Sony // 2007 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 4th, 2007
It ain't over 'til he's done.
In the straight-to-video sequel to Steven Seagal's actioner, professional wrestling superstar Bill Goldberg teams up with Kurupt, a holdover from the original, in a prison gone wild.
Goldberg is Burk, a massive felon serving time in New Alcatraz, where the worst of the worst are stored. Thing is, he's -- get this -- innocent of the crime he had been incarcerated for and is merely waiting out his sentence so he can be reunited with his beloved daughter. His plans are derailed when a major riot breaks out and Burk is caught in the middle. Worse, his daughter, who had been visiting at the time, is trapped inside the prison during the lockdown.
Desperate to save her and constantly faced with marauding inmates, Burk forms an uneasy alliance with Twitch (Kurupt), the wisecracking comic relief. Together, the two fend off attacks from guards and gangs, and Burk elbows a whole lot of guys in the head.
Half Past Dead 2 puts the "dumb" in "big dumb action movie." As for "big" and "action," that might be debatable. Confined solely in one large prison set, HPD2 (as the kids like to call it) sets its sights on smaller prey than other actioners, focusing solely on pitting two guys against a bunch of other guys. There are no explosions, the gunplay is limited, and eye-popping stunt-work is non-existent. On the other hand there's a refreshing lack of CGI, a creeping detriment to most modern action films.
Bill Goldberg is certainly an impressive physical specimen, a colossus, ripped sideways, who knows how to throw his weight around in a melee. His fisticuffs comprise the main action in the film, and the throwdowns are of the street-fight variety. As he wanders through the prison, he'll encounter a set of bad guys, and then do his thing, sometimes capping the fight with a signature move from his wrestling persona. The fights are well-choreographed and fun to watch and Goldberg is willing to take as much punishment as he dishes out. Parallel to these one-on-one encounters are generic riot scenes which add to the feeling of claustrophobic mayhem but don't thrill. The action highlight: while Twitch tries to hotwire a cell block gate (can you do that?), Burk repels a horde of inmates.
When Goldberg isn't wrecking fools, he manages to not embarrass himself with his acting. The guy was in Universal Soldier: The Return, lest you forget. Granted he's only called upon to spit out meathead musings about how he's going to kick insert name here's ass, with the occasional dramatic uttering about how much he loves his daughter and why his prison sentence is a royal screw-job, but he executes his line readings with gusto. Kurupt is fine in the plucky sidekick role, injecting levity into the situation without being an intolerable screen presence. And his name is Kurupt! The rest of the cast is interchangeable with each other.
If you're scoping out something called Half Past Dead 2, then I doubt a cohesive storyline registers high on the list of aspects important to your viewing experience, and you'd be right not to expect much narrative wizardry from this sucker. Really, the plot is as basic as it gets: a big tough guy wants to find his pretty blonde daughter before she gets hurt in a prison riot and beats the Pine-Sol out of anyone who gets in his way. There's a goofy gold-hunting subplot (really) embedded in the goings-on as well, but the main thrust of the film is, well, the thrust of Bill Goldberg's steel girder-sized biceps into some guy's throat.
The disc is standard, bare-bones Sony fare: technically, it's solid, with a clean 1.78:1 transfer and an active 5.1 surround mix. No extras.
I didn't hate this movie. It's not high art -- or even low art -- but there are enough entertaining moments to disqualify it from the Pantheon of Half-Assed Direct-to-DVD Actioners.
Guilty -- of punching!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Verdict Review: Half Past Dead