When I was in my second year of junior high school, George H. W. Bush took over television one Thursday night to give a televised public statement announcing his war on drugs. Since it was on every channel, I, like millions of other people across America, watched it. Near the end of this uninvited cancelation of a lot of better TV programming, Bush slid upon the draw of his desk and said “this was picked up from dealers who work in a park just across the street from the White House!” holding up a zip-lock bag filled with crack and a crack pipe. The next day at school, all the kids were cracking jokes about how they would like to have that bag. Even then, I was old enough to realize that the previous president had also launched a war on drugs, and that hadn’t worked, so this one probably wouldn’t either.
Marked for Death, released a year or so after that announcement, is very much a reflection of Bush Sr.’s drug paranoia. Steven Seagal, still actually somewhat active at the age of 39, plays tough-as-nails officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency. When raid in Tijuana goes bad and the pony-tailed one accidentally shoots a more-or-less innocent prostitute, he decides to retire. “You can’t quit on me Hatcher! You are the best man I got!” roars his boss in the first of many lines of hackneyed dialogue. He drives his 1973 Mustang home to Chicago to find that a family reunion just happens to be in progress at his sister’s house. He visits his old football coach, who is incised at the presence of Jamaican drug dealers on the school grounds. He explains to Seagal that his nephew died in a crackhouse. The fact that the Jamaicans are peddling marijuana and not crack is neither here nor there. A TV news reporter conveniently explains that Jamaican gangs or “posses” only comprise 1 percent of the population, but there are violent and dangerous. Seagal and his football buddy go after the “posse,” and find that its leader is the ruthless Screwface, who in addition to supplying the entire Chicago area with drugs also appears to be a sadistic voodoo priest. Enter a pretty anthropologist who explains to Seagal that the bad guys have placed a curse on him, leaving him “marked for death.” Since he isn’t satisfied with conventional store bought weapons, he borrows a warehouse and builds a bunch of his own weapons, somehow gets them aboard a flight to Jamaica, and shoots up the bad guys, thus terminating the availability of drugs in the Chicago area.