Half Past Dead (2002) Movie Review

Early in “Half Past Dead” a Federal Agent, with an army of agents at her beck and call, decides against taking down an illegal chop shop by surprise and then negotiating with the leader of the thieves later on in the safe confines of, say, an interview room. Instead, she makes the bright decision to waltz into the chop shop by herself. Once the thief rebukes her offer, a gunfight of John Woo proportions ensues. This offers writer/director Don Michael Paul the chance to show the world that John Woo isn’t the only one who can do great shootouts. Of course Paul is wrong, and although Woo may not be the only one who can do great shootouts, Paul is no John Woo.

Now that you know the caliber of the writing and directing we’re dealing with here, is there any doubt that “Half Past Dead” is D.O.A.? Except for the appearance Nia Peeples, who plays one of Morris Chestnut’s black leather clad gunman (er, gunwoman), “Half Past Dead” is a movie better left in the trash heap of forgettable Steven Seagal movies (which is getting higher and higher by the year, I might add). It’s most telling that the only credits writer/director Don Michael Paul has had before writing and shooting this opus are a string of TV shows, and not a single one of them worth bragging about at that.

Steven Seagal (“The Foreigner”) looks even more bloated than usual playing Sascha, a supposed master car thief who, along with partner in crime Nick (rapper Ja Rule), are caught and sentenced to New Alcatraz. The island prison is so new that its hardcore warden Tony Plana, whose character is called El Fuego, is using the prisoners to help finish the place. (Say, wouldn’t it be better to finish building the jail before bringing the prisoners in? No! Must…stop…thinking…) Actually, El Fuego is such a tough and mean s.o.b. that he doesn’t even bother to speak English most of the times. It’s a good thing then that New Alcatraz’s seemingly all-black prison population (with the exception of Sascha, of course) can speak Spanish, or they wouldn’t understand a single thing the warden is saying. Right?

“Half Past Dead” is a mishmash of a lot of genres, one of which is “Die Hard” — our gunmen, led by Morris Chestnut, breaks into a prison to claim some stolen loot and ends up having to deal with a lone warrior who alters their supposedly simple plan. It’s all been done before and done much, much better. The movie is so over-the-top and cartoonish in its displays of wanton violence and gunplay that it’s not even worth mentioning that the hand-to-hand fights always end up with combatants getting kicked and punched and thrown around a room for what seems like hours on end, but they always manage to stand up at the end of it without a single bruise.

As mentioned, the only thing of note about “Half Past Dead” is Nia Peeples, who turns in a great performance as a slick and stunning gunwoman. In the movie’s best scene, Peeples takes on rapper-turn-bad actor Ja Rule in a cramp hallway and pretty much wipes the floor, the wall, and the ceiling with his butt. Who knew that the former host of a silly TV show called “The Dance Machine” could kick so much ass and do it so convincingly? I guess her time on “Walker, Texas Ranger” really paid off. Love those blue eye shadows by the way.

Like rappers that have come before him, Ja Rule once again proves my theory that rappers-turn-actors should only be allowed to play either the Sassy Black Guy in horror films or the Comedic Sidekick in action-comedy movies. Ja Rule is neither very funny or sassy in “Half Past Dead”, which according to my theory means he’s way out of his element. Of course it deserves mentioning that I’m more apt to believe Ja Rule as a smooth criminal with a good right hook than Steven Seagal as a master car thief, but that’s really not saying much, is it?

“Half Past Dead” is a bad movie. It’s slick, expensive, and everything blows up at one point or another, but so what?

And will someone please tell Steven Seagal to go on a diet already. For Christ sake, I have an easier time believing me as an action hero…

Don Michael Paul (director) / Don Michael Paul (screenplay)
CAST: Steven Seagal …. Sascha
Morris Chestnut …. Donny
Ja Rule …. Nick Frazier
Nia Peeples …. 49er Six
Kurupt …. Twitch
Tony Plana …. El Fuego

Buy Half Past Dead on DVD