Synopsis: At his shop, SASHA (Daniel Giacomini) tattoos an executioner with blood running out of its eyes onto ALEXEI (Eric Roberts). As they discuss their children, the client notices multiple skull tattoos on Sasha’s body. He asks what Russian gang Sasha was in. In Russian gangs culture, they apparently receive skulls when they have murdered someone. Sasha denies being a gangster, but the client reveals he has one of the same tattoos. While Sasha had gotten out of that life in time to shelter his daughter from it, we learn the client’s son was killed due to gang violence. After the tattoo is finished, the client impales Sasha’s eyes with the tattoo needle. Having turned Sasha into the executioner tattoo, the client shoots him for murdering his son.
Daniel Giacomini (Sasha)
You may be surprised to learn MARKED was actually inspired by two real tattooing sessions my artist had. One was mine. The other was with a real life hitman.
I’ve always been shocked there are not more stories centered on tattoo artists. They are the ultimate barbers. Artists, musicians, military veterans, police, professional athletes, and criminals alike sit with them for hours talking about their lives in a vulnerable state. I was no different. I shared with my artist stories of my past and the better person I was trying to become. In fact, I first witnessed a gang members anonymous meeting, like the one discussed in the film, while helping to shoot a teen drug prevention video at a rehab.
In return, my tattoo artist opened up about his past life as a gang member and the extraordinary journey he made to become a better person after the birth of his daughter. When I asked if he’d ever killed someone, all he did was smirk. However, my artist did admit he had tattooed a murderer before with symbols of death. That murderer was Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez aka “Popeye”, Pablo Escobar’s former number one hitman. According to the internet, Popeye had murdered over 300 people.
My tattoo artist spent the day tattooing Poppeye as they discussed their violent pasts. At one point, he finally summoned up the courage to ask Popeye if he regretted what he did. Popeye was sincere. He felt terrible for all the families that lost their loved ones, but would not change a thing. In his mind, their cartel was at war and Pablo Escobar was their general. He killed for him like a soldier would for their country.
Despite MARKED ‘s inspiration though, I chose to set this film in the infamous real world of Russian criminal tattoos due to their symbolic significance. A Vor (Russian criminal) considers their entire existence to only be what their tattoos say. For a story about the permanence of the past and the futility of trying to escape it, making the film about the Vory v Zakone felt right. Sasha will always be what his tattoos say he is…and there’s no escape from them.
Born in 2001, Matthew made DIY shorts since pre-school. He began directing on the Universal Backlot when he was in fifth grade. At 18, Matthew directed Accomplice, following two years of trying to get it funded, with 30 + cast & crew. However, it wasn’t till MARKED that Matthew felt like he had finally really begun exercising his craft. He is currently in development on his feature directorial debut.