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Half Past Dead Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/17/2002

I am a big fan of Die Hard rip-offs. I know that is a strange thing to say, but itís true. I like everything from 1991's Toy Soldiers to 1994's Speed to even 1997's Masterminds. Iím not a big fan of Steven Seagal though. I think he is looking like Jim Belushi these days (Will Sasso on "Mad TV" has him down perfectly, physically and attitude-wise.) Since I am such a big fan of Die Hard rip-offs, I figured even Seagal couldnít mess up Half Past Dead, which is essentially Die Hard in a prison. After all, he had already done two decent Die Hard rip-offs already with 1992's Under Siege (Die Hard on a boat) and 1995's Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (Die Hard on a train.) Boy, was I ever wrong.

Half Past Dead is the story of Sascha Petrosevitch (Seagal), a car thief who's brought in by criminal Nick Frazier (Ja Rule) to work for crime syndicate boss Sonny Eckvall (Richard Bremmer.) When FBI Special Agent Ellen "E.Z." Williams (Claudia Christian) and her team show up to seize Nick, however, things go wrong and Sascha gets shot. After eight months of recovery following his short period of being clinically dead from the shooting, Sascha is locked up along with Nick in Alcatraz, which has just been reopened. A new warden named El Fuego (Tony Plana) now runs it and it is now known for its new state of the art death chamber where the prisoner can choose from five different ways to die. Lester (Bruce Weitz) is the unlucky first prisoner scheduled to be executed. He is being put to death because he stole $200 million worth of gold bricks in a heist that resulted in five deaths. Federal Bureau of Prisons head Frank Hubbard (Stephen J. Cannell) and the woman who sentenced him, Supreme Court Justice June McPherson (Linda Thorson), have come to the prison to watch the execution. Before the execution takes place, a small but well-equipped team of terrorists who call themselves the "49ers" visit them. The team gained access to the island by parachuting onto it and proceeded to gain control of it. Led by 49er One, a.k.a. Donny Johnson (Morris Chestnut), Hubbard's assistant, and 49er Six (Nia Peeples), the team finds Lester and wants him to tell them where he hid his stash of gold. Donny shoots a priest (Eva-Maria SchŲnecker) that is in the room after Lester refuses to give it up and threatens to kill others if he continues to clam up. His plan is foiled by Sascha decides to step in and save the day, since it turns out that he's really an undercover FBI agent who's trying to use Nick to get to Sonny. He rescues Lester, but the 49ers seize Justice McPherson and threaten to kill her if Sascha doesnít give Lester back. Sascha works with Agent Williams and her team, who are still on the mainland, and Nick and other inmates such as Twitch (Kurupt) and Little Joe (Michael "Bear" Taliferro) within the prison. With everyone working together, Sascha and pals attempt to rescue the Justice and throw a monkey wrench in Donnyís plan.

This movie is bad on so many levels. For one, it isnít even an interesting Die Hard rip-off. Chestnut and Peeples were the most interesting characters in the movie, so I found myself rooting for the bad guys! Next, Seagal is just dumpy-looking. His fight scenes were boring. I found it odd that Peeples, mainly known as a dancer-actress, had more impressive fight choreography than Seagal (I donít know whether or not she was using a stunt double, but I would guess not, since fight choreography could be looked at as just another form of dancing.) Finally, I found the movieís attempt to achieve a PG-13 rating pathetic. There was lots of violence and killing, but little to no blood! In addition, there was plenty of rap music in the movie (probably since Seagal had decided to rip off one of his few successful movies, 2001ís Exit Wounds, which he starred in with rapper DMX, by starring in this one with two rappers.) The problem was that all of the songs were edited for language! Not a single "F" bomb was allowed so they could achieve the PG-13 rating, so it made the movie as annoying as listening to a rap album bought at Wal-Mart.

I couldnít believe how bad Half Past Dead turned out. I knew Seagal would suck (side note: I offered my "plus one" seat to the screener for this movie to several friends, and they all turned it down because it had Seagal in it, even though it was free), but I was surprised how annoyed I was by Ja Rule. I think he is a decent rapper and an okay actor, but he irritated me here. Iím giving this movie one whole peg because of Chestnut and Peeples (who both should do more bad guy roles), and because of Kurupt, whose goofy performance in the movie was mildly enjoyable in an otherwise horrible suckfest. If you go see this movie, I hope you donít feel Half Past Dead yourself afterwards.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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