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"Half Past Dead"

Directed by Don Michael Paul.
Written by Don Michael Paul.
Starring Steven Seagal, Ja Rule and Morris Chestnut. 
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  11/18/02 


You know, really, “Exit Wounds” was not a bad film.  It sparked marginal interest, mostly because of the assured, confident performance of co-star/rapper DMX.  Steven Seagal lost weight for the film and generally looked like he might make a one- or two-film comeback.  Then he starred in this piece of shit called “Half Past Dead.”

“Half Past Dead” once again partners Seagal with an established non-film star in Ja Rule, who I think was in some part of like 20 songs on the radio in the last year.  Seriously, every time I saw Ja Rule onscreen, I yelled out “It’s nothing but the Rule, ba-baaaaaaaaaay!”  Anyway, this time around Seagal plays Sasha, an undercover FBI agent who befriends a streetwise drug/arms dealer named Nick (Ja Rule).  Nick is arrested following a shootout with the feds and goes to prison, and the feds decide to make Sasha watch over Nick in prison by sending Sasha to prison as well.  Luckily for the FBI, the twosome is assigned to the country’s newest maximum-security prison, New Alcatraz, which is the old Alcatraz but with futuristic walls, cells, prison guards, security system and an execution chamber.  All of this work was completed in eight months.  (Yeah.)  Also, in an incredible stroke of luck, the twosome are sent to New Alcatraz on the same day that a former Federal Bureau of Prisons employee (Morris Chestnut) raids the prison to interrogate a death row inmate about the whereabouts of $200 million in gold bouillon.  It’s up to Sasha to take down the gold raiders before they kill both the death row inmate and a Chief Justice also visiting the prison.

Wow.  I love when films fail at everything spectacularly, and “Half Past Dead” delivers the goods.  Seagal has never looked this indifferent on film before.  It’s like he was really sure this time that his film was going to suck.  He has so few scenes that he really shouldn’t have gotten star credit for his work here, and he uses almost no martial arts in the film without a stunt double (of course, he IS 51 years old now...).  Ja Rule is really, really bad here.  He tries so hard for the thug look that he had me laughing after his second scene.  He spends most of the film firing a weapon unprofessionally and getting his ass kicked.  How did his character survive so long on the street crime circuit?  He also has four songs on the in-film soundtrack, so oftentimes he will be talking over lyrics from his own songs.  At least in “8 Mile”, all but one of the in-film songs are from non-Eminem artists, so Rabbit isn’t singing over his own voice.  Morris Chestnut isn’t too bad, but that is because he is doing here what I think he does best—scowl, look good, and fire machine guns.

The plot of the film is ridiculous.  Chestnut’s crew of criminals waits until two minutes before the inmate’s execution to corral him and get information out of him.  Then, they assume that by pointing a gun at his head, he will just spill out the goods; predictably, he doesn’t, because he was going to be killed anyway by the electric chair before those guys showed up!  This same crew shows up at New Alcatraz and takes down the security measures for the holding areas and all of the, the inmates all are free to roam the island and they of course acquire heavy weapons from the prison armory.  The prison warden lets the prisoners walk around the building with no, they naturally start fights with prison guards every chance they get.  And, even with all of the implausible activities that take place, the action scenes feature loud, mostly-meaningless gunfire between participants and badly-choreographed fight scenes.  The opening scene is so fucking crazy that it ends up with an FBI squad leader trying to talk smack to Nick before trading double-fisted gunfire for two minutes with no one hitting anything.  Missiles are fired INDOORS at stationary objects and no one bats an eye.  Bulletproof windows are shattered by...bullets.  A prisoner at the most highly-secured prison in America has a PlayStation2 installed in his cell...and, the warden knows about it!

Even the film’s outtake, a scene featuring Kurupt (as a prisoner) and Mo’Nique as his wife, is a piece of shit.  I didn’t think “Half Past Dead” could be this bad, but trust me, it is.  Avoid this flaming pile of Mickey Mouse horseshit at all costs.

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09