HALF PAST DEAD
Ex-prison officer turned master criminal, Donny (Morris Chestnut), has assembled a team to infiltrate the newly refurbished Alcatraz, to force a death row inmate to reveal the whereabouts of $200 million worth of gold. Inmate Nick Frazier (Ja Rule) must help his friend Sascha Petrosevitch (Steven Seagal) rally the other inmates to stop the invaders – unaware that Sascha is an undercover FBI agent. Some months earlier in a bungled FBI shootout, Sascha took seven bullets for Nick – saving his life. Sascha’s heart stopped for 22 minutes – he was half past dead.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
What is it about Steven Seagal and three-word movie titles? Fire Down Below, On Deadly Ground, Out for Justice, Marked for Death, Hard to Kill, Above the Law - each one implying some sort of impending menace, death, destruction and violence. Now we have Half Past Dead, and it’s not only the same kind of banal repetition Seagal is (in)famous for, it’s exactly the kind of movie Michael Moore warned is fuelling America’s deadly xenophobia in Bowling For Columbine. Right from the opening credits, where the slow-motion camera glorifies guns and bullets, to the bad guys dressed in black coats, to the senseless violence that defies the laws of physics, Half Past Dead is one scourge of an action movie. It’s only a movie, I know, but I abhor it. I went in, however, with an open mind, knowing Seagal movies can sometimes pass muster. Under Siege is by far his best, while his last movie, Exit Wounds, was passable thanks to decent action. That film's healthy box-office seems to have given Seagal a last-minute reprieve from straight-to-video hell, especially considering his off-screen (Mafia?) connections. Here he looks glummer, dumber, and older than ever, and the camera uses angles and shadows to hide his podgy body and double chin. He looks like he’s spent more time at Maccas than in the gym, so it’s getting hard to buy him as an action star. Still, having paired Seagal with rapper DMX in Exit Wounds in a desperate attempt to find him a new young audience, they pair him with Ja Rule here (there’s that banal repetition again). The plot – basically Under Siege in prison, or at least Under Siege meets The Rock – is filled with canyon sized plot holes. Seagal plays a Russian but lacks an accent. He takes seven bullets and dies for 22 minutes just so he can go to jail for five years and get “in” with a criminal syndicate. What a guy. As for Ja Rule, well, he gets in on the action when the shooting starts because, well, that’s what crims do I guess. As the title ironically infers, Half Past Dead smells of impending death – Seagal’s career. They will need the jaw-of-life to rescue him from this one.
Review by David Edwards:
Recycling is good. It’s good for the environment and good for your conscience – and it’s a message that the team behind Half Past Dead have clearly taken to heart. This movie recycles every prison and action-movie cliché into an entirely predictable lump of a film. Like the contents of most recycling bins, this is paper-light stuff, with a few harder elements thrown in for good measure. Obviously keen on reusing once-valuable resources, the producers have trotted out an action star way past his use-by date in Steven Seagal. While Seagal can still bust some impressive moves, it’s virtually inconceivable that anyone could accept him as a street-smart car thief – or an undercover FBI agent for that matter. Age and kilos haven’t been kind to Seagal, and they haven’t noticeably improved his Sphinx-like acting style. The script, by director Don Michael Paul, doesn’t just borrow, it shamelessly pulls whole chunks from the likes of The Rock, Air Force One and any number of “I’m-your-worst-nightmare” action movies. But when he tries to recast the famous “Are you feeling lucky, punk” scene from Dirty Harry, you know things have reached rock bottom. This guy should be charged with larceny – or plagiarism at least. Unlike the movies he’s borrowing from though, Paul’s script just doesn’t hang together, with the improbability building to the point that the ending comes completely out of the blue (no pun intended). The only interesting note in the whole exercise is the encouraging performance of rapper Ja Rule as Nick. While it’s hardly a challenging role, he at least has some nice moments – when he’s not ducking bullets. Half Past Dead is the worst kind of reconstituted pap; a shambles of an action film that doesn’t even do its audience the courtesy of crediting them with any brains. Like your recycling at home, this film should be in its own special wheelie bin.
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HALF PAST DEAD (M)
CAST: Steven Seagal, Morris Chestnut, Ja Rule, Nia Peeples, Tony Plana, Kurupt
PRODUCER: Andrew Stevens, Elie Samaha, Steven Seagal
DIRECTOR: Don Michael Paul
SCRIPT: Don Michael Paul
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Slovis
EDITOR: Vanick Moradian
MUSIC: Tyler Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Albrecht Konrad
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 20, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: July 16, 2003