Max and Charles opening fire on the ambushing Posse gang, John enters the building and disposes of many henchmen. He finds a sacrificial area but is captured by Screwface and his remaining henchmen. John manages to break free and kill every henchman before decapitating Screwface in a sword fight.

Upon returning to Chicago, the trio displays Screwface's severed head to the Chicago Posse to try blackmailing them into ending their crimes and leave town. However, Charles is impaled by a man later revealed as Screwface's twin brother. The gang believes that Screwface has returned from the dead using voodoo. A gunfight breaks wherein Max holds off the henchmen despite being shot in the leg while John disposes more gang members before he engages Screwface in a sword fight.

During the fight between John and Screwface, the latter reveals that he and his twin lied about being one man over the years with varying gangs and victims to dissuade suspicion and that he was the one responsible for the Posse crimes across the United States. The fight moves to a nightclub owned by the twin wherein Hatcher gives him more fatal injuries by gouging his eyes and breaking his spine before dropping him down an elevator shaft, impaling him in the process. As the surviving Posse members look at their dead boss, their fates remain ambiguous although the now apparent death of the Screwface twins implies their arrest by law enforcement.

John carries Charles' body with Max limping next to him as they walk off into the night.



Critical reaction[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 88% of nine surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 8.2/10.[4] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[5] Both The New York Times and The Washington Post gave it a thumbs up, writing that it was another solid Seagal action film.[6][7] In a less than favorable response from Entertainment Weekly, they wrote that the film is partially "undone by murky cinematography".[8]

Box office[edit]

Marked for Death earned a little more than $43 million domestically and $58 million worldwide.[9][10][11]


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". 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 at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "Marked for Death (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  5. ^ "CinemaScore".
  6. ^ Janet Maslin, Marked for Death (1990), The New York Times, October 6, 1990, Accessed January 13, 2011.
  7. ^ Richard Harrington, ‘Marked for Death’, Washington Post, October , 1990, Accessed January 13, 2011.
  8. ^ "Marked for Death". Entertainment Weekly. 1994-07-15. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  9. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-10-15). "Seagal's Martial Arts Film Still Has a Punch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  10. ^ "Steven Seagal Wants His Oscar". Los Angeles Times. 1990-10-14. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  11. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-10-22). "Seagal Keeps 'Death' Hold on Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-28.

External links[edit]