Half Past Dead
Grade: D
Year: 2002
Director: Don Michael Paul
Writer: Don Michael Paul
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13

The are so many problems and inconsistencies in ďHalf Past Dead,Ē that I began to have fun pointing out all of the errors. My first warning to you is that this movie stars Stephen Segal. Heís recently put on a few (dozen) pounds, and attempts to conceal it by wearing baggy and loose clothing throughout the entire movie. Or possibly, he wore his clothes like that to try to fit in with the co-starring cast, comprised of mostly black rappers and thugs. Can you say Ja Rule?

Director/Writer Don Michael Paul helped Segal out with his weight issue, because his obscure and funky long camera shots never kept Segal in the frame for very long. But his weight really isnít that important. If anything, it makes him look tougher and more rugged, all the more to cover up his attempts at serious acting. Working with Ja Rule has allowed Segal to act in a more thug like manner. It's not alright, it's a'ight.

Segal plays Sascha Petrosevitch, a Russian. Now stop right there. Why did Don Michael Paul do this? Segal isnít Russian, so why make his character so? Why have dialogue that questions his nationality? "You're Russian, right?" Remember, Segal isnít the greatest actor to grace the silver screen. Why make it harder for him? When we first learn his name, he pathetically tries to affirm his Russian roots in a horrible Russian accent. Once that scene ended, Segalís nonexistent accent had become more American than Charlton Heston.

Sascha is an acquaintance with a guy named Nick (Ja Rule). They do illegal things, and are quickly arrested by the FBI for doing something that I never picked up on, probably because the plot in this movie isnít important. When it opens, there is one of those chase scenes where our heroes, Sascha and Nick, are flying through the streets in one of those exotic cars, nearly missing the trains traveling at them in all directions. But this chase scene was different, because there wasnít anyone chasing them. There was no reason for them to nearly kill themselves in such a stunt. I'm guessing that exotic sports cars are now required to be a part of all action movies, regardless if they have anything to do with the story.

After both men are arrested, they are sent (8 years later) to the new Alcatraz. Itís like the old Alcatraz, only this one serves as a much more exciting arena for gun battling and close range combat that's soon to come. The walls and ceilings are made out of glass (yes, Iím still talking about the prison), and fire constantly bellows out of hydrants in the walls and on the floor. There are dangling chains, which will eventually be used for Tarzan-style swinging while firing machine guns, and there are bottomless pits strategically located throughout the facility for people to fall through.

There is the typical, hard-nose warden, who lectures like a drill sergeant periodically in order to prove his toughness. Itís supposed to be a rough maximum security prison for the most ruthless criminals, but it appears to be more of place for thug rappers, convicted once too many on drug charges. The prison is a new facility; there is a press conference where a reporter asks the warden, ďIsnít this prison a step backwards from the old Alcatraz? Itís cruel and unusual punishment.Ē The captain replies that his prison is a ďbad place for bad people,Ē implying that we shouldnít feel sorry for felons nor be concerned about their living conditions. In the next scene, an inmate is seen playing Playstation 2.

The prison is currently holding a death row inmate that will be the first person executed at the new Alcatraz in the multi-purpose execution chamber. Yes, you read correctly; a multi-purpose execution chamber. The warden explains that the inmates get to chose between the five methods of capital punishment. The Supreme Court justice who sentenced the inmate, happens to be present at the prison to see the execution take place.

While the justice is prepared to watch the first inmate of Alcatraz die, the prison is taken over by a band of terrorists led by Donny (Morris Chestnut), who wants $200 million in gold bars that have been stashed in a secret location. Oh yeah, the gold belongs to the inmate about to be executed, and only he knows where the gold is located. Obviously, it is crucial that he survives for awhile. The bad guys also get more negotiating leverage when the FBI become involved, because a Supreme Court justice happens to be on the hostage list. It is also important for her to survive for awhile.

Half Past Dead is all action. It would be a bad time for you to learn that youíre not an action fan when in the middle of this movie, because there is nothing else to look forward to. Trying to make sense out of the ridiculous plot will give you a headache; trying to make sense out of the dialogue will have the same effect on you.

When you sort this mess out, itís basically bad guys verses the prisoners. A Supreme Court justice and a valuable death row inmate are the playing variables. For some reason, the prisoners are concerned for the justice's safety, and risk their own lives to protect her, when they can be trying to escape. After the armory is broken into, every man and prisoner equips themselves with the weapons of their choice.

In what Iím calling a not smart decision, Half Past Dead earned itself a PG-13 rating. This means that you can still have all of guns, explosions and even rocket launchers, but nobody can ever actually get hit by any of the rounds. Yes, chubby Segal outruns machine gun fire. Sadly, he doesnít jump out of the way, he trots in a straight line. Meanwhile, the bullets never catch up to him. As a result, there is no blood. The action is about as high as the best youíll get on cable deletion, setting up for an extremely disappointing movie.

I wasn't too disappointed in the fact that nobody could shoot for anything in this movie. I'm used to seeing people outrun bullets, but this movie had so many other issues. In one scene, tear gas is used to pull the justice away from her captors. Anyone without a mask begins to cough uncontrollably. But near the end of the scene, the people are no longer wearing their gas masks, yet there is still plenty of tear gas left in the air. Another 'roll your eyes' moment occurs when Sascha gets a prison guard out of flat-line status by using his electrifying nightstick to jumpstart his heart. How's that for resourceful?

The dialogue is awful, and Iím not talking about Segal; he doesnít talk. Thereís a scene where Donny shoots his fellow henchmen to distract FBI officials and asks, ďArenít you glad youíre wearing a bullet proof vest under that?Ē When Segal talks, it is just as bad. There is one scene where his friend is lying on the ground and dying. Segal-I mean Sascha Petrosevitch, provides his words of encouragement. ďHang in thereÖyouíre going to make it.Ē The tone in which this dialogue is being said, is at the level of a librarian giving you directions to a book that you just canít seem to find.

No folks. Not even all the pumped up rap music and glittery backdrops can save this one. Few people will get any enjoyment out of this debacle, but it helps not to have expected much when going into this movie. Ja Rule fans will enjoy seeing him get much more screen time than he did in The Fast and the Furious. And I guess Stephen Segal fans will be relieved to know that their forgotten action hero is still alive and making movies.

In the climax, there is a XXX style action-stunt that completely defies physics. In any other movie, this scene would be ridiculous, but this movie needed it desperately. The only thing missing in Half Past Dead, is the romance factor for Sascha. While an explanation is provided regarding his late wife, I give this movie a point for not brining Sascha and the female terrorist together. But avoiding that clichť was no justification for this utterly predictable movie. You just don't get much worse than Half Past Dead.

[  Home  |   About  |   Columnists  |   Archive  |   Search  |   Contact  ]
© Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati