Half Past Dead

on November 15, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
Steven Seagal is fat. It's one thing for an action star, particularly a fairly good action star as Seagal once was, to eventually make their way over the hill. Arnold, Sylvester and Bruce Willis have seen the last of their obligatory rip-the-shirt-off scenes. For the portly Mr. Seagal, this is a good thing, because he's fat, and with the exception of Hong Kong star Sammo Hung, there is no such thing as a fat action hero. And, considering he never could actually act, it begs the question--what's the point of a Steven Seagal film? "Half Past Dead" answers this question most pointedly--there is none.

Writer/director/actor Don Michael Paul, who also co-wrote the script for the less than memorable "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man," makes he feature directorial debut here, and brings to the screen the '80s action zeitgeist from which he was spawned. The film has all the depth and subtlety of a Stephen J. Cannell (who makes a cameo appearance) television series, aspiring no higher than an episode of "The A-Team" or "Hunter." All the characters are to one extent or another Bad People. All the dialogue is comprised of redundantly expository diatribes and flatly delivered quips. Bullets fly but never hit anyone, things blow up but no one gets hurt, and acting is optional, or, more to the point, opted against. This especially true in the case of rapper Ja Rule, though to single him out is unfair since there is very little acting going on in the movie at all.

As for the storyline, Sascha (Seagal) and Nick (Ja Rule) are inmates at New Alcatraz when a team of high-tech thieves lead by Donny (Morris Chestnut), aka 49er One, infiltrate the prison to learn from a death row inmate where he hid $200 million worth of gold. When Donny and his gang start to brutalize the brutal, Sascha and Nick take things into their own hands. Nia Peeples (of several TV movies and a short-lived recording career) is actually quite effective as Donny's primary enforcer, and Claudia Christian (TV's "Babylon 5") is also coolly effective. Seagal, who does none of his stunts in "Half Past Dead," delivers an unenergetic performance, while rapper/actor Ja Rule should stick to talking in verse. Starring Steven Seagal, Morris Chestnut, Ja Rule, Claudia Christian and Nia Peeples. Directed and written by Don Michael Paul. Produced by Steven Seagal, Elie Samaha and Andrew Stevens. A Screen Gems release. Action/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for pervasive action violence, language and some sexual content. Running time: 99 min

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