Half Past Dead (2002)
By: Devon B. on July 7, 2013 | Comments
Sony | Region Free | 1.85:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 98 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Don Michael Paul
Starring: Steven Seagal, Morris Chestnut, Ja rule, Nia Peeples, Tony Plana, Kurupt
Screenplay: Don Michael Paul
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
I'm not always against a PG-13 rating for action movies. A lot of Jackie Chan's stuff was rated PG-13, and there are fun movies like The Rundown with that rating. The key to being a good PG-13 action movie is probably to be a very funny movie. While Steven Seagal is often funny, it's not usually on purpose, and his aikido style of fighting is much more brutal than Chan's often elegant kung fu. Regardless of the political climate that lead to Steven Seagal is Half Past Dead being PG-13 (or M in Australia), this was a mistake, one that virtually ended Stevie's big screen career.

Stevie stars as a Russian, but he's not doing an accent like in Steven Seagal is Driven to Kill. In fact, it's completely irrelevant that he's a Russian except in the opening scene, so I had to wonder why it's called to attention that he's Russian at all. Unless Stevie is lying about being Russian to the other characters, but why would you do that unless you're going to try and pass yourself off as Russian? Why not just say, "I'm American" and then people won't be suspicious of your accent? If he is really Russian, this is an unnecessary plot point, and if he's not, it's just a dumb one that could get him in trouble. Anyway, Stevie and his good pal Ja Rule go out to steal a car. You can tell they're good friends because Ja Rule helps Stevie to be more black by teaching the correct pronunciation of "a'ight." After the theft, they're busted by the FBI and a shoot out follows for no reason other than it would look cool. Stevie gets popped and dies, but is revived – I figured he would've been flatlined for 30 minutes so he'd be half past dead, but later it's said he was only dead for 22 minutes. Maybe someone rounded the time up so it would be easier to remember, but then people in the States don't say "half past" much anyway, so perhaps I've taken the title too literally.

Stevie and Ja Rule are arrested and transferred to a newly reopened Alcatraz, and clearly Ja Rule's black lessons took because now Stevie is sporting a skull cap, can say "a'ight" and is referred to as Ja Rule's nigger. Actually, maybe this adopted culture explains why Stevie is Russian; perhaps the filmmakers were making a lame joke that he's now a black Russian? Also at Alcatraz is a prisoner who will be executed, apparently on the same day the prison reopens, that has made off with a lot of gold that was never recovered. If that wasn't fair warning some shit was going to go down, the fact that a Supreme Court Justice is also visiting the facility should clue even the slowest viewers in. Some rogue FBI agents invade the gaol to try and get at the gold hiding prisoner, and they're lead by Stevie's former sidekick Morris Chestnut. Evidently Morris didn't pay enough attention to what happens to those that oppose Stevie.

As you can probably guess from the synopsis, Steven Seagal is Half Past Dead is convoluted and there's a lot of stuff that makes no sense in this movie. The prison is strangely informal, run by a warden that really forces his Hispanic background – perhaps to draw attention away from Stevie's adopted ethnic leanings. The condemned man gets to choose his form of execution, and spend his last hours in front of picturesque images in the room where he'll soon die. Stevie has a fake knee, but it's just an excuse to show Ja Rule in a fight so he can look tough, which he doesn't. Dodgy CG punctuates some scenes, and there're far too many moments that were done just to look cool without making much sense.

The movie is unfortunately heavily sanitised, with the word "fuck" censored repeatedly on the soundtrack. This sanitisation has also ruined the fights, which aren't always well captured at any rate. There's more gunplay than aikido, because it's apparently worse to break someone's bones than shoot them, so Stevie fans will be really let down. Stevie is in a transitional point here in terms of his hair and weight. He's losing the battle to the bulge, and a shot later in the movie where he sports a really bad toupee may explain the skull cap. Perhaps he wasn't trying to be black, after all.

The two best things about the movie are a bit part played by A-Team creator Stephen J. Cannell, a man who should be worshiped as a God, and a report that a 27 foot white pointer was caught at the Great Barrier Reef. I wish Stevie had fought the shark instead of these villains.

The Disc
Steven Seagal is Half Past Dead is sharp and clear. There're a few specks, but the print is mostly clean and sports some excellent fine detail. The overall transfer isn't the most impressive I've ever seen, but it's perfectly acceptable for this movie.

Audio is available in English and French TrueHD 5.1 tracks. This is a loud movie which fills the soundscape with bullets and explosions. It's not always mixed perfectly, but for the most part does what it intends to.

The big extra is a commentary with writer/director Don Michael Paul who makes it clear very early on that this is not a rip off of The Rock. He also explains some inconsistencies; says Stevie fills up the screen, which I assume was a mean comment on Stevie's weight; and clarifies why the movie was PG-13. My big issue with the commentary, and perhaps the movie in general, is that Don claims he was trying to fuse hip hop with an action movie. This is a dumb goal. Hip hop has been fused with martial arts pretty much since the musical genre started. Rudy Ray Moore did (bad) martial arts, there's a group called The Wu-Tang Clan, when Jackie Chan finally cracked the North American market his films were rescored with rap music and let's not forget Romeo Must Die was old news at the time of Steven Seagal is Half Past Dead release. Rounding out the Blu-ray package are a few minutes of deleted/extended scenes; a useless 13 minute making of; the film's trailer and trailers for Men in Black, Vantage Point, and the anniversary edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Steven Seagal is Half Past Dead is a big, dumb, loud, dumb actioner. It's a goofy movie brimming with nonsense that I might've liked more if it hadn't watered down Stevie, but its other elements leave a lot to be desired, too. There's nothing wrong with this Blu release, so if for some bizarre reason you like this movie, here it is.
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