Review: Half Past Dead (2002)


Starring Steven Seagal, Ja Rule, Morris Chestnut, Nia Peeples

Fight Choreographer: Xin Xin Xiong

Directed by Don Michael Paul

Another film in the era I’ll name the Seagalissance: those films in the early 2000’s that use a particular formula to try and resurrect Seagal’s-about-to-go-to-DTV-purgatory-forever-career, namely teaming Seagal up with a rapper and kicking ass while DMX is “grrrrr-ing” with the background music.

So how does Half Past Dead fit into the Seagalissance (TM)?

Steven Seagal plays the awesomely action-hero-named Sascha (um…) an undercover CIA operative who is hunting the Russian crime boss who killed his wife years ago. He works as a gun for hire through his pal Nick (Ja Rule) when both men are captured and thrown into Alcatraz. While there the execution of a powerful crime lord is about to take place, and once he dies, the secrets to where he hid millions of dollars in gold dies with him. Of course a group of terrorists are going to make sure he doesn’t die before giving up the location of the gold, and stage an invasion of the prison led by 49er One (Chestnut). Sacha is able to escape and goes about the business of killing a whole lot of people Die-Hard style in order to stop 49er One from succeeding…

Um…yeah. I’m not going to lie, this film is pretty bad. The formula that worked for Exit Wounds is really tired and stale here, starting with the nonsensical story, which starts by offering up this revenge Sascha need to have with the Russian mafia, but then completely discards it, as if they thought “we’ll pick this up in the sequel”. Which of course will never happen, so the first few minutes of the film is a waste. It could’ve saved about 15 minutes by simply starting in the prison. The bad guys and their plan is not well though out, and they basically bungle their way into giving Sacha a chance to defeat them. The acting is bad, particularly on Seagal, who by this time is having issues even when he’s trying to play himself. Ja Rule is actually playing himself–or maybe no one told him this wasn’t a sequel to The Fast and The Furious--but either way he’s a really bad actor who needs to stick to rap music. Nia Peeples is wasted in this film and barely does anything, as her stunt performers do most of the work, and Chestnut isn’t convincing at all as a bad guy. This film screams “we owed someone a favor” all over it, especially with the extended cameo of the A-Team and Greatest American Hero ( along with most of the best TV shows of the 80’s) creator Steven J. Cannell as a government official.

The fight scenes are nothing much to write home about, the best martial arts scene is a duel between Seagal and their computer hacker, which would be be great if not for Seagal himself, and the quick cuts and tight edits of their hand to hand, which is a shame with the fight choreography of Xin Xin Xiong (Clubfoot from Once Upon A Time In China!) driving the film. Why they edited the film the way they did made me wonder why they brought such a talent into this project.

Outside of some great work from Mike Moller (a talent far better than this film deserved) this Die Hard rip off is one of the worse of Seagal’s filmography, and if you know most of those films, that is really saying something. The best thing this film did was finally kick Seagal to DTV hell forever, with the exception of Machete.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: (can I do negatives? No? Ok) 1

This film has no redeeming value whatsoever. Please feel free to watch water boil or paint dry. It’s a better usage of your time.

 

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