This was the first time Seagal worked with 20th Century Fox (which would not release another film featuring him until his appearance in The Onion Movie), and this 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 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 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, a gunfight breaks out between local drug dealers and a Jamaican gang at the bar where they celebrate. 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 henchmen's car crashes into a mall wherein they are subsequently killed by the duo amidst the chaos of shoppers fleeing the scene. During a meeting with Leslie, John realizes 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; John escapes and survives after Screwface plants a molotov cocktail in his car.
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's and his hideout. A Jamaican local presents them a photo of a woman who is acquainted with Screwface. John meets her in a nightclub, and she describes hanging out with Screwface, his drug business, and his hideout. 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 there is a party in progress. Secretly infiltrating the premises through a nearby plantation, John assassinates three henchmen on the balcony with a 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 kills every henchman before decapitating Screwface in a sword fight.
Upon returning in Chicago, the trio 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 (as well as the audience) to think that Screwface has returned from the dead. At this point, it is revealed that the twin brother was the real mastermind of all Posse crimes in Chicago and the entire United States while the real Screwface supplies him with drugs and money. The meeting erupts in chaos, and the gang members open fire on the duo.
During the gunfight, Max holds off the henchmen despite being shot in the leg while John kills more gang members before he engages Screwface's twin brother in a sword fight. The fight moves to a nightclub owned by the twin himself wherein Hatcher gives him more fatal injuries by gouging his eyes and breaks his spine before dropping him down an elevator shaft, impaling the twin in the process. As the surviving Posse members look at their dead boss, their fate remains ambiguous although the death of the Screwface brothers implies their arrest by law enforcement.
The final scene shows John carrying Charles' body with Max limping next to him before ending with Jimmy Cliff's song "John Crow" being played in the credits.Steven Seagal as John Hatcher
Basil Wallace as Screwface/Screwface's twin brother
Keith David as Max
Tom Wright as Charles
Joanna Pacuła as Leslie
Elizabeth Gracen as Melissa Hatcher
Danielle Harris as Tracey Hatcher
Al Israel as Tito Barco
Arlen Dean Snyder as Duvall
Victor Romero Evans as Nesta
Michael Ralph as Money
Danny Trejo as Hector
Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter as Nago
Peter Jason as Pete Stone
The film had a mixed reception. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post gave it average reviews, writing that it was a fairly standard Seagal action film.
Marked for Death earned a little more than $43 million domestically and $58 million worldwide.
A soundtrack containing hip hop, reggae, and R&B music was released on September 27, 1990 by Delicious Vinyl.