Marked for Death (Blu-ray)
Directed by Dwight H. Little
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 93 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround English, French, 1.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Review Date: May 11, 2010
One goes into Steven Seagal movies pretty much knowing what he’s going to get: lots of combative action, minimal plots, and some pretty cheesy performances. Occasionally, one gets a surprise: Under Siege, for instance, or Executive Decision (which turned out not to be a Seagal movie). Dwight H. Little’s Marked for Death doesn’t offer any such surprises. Fans of Seagal’s martial art-based mayhem will get just what they want with this film. All others need to look elsewhere for an action alternative.
Burned out after years of frustrating work as an undercover operative, DEA agent John Hatcher (Steven Seagal) leaves the force and returns home to Lincoln Heights to enjoy some down time, perhaps even complete retirement. He sees drug dealers at his niece’s school where old friend Max (Keith David) serves as a football coach, but he pretty much turns a blind eye to it despite pleas from DEA agent Lt. Sal Roselli (Kevin Dunn) for assistance until his niece Tracey (Danielle Harris) is hurt by Jamaican drug gangs and he’s guilted into seeking revenge by his sister Kate (Bette Ford). With Max’s help and DEA agent Charles (Tom Wright) in tow, the trio begins a series of clean-up operations with the express purpose of bringing down the Jamaican kingpin Screwface (Basil Wallace).
The story is very straightforward (script by Michael Grais and Mark Victor) and despite all of the elements of voodoo and violent murder rituals which are meant to provide a different atmosphere and tone for the film, its mood is pretty pat and much the same as we’ve experienced in other Seagal epics. Director Little does direct a street chase scene with some excitement and keeps the momentum of all the stalking and fighting going full blast, but he misses the obvious: a man who Seagal forces into three glass display cases in a row emerges with nary a scratch on his face; Seagal himself thrown into glass shelves in a bookcase likewise doesn’t sport a single facial laceration or drop of blood. There is plenty of blood elsewhere (much of it quite fake looking), and those looking for impalings, beheadings, and dismemberment won’t be the least bit disappointed, but it seems surprising that Seagal and his cohorts are able to kill with abandon without even rudimentary police questioning or investigations or that they’re allowed into Jamaica (where the film climaxes) without even a raised eyebrow.
Steven Seagal’s whisper-quiet way with lines is maintained with this film, and after reviewing a very sad made-for-home video release of his last year, it’s nice to see him in fighting trim and adept at his art here. Keith David, of course, wipes the floor with the other players in terms of acting skill, his Max a decent man pushed to take action with his friend against these relentless evildoers. Kevin Dunn is also quite competent as Seagal’s DEA polar-opposite, but he is only granted a couple of scenes. Many of the other actors, however, are members of the “in your face” acting school where popped eyes and mashed up facial expressions an inch from another actor’s face give even overacting a bad name (and make their performances giggle-inducing). Basil Wallace as the film’s most prominent villain Screwface is the one most guilty of this style of acting. The less said of the monotone acting of Joanna Pacula as informant Leslie and Tony DiBenedetto as gangster Jimmy Fingers, the better.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though there are sequences of acceptable sharpness and reasonably good flesh tones, many of the scenes have a hazy texture that flattens dimensionality and robs the color of emphatic life. Black levels are not optimum either though on the whole the picture looks above average. The film has been divided into 21 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is likely derived from a stereo source and consequently, the audio is decidedly frontcentric through most of the movie. There is some bleed into the rears with James Newton Howard’s booming music and with an occasional ambient sound effect, but overall this will not fool you into thinking it’s as energetic and immersive as more modern action soundtracks are. There are some nice low frequency effects that give the subwoofer something to do.
There are no bonus features at all, not even a trailer for this film or promo trailers for other upcoming releases.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of action star Steven Seagal may want as many of his films in high definition as they can get, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this release in terms of its video or audio, the Blu-ray doesn’t offer any bonus material and those who already own previous home video versions will have to decide if the increased resolution in picture and sound would be worth the upgrade.