a critiQal film review Half Past Dead (2002)

Plot: Sasha (Seagal) and Nick (Rule) are a couple of street thugs, stealing cars. When the FBI shows up at their chop shop, Sasha and Nick get jailed in the recently opened New Alcatraz. There, Sasha is introduced to the first man sentenced for execution at New Alcatraz, who stole $200 million dollars worth of gold bricks. But, the party is crashed by a few people who want that money for themselves.

752 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 45s)
  • ...a good move for fledgling actors Ja Rule and Nia Peeples, but another wrong turn for Seagal.

In his heyday, Steven Seagal was the king of kick-the-crap-out-of-everyone action movies. He peaked a number of years back with Under Siege (1992), which most people nicknamed “Die Hard (1988) on a battleship.”

In his latest strategy to pull people back into the theaters for his films, he’s decided he’s going the gangsta route. He teams up with a gangsta (in this case, Ja Rule), and then goes and kicks the crap out of everyone. It failed when he tried it in Exit Wounds (2001). Could Ja Rule help him get his fanbase back, or is Steven too past his prime?

Unfortunately for Steven, it looks like he may want to start thinking about changing careers.

Steven, as usual, gives a lackluster performance, while looking more tired and weary then ever. He definitely has his own look, and back during his heyday, it made him easily recognizable as an action star. Now that his career is flagging, he just is starting to look odd. Wrinkles do not help his look, and he seems to be picking up more by the day.

Ja Rule, on the other hand, probably made a wise choice signing on for this film. Not having made many films, and therefore not having much in the way of acting experience, it really helped him to be put against Steven – pretty much anyone can look halfway decent if competing with Steven’s banal deliveries.

Also, thanks to some inspired casting, Nia Peeples (best known for her ‘91 pop single “Street of Dreams”) becomes the latest bad girl with a ‘tude and a leather jacket looking to kick some serious butt.

The plot in Half Past Dead was thin enough to see through. We are introduced in the beginning to the big baddie, who looks normal enough, then who suddenly decides to throw his career away and break into a prison to try convince some man, who is about to be executed, to tell him where he hid the loot he stole.

And why? Never explained. C’mon. At least try and come up with some reason. Greed just won’t cut it. Plus, think about it – what do they do if he doesn’t tell them? What has he got to lose – he’s about to be executed! They try threatening him with the death of the hostages – what if that doesn’t work? These people all came to see him die, didn’t they? What kind of remorse should he feel for them? Thin.

And the “hidden” plot points? They are made so obvious, it’s almost as if they’ve been spelled out for us. No fun.

The special effects had a few gaffes, including at least two noticeable gaffes. Wires are clearly evident in one fight scene, and during a falling scene, a parachute is clearly visible on someone who shouldn’t have one. Those two are especially hard to miss.

Some of the other action sequences overdo it so much, you might just start laughing. Someone is kicked, so flies halfway across a room – yeah, that’s realistic. C’mon. Give us at least a semblance of realism in the action film. Sure, Commando (1985), for example, was ridiculous since it was only one guy basically taking on an army, but at least that film had the decency to at least make it look feasible, far-fetched as it may be.

We go to action movies to become part of the film, to live vicariously through these stars as they go around kicking butt and taking names. Throw in a scene that’s obviously fake, and it breaks up the film. Suddenly, the watcher is thrust back into the real world, and left bewildered as to why the scene is in there – it’s just so fake! Try harder, people. Let us enjoy the ride, not see the controls behind it.

So, how is Half Past Dead? A disappointment, plain and simple. I, for one, keep rooting for our old pal Stevie to suddenly make a decent film again, but he keeps falling short, over and over. A good vehicle for Ja Rule, just starting his film career, but another bad move for Stevie.

Maybe it’s time to give it up, Stevie. Put aside your kicks and your punches, settle down, and pass the torch – heck, try giving it to Nia Peeples. The action world is ready for her, and I’m sure she’s itching to give it a shot.

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