"Half Baked Action Flick"
What You Need To Know:
HALF PAST DEAD stars Steven Segal as Sascha, a Russian recruited into a crime syndicate with the help of Nick Frazier, his long time buddy. Nick gets involved in a fierce shootout with the FBI, and Sascha gets killed, only to be revived and sent to jail. The two convicts find each other again in the Alcatraz prison, now reopened with a high tech death chamber. Another convict, Lester, is scheduled to be the first death row inmate to be executed in the new chamber for his role in killing treasury agents during a heist of 200 million dollars in gold. However, a team of well trained criminals attempts to break into the impregnable island and kidnap Lester to find out where the gold was hidden. Will they succeed, or will their elaborate plans go awry?
More like a long running arcade video game than a feature film, HALF PAST DEAD could conceivably be tolerated as shock therapy. In a world that is already reeling from all the violence spilling onto every area of life, this is yet another desensitizing offering for an increasingly jaded society rather than an exciting movie experience
(PaPaPa, B, Ab, LLL, VVV, A, D, MM) Pagan worldview with some moral elements and a false depiction of Christian faith plus villain who says God is dead; about 26 obscenities, three strong profanities and one light profanity; strong violence with shootings, stabbings, murder, suicide, explosions and crashes; alcohol use; smoking; and, gangsterism rebuked, stealing, car theft, and tattoos.
If there ever was a movie made by formula, HALF PAST DEAD is a perfect example. Not even the frenzied attempts to capitalize on every recent crime/action thriller/adventure – from THE ROCK to THE MATRIX to UNDER SEIGE – are enough to raise this ear splitting, bullet ridden, unmitigated mess from what will probably be a well deserved quick demise.
The first of three crudely partitioned acts introduces Steven Segal as Sascha Petrosevitch, a Russian freelancer (less the accent) being recruited into a crime syndicate with the help of Nick Frazier (Ja Rule), his long time buddy. Shortly thereafter, Nick gets involved in a fierce shoot out with the FBI and Seagal is killed by an ensuing explosion, only to be revived almost miraculously about a half-hour later by the paramedics, and later sent to jail.
The second act opens with the two convicts finding each other again in the slammer, and the location happens to be, you guessed it, the overexposed Alcatraz off the San Francisco coast. Alcatraz has now reopened as a state-of-the-art penal facility featuring a high tech death chamber that allows condemned inmates to choose their own method of execution. On that same day, Lester (Bruce Weitz) is scheduled at his own request to be the first death row inmate to be executed in the new high tech chamber. Lester is about to be killed for his role in the death of several treasury agents during a heist of 200 million dollars in gold bars several years ago. Unknown to anyone present, however, a team of well trained, focused, criminals is about to break into the impregnable island and attempt to kidnap the death row inmate to find out where the gold was hidden before he takes his secret to the grave.
The ruthless mercenaries are led by Donny/49er One (Morris Chestnut) a blaspheming psychopath who claims God is dead and shoots the prison’s priest to show that he means business. His chief lieutenant is 49er Six (Nia Peeples) who is as beautiful as she is deadly with her gun and martial arts skills. Also just arrived to witness the execution is the presiding judge, Justice June McPherson (Linda Thorson), who had sentenced Lester to death at the original trial, several FBI agents, and members of the press.
To the kidnappers’ chagrin, their elaborate plans go awry when the chopper coming back to pick them up crashes into the prison in bad weather. From that point, the action turns into a frantic free for all. In the middle of all this chaos, the judge is taken hostage and used as a negotiating tool, the priest is killed, Seagal reveals that he has been a deep cover FBI agent all along, and the rest of the inmates break into the armory, grabbing anything they can get — from side-arms to heavy machine-guns and rocket launchers. When the dense smoke finally clears, all that is left is a high tech prison in shambles with more holes than Swiss cheese and dead bodies all over the place.
Which leads us to act three, where the audience is required to suspend whatever vestiges of belief they’ve held so that final accounts can be settled and the movie can be neatly wrapped up. Don’t get up yet, though, as a short snappy dialogue takes place between one of the inmates and his visiting sweetheart through the glass partition while the credits are rolling. Perhaps this cute snippet should have been shown at the very beginning and the rest left in the cutting room floor altogether.
Starting to some wear and tear around the edges, and looking rather tired, a paunchy Steven Segal is stiffer than usual within his already narrow acting range, and the supporting cast does not try to do any better. Regrettably, aiming for the lowest common denominator does not do much to reverse this movie’s lack of appeal. The final nail on the HALF PAST DEAD coffin has to be Director/Writer/Actor Don Michael Paul’s script which has Tony Plana, the prison’s warden, alternating his one liners and epithets between English and Spanish like an HBO ethnic comedy series. Morris Chestnut engages his victims in basic pop psychology while trying to pass it off as profound dialogue, and Bruce Weitz claims to have found God, but shows by his words and deeds that he has no clue what that means.
Adding insult to injury is the almost nonstop, indiscriminate firing of every small, middle and large caliber gun known to man, and a driving musical score featuring an overwhelming dose of rap with heavy distortion loud enough to give even the Rock itself a headache. Looking and feeling a lot more like a long running arcade video game than a feature film, HALF PAST DEAD could conceivably be tolerated as shock therapy, but in a world that is already reeling from all the violence spilling onto every area of life, regrettably this will be yet another desensitizing offering for an increasingly jaded society rather than an exciting movie experience.