Sony // 2002 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 12th, 2008
The good. The bad. And the deadly.
Steven Seagal and hip hop superstar Ja Rule team up for a horrible, horrible action movie. Experience the pain in the rich clarity of Blu-ray.
Sasha Petrosevitch (Seagal) and his BFF (Ja Rule) find themselves doing time in a newly rehabilitated Alcatraz. Group showers and dodging shivs will turn out to be the least of their problems, when a commando squad breaks into the prison (with very little effort, I might add) and holds a Supreme Court justice hostage. Their goal? To squeeze the location of $200 million worth of gold bricks from a death row inmate and take that money to a non-extraditing tropical country and buy Xboxes and stuff. Little do they know, Sasha happens to be an undercover FBI super-agent, trained in the deadly art of slapping. With the help of the other convicts, he wages a war of attrition against the bad guys, culminated in a terrifying high-altitude standoff where Steven Seagal's conspicuously slimmer stunt double jumps out of a helicopter.
Awful movie. Catastrophically bad. And this is coming from someone that publicly revels in the joys of senseless action flicks. From the start, this thing is just a total misfire, sporting the straight-to-DVD production values (nearly three-quarters of the action transpires in one of two sets, the prisoner holding facility and the execution chamber), neutered PG-13 violence, bad visual effects, slow-motion shots of women in trench-coats, wire-fu, lovable murderers with mini-guns, and the single worst helicopter crash ever put onto film, which is less a helicopter crash and more a series of exploding floors.
Seagal's "Russian" protagonist doesn't differentiate himself from any other Seagal protagonist -- same mumbling, same humorless personality, same manner of lethal dispatch (boxing ears and throwing), and yes a bit more junk in the trunk. Half Past Dead stands as one of the less-than-impressive entries in the ever-widening pantheon of Steven Seagal's twilight years films. He can hold his own in the up-close-and-personal bouts and his hands are still as fast as lightning, but let's all be honest -- his days of carrying action films as a nimble Adonis are behind him.
Backing him up is Ja Rule, continuing the briefly popular trend of pairing hip-hop sensations with aging action stars, who essentially mugs a lot and says "Bi-atch." Morris Chestunut (reunited with Seagal following their work in the vastly superior Under Siege 2; that statement alone illustrating just how pathetic Half Past Dead is) tries his best as the sneering heavy, but just comes across as trying too hard.
The most offensive aspect of this trite affair: The PG-13 rating. I grant the reality of marketing towards a younger audience, but the restrictions placed upon the dialogue and the violence lead to snort-worthy moments like hardened criminals spitting out such rough language as "Mother!" and not a single snapped limb or wrenched neck! Inconceivable in a Steven Seagal movie. For lunacy, nothing tops the finale when Seagal jumps out of a helicopter that is apparently flying somewhere in the stratosphere, while the aforementioned death row inmate shows his devotion to the Lord and his desire to redeem himself by suicide bombing?
While your brain is being violated, the good news is that your eyes will be treated to a solid high-definition transfer. The 1080p, 1.85:1 upgrade represents a noticeable improvement in visual clarity. Though the film takes place almost entirely in a prison, the surroundings aren't very dark and the colors considerably more vibrant than what you'd find in, say, The Rock. The result is a varied and rich presentation that lends itself perfectly to a BD polishing. This is a very, very fine-looking catalog release and, really, the only aspect worth mentioning. The TrueHD audio mix is an improvement, and gets most of its workout from the selection of rap music used for the soundtrack. Extras: Deleted scenes, a defensive commentary from director Don Michael Paul, and a making-of feature, all imported from the standard DVD release.
A great-looking coat of Blu-ray paint doesn't wash out the bitter taste of Half Past Dead, which is half-baked, half-witted, and half-assed.
Technical aspects: Not guilty. Everything else: @#$% you.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Making-of Featurette
* Deleted Scenes