Marked for Death [1990]

The glowering brutality that is aikido headbanger Steven Seagal's substitute for a star persona at least gives us a rancid taste of authenticity in this cookie-cutter action picture. This glum lug seems to really enjoy hurting people; he snaps limbs and shatters noses with visible relish. Pitted against a crew of Jamaican gangsters who invade his (white ethnic) Chicago neighborhood and threaten his family, retired DEA agent John Hatcher sets out to solve the case with robotic efficiency, kicking butt in just about every scene. Not quite as pudgy in this 1990 outing as he became a few films later, Seagal looks like the genuine, lethal article in the fight sequences, but like a hopeless amateur when he tries to act his way out of the waterlogged-paper-bag of a script. So what else is new? The one bright spot here is Basil Wallace, a mostly unsung actor who throws himself into the showy role of the Rasta gang-boss Screwface, a garishly scarred psycho with piercing ice-blue eyes. --David Chute

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