Half Past Dead
September 22, 2003
Don Michael Paul,
Starring: Steven Seagal, Morris Chestnut, Ja Rule, Nia Peeples, Kurupt, Tony Plana, Michael Taliferro, Matt Battaglia, Richard Bremmer, Stephen J. Cannell, Claudia Christian, Yasmina Filali-Bohnen, Hannes Jaenicke, Jed Sutton,
It’s time once again to let Daz loose on another offering from the Portly One, Steven Seagal. The film is Half Past Dead and what’s the betting that old Stevie plays a cop?
Well actually it’s a FBI agent, and he goes undercover. The twist to Seagal’s character this time though is that he’s Russian. Now how does Stevie play a Russian I hear you ask? Does he attempt some dodgy plodding accent ala Schwarzenegger in Red Heat? God no, Seagal has no time for such nonsense; he just plays it as he has done every other character in his not so varied acting career. The only passing hint that he might be Russian is the odd reference to him being so, like he needed or could do anything else? It’s rather like his Buddhist beliefs in the Glimmer Man, he shows no sign of being a Buddhist as he kills several mob guys, and then declares as if it were an after thought to the script that he’s a Buddhist. Clearly the Segal/Russian thing isn’t something we need to dwell on, they certainly didn’t.
Of course the being Russian does give Seagal one of his funniest screen names for many a year; Sascha Petrosevitch. It’s not quite Casey Ryback or Mason Storm, but it’s pretty damn god.
Rapper Ja Rule joins Stevie for this prison outing, where it seems they play rap music at a high decibel rate throughout the duration of everyone’s sentence. I guess with so many rap stars under one roof they had to be fair to everyone’s music, but it was more like being at a concert than watching an action film; which is in essence what Seagal movies have become in recent years.
The plot to Half Past Dead involves Stevie going undercover to catch the drug baron who murdered his wife, yes he has flashbacks and yes he still wears her ring. We’re in familiar Seagal territory here. In order to prove that he’s not a cop undercover he undergoes a lie detector test, knowing that any out of place emotion could give away his true intentions Stevie has to be careful. Luckily for the portly one he’s incapable of actually displaying any emotions, something his fans have come to accept over the years so this test wasn’t really a challenge to him.
Having proven his worth he then goes and gets himself caught, together with his friend of two years Nick Frazier (Ja Rule). This is of course all part of the plan, spending some time in prison with Frazier will, in theory, make Frazier more likely to reveal some info on the man who killed Seagal’s wife. It all sounds like a load of old toss doesn’t it? True, it is. This is all sub-plot. The real plot of the film is yet to surface.
In the prison, a newly renovated Alcatraz, there is a prisoner ready to be executed after seventeen years of failed appeals. The trouble is that he has hidden two hundred million dollars in gold bullion and won’t reveal where it is. Naturally the lure of so much cash just lying around somewhere attracts some professional thieves in the shape of Morris Chestnut, Nia Peeples and their gang of Matrix styled commandos. They storm the prison and take control of it, threatening to have everyone killed including the visiting governor if they aren’t given the location of the stashed gold.
Naturally our Stevie isn’t going to stand for this and through an onslaught of rather pointless and oddly slow Aikido moves he cuts a swathe through aforementioned bad guys to save the day. Yes Seagal is slowing down, back in his hey day (if you can call it that) he’d be so fast you’d barely see him move. These days he needs a little help from the editor to make his moves seem that wee bit faster. It won’t be long before we start seeing more of that hilarious speeded up footage that we saw in Under Siege 2 to make him look the business.
As well as fighting the bad guys in a sort of cheap rip off of The Rock, Stevie has to explain to his friend Ja Rule why he isn’t what he claims to be, and rather than hold it against him he seems almost pleased that Stevie’s an undercover FBI agent. You hearing this all you FBI chaps? Come clean and those drug dealers will welcome you.
All of this plot baboonery aside, what we’re left with here is yet another aimless action flick that, had it not had the ample presence of the portly one would have been cast into the pit of obscurity. Seagal’s large frame climbs a rope, tries to speak hip hop and basically does everything that his characters have done for the past fifteen years.
Fans of Seagal aren’t going to get anything that they haven’t seen before, but then that’s the joy of a Seagal movie. He maybe with Columbia instead of Warner, but the only change in the man is his slowing down and his expanding waist line. We can live with that.
Fans of really bad television take note, there’s a certain celebrity guest star in this film to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. The man responsible for many a fine moment sat in front of shows such as Knight Rider and The A-Team, none other than Stephen J. Cannell himself. We’re not worthy!
In fact the presence of Cannel may explain the extra-ordinarily bad shooting on the part of everyone in this film. During all of the fire fights, and there were many and at close range, less than five people seemed to get hit. Mr. T would have been proud.