Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Friday After Next

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cubevision

It has been said by many people that when a third film comes in a franchise, more often than not, it’s considered the weakest link. A lot of the time, people are right about it, but then you have ones that are better or as good. In the end, it’s really subjective and it boils down to what the viewer thinks.

Friday After Next is the third film of the Friday franchise. Now I know what you might be thinking. Why am I covering the third film when I haven’t done reviews on the first two yet? Well, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout because I am telling you why. I am sure that last sentence was a good indicator why I am doing this first. If not, the explanation is that it’s December and it’s Christmas-time, and this film in particular takes place around that time and it had a Christmas-theme.

I promise that I will cover Friday and Next Friday, as well as the soundtracks eventually. I might even cover the short-lived animated series one day (Yes, it existed and I have seen a few episodes). But in the meantime, I am going to talk about this film.

The film’s takes place on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Friday (Because for some reason, this film series NEEDS to have it set on that day; more on this later), and it starts with Craig, Ice Cube’s character who appeared in all three films, waking up in the middle of the night and finding a burglar dressed like Santa Claus. Santa was seen robbing Craig and Day-Day’s (Mike Epps) Christmas presents and the one thing that was even more important: rent money. So that’s basically the main part of the plot, though like the previous two films, there were other subplots and such that went on. After all, this film DOES take place in the span of a day.

So Craig and Day-Day get jobs as security guards at a strip mall to try to get money to pay the rent to the guys’ repulsive landlord, Ms. Pearly. Oh, and she has a son named Damon, played by Terry Crews, who just got out of prison and has developed an interest in men over time. Did I mention that Craig also gains an attraction to Donna, the girlfriend of Money Mike, played by Katt Williams? And that Craig and Day-Day are throwing a wild Christmas party in the evening? Like I said, so much goes on in a one-day period.

What I could say about this film is that it was the weakest of the three, but really, this film got better after multiple viewings. I actually remember seeing this in theaters when it came out. I remember having minor chuckles here and there, but there were some other things that left a lot to be desired. However, after subsequent viewings, it kind of grew on me. Another thing of note is that it had the same tone as the second film, which was different from the first. Keep this in mind, the first film was funny film, but it felt a little more serious and straight in tone in comparison to the second and third films, as they felt a little more wacky and over-the-top with some slapstick in the mix. It wouldn’t surprise me if the film’s opening credits done in an animated style went with it, but at least it was kind of interesting. I also found it funny that Mike Epps played another character in this film as a shotgun-wielding old man.

I liked that they made some links to the previous films, as the series’s other mainstay, Willie (John Witherspoon) made his return once again, along with Elroy from the second film. I noticed that Anna Marie Horsford reprised her role as Craig’s mom, but the gripe that I had was that she didn’t really have a lot to do in this film. The one part that I can think of was when she confronted Mrs. Pearly about coming onto Willie towards the end, but overall, she didn’t have a lot of lines in the film. I think I can count on one hand about the lines of dialogue she had. Now that I think about it, I really wonder if the producers even approached Regina King for her to return as Dana at any point. She wasn’t in the film, obviously, but it felt like she was the forgotten character of the Jones family (Okay, maybe not as she was featured in the animated series, but that’s a topic for another day). I read on IMDB that Chris Tucker was asked to reprise his role as Smokey, but he declined. Another thing of note was that Roach was supposed to return as an earlier draft of the script had him appear, but it was scrapped because the actor who played him died.

As far as links to the previous films go, I noticed that Tom “Tiny” Lister didn’t return as Debo, but I suppose that Ice Cube wanted to change things up a bit and not have that character return as an antagonist.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know until today that there was an alternate ending to the film, and this film has been out for 16 years. The alternate ending showed Santa Claus (and I mean the villain of the film, as in the burglar) in a sympathetic light. It turned out that he was homeless and had only stolen some presents to give his children a good Christmas. Sure, there was some humor thrown in there, but it changed the tone up a tad as it showed the true meaning of Christmas at the end. While I like the original ending in that it showed that the villain was defeated, I thought that the original ending was well written and I actually like it more, but in another perspective, it probably would given the viewers a tonal shift.

Just a minor nitpick. It was said that movie took place on Christmas Eve that fell on a Friday. I am sure I am among a small percentage who would really pay attention to say something like this, but if Christmas Eve in this movie was on a Friday, it sure wasn’t set in 2001 or 2002. Because if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, it would probably be in 1999 or 2004 because of this 5 or 6 year (Depending on a leap year falling in between) pattern that has certain dates go back to a certain day. It was just an observation. But then again, it was only said that it was Friday at the beginning of the film. It was not mentioned after that.

Other than that, this film was enjoyable to pass an hour and a half, especially during the Christmas season. It had some funny gags, especially with the bits involving Damon and Money Mike. What’s weird is that prior to seeing this movie in theaters, I had only known of Terry Crews through this show called Battle Dome, which was similar to American Gladiators with a few elements of professional wrestling thrown in. I didn’t even know that he was actually a funny guy at the time until I saw this movie. It’s the weakest of the series, but it had some fun moments and it’s far from the worst movie.

NEXT UP: Friday After Next soundtrack

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Album Reviews

Review and History – Royce Da 5’9″ – Rock City

Year of Release: 2002

Record Label: Game Recordings/Columbia/Koch

There is a question that I have in mind about Royce’s debut album: With there being two versions, could it still be considered the same album or two different albums?

What I mean is this: “Rock City” was set to put Royce Da 5’9″ on the map, mainly due to his close association with Eminem as one-half of the duo, Bad Meets Evil. The two had done some songs together such as “Scary Movies” and “Nuttin’ To Do,” as well as “Bad Meets Evil” on Em’s debut album, “The Slim Shady LP.” To be perfectly frank, the two even did the title track for this album. However, this album was delayed over and over again from 2001 to 2002, that at some point Royce changed from Columbia/Sony to Koch Records. The album was originally supposed to be released in 2001, but then got delayed, and also heavily bootlegged. Not to mention that around that same time, Royce had done a song with a Britney Spears clone named Willa Ford. He did recover from that, despite not being that mainstream, as in subsequent albums, he remained true to his style.

One thing that I want to note is that while I consider myself a fan of Royce, I have not followed his catalog in years. I do want to change that, though I wonder where to start, whether it’s his actual albums or even his mixtapes. I have listened to “Hell: The Sequel,” as well as the first Slaughterhouse album, however.

Also, I am going to cover both versions. I must note that I bought the version that was released at Best Buy back in 2003 (That was called “Rock City: Version 2.0”), but the original pressing of the album I did not get until about a year ago when I found it on eBay. Also, there are some differences in the two versions, despite some songs appearing on both versions. Also, some songs on Version 2.0 probably made the album better than the original.

The original version suffered from a lot of songs that seemed to go with the mainstream during that time. One song in particular that seemed different from Royce’s style in subsequent albums is “Get’cha Paper.” While the beat from The Neptunes was actually pretty good, the subject matter that Royce rapped about just seemed a bit off. It was had a bunch braggadocios subject matter about getting money, ladies, and talking about being the King of Detroit. I didn’t mind how the chorus was somewhat reminiscent of “Strawberry Letter 23” from The Brothers Johnson.

One song that appeared on both versions that served as its lead single, and that was “You Can’t Touch Me,” which when listening to it now seems rather dated. It had a decent beat, but really it left a lot more to be desired in the lyrics.

Another thing that was noticeable in both versions was the inclusion of Tre Little in a lot of tracks, as well as that there was a song that included a group that Royce was helping to jumpstart at the time called D-Elite, which Tre seemed to be a part of. What’s funny is how on Version 1.0 had two tracks called “D-Elite,” which were split into two parts, the second of which had the full crew. However, Version 2.0 had only part one on it, which had Royce rapping, but the second part was devoted to showcasing the other members. It was also a part of a trend at the time when an established rapper has a crew and then wants to show the world what they’re made of. For example, Eminem had D12; Nelly had the St. Lunatics. You get the idea.

That is not to say that Version 1.0 did not have any song that had any meaning. A couple of songs in particular were “Life” and “Who Am I,” which actually used the beat to 2Pac’s “Pain” and it fit pretty well. “Life” actually had a somber type of feel and Amerie (Remember her?) provided a good chorus to it, and her vocals went with the overall feel of the song.

That is not to say that Version 2.0 did not have some songs that were not that good, however. Right after the title track came the mediocre “Off Parole,” which felt like it was this version’s “Get’cha Paper.” It even included Tre Little on the track. The only thing that song had going for it was the beat. I was also not too fond of “Mr. Baller,” which had a nice beat, but the rest of it just left a lot more to be desired.

So what are some positives that I can say about the two versions? I must note that one song that I did like on Version 1.0 was “We Live (Danger” and I could possibly be biased because I first heard that song in “Grand Theft Auto III” way back in the day (Who says you can’t find good music through video games?). Royce also did a good job in “Take His Life” from Version 2.0, which had a somber beat to go with it. It talked about some serious subject matter.

Also, both versions had “Boom,” which was one of his first singles. I didn’t know this until recently, but it released as a single when Game Recordings was still around, but was also released on the soundtrack to “Carmen: A Hip-Hopera” (Man, just thinking of THAT makes me feel old; I wonder if anyone even remembers that TV movie).

One thing that must be talked about is that the title track had two different beats on the two versions. If I were to pick which version out of the two that I liked more, I would probably go with the one from Version 1.0. If you want to compare and contrast, be my guest.

I have to say that I give Royce credit for his effort in this album (or these albums how ever you want to look it or them), but “Rock City” was really not all that special looking back. If you listened to this, and then “Death is Certain” and other ones after, you would see a major contrast in style. Now if you did the opposite and followed his career post-Rock City and then wanted to see what he did in his debut, one could probably see that it would not be the Royce he/she came to appreciate. I kept one of the versions for so long, but in a lot of ways I am glad that I held on to it. While the other one was done for collecting purposes. I would only recommend it for die-hard Royce fans and collectors, but for those who are interested in checking out where Royce started off, just start with either the early Bad Meets Evil stuff or just start with “Death is Certain.”

V1 – 2.5/5

V2 – 3/5

Top 5 Tracks from Version 1.0

  1. We Live (Danger)
  2. Boom
  3. Life
  4. Who Am I
  5. D-Elite Part 2

Top 5 Tracks from Version 2.0

  1. Life
  2. Soldier’s Story
  3. King of Kings
  4. Who Am I
  5. My Friend

Also, here was the original artwork for Version 1.0

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Gravediggaz – Nightmare in A-Minor

Year of Release: 2001/2002

Record Label: Empire Musicwerks/BMG Music

Here I am in my final Gravediggaz album review, which is of their third and final album, and also as part of my horrorcore special (That doesn’t I can’t do horrorcore album reviews outside of Halloween-time).

Before I get into the review of the album, it must be noted about the background of this album. By the time this album was already in production, the two main producers, RZA and Prince Paul, respectively known by their aliases “The RZArector” and “The Undertaker,” (I often wonder if there was copyright infringement on the name because it was shared with the well-known pro wrestler, despite the title being an actual profession) had left the group. It was even noted in the liner notes in the CD booklet that RZA had other obligations to attend to (During that time, he was likely working on his solo second album, “Digital Bullet,” along with the two Wu-Tang Clan albums, “The W” and “Iron Flag,” and likely also working on production on solo albums from Wu members).

Also, during the time this album was being produced, Too Poetic, also known as Grym Reaper, was suffering from cancer and in spite of it, he still gave it his all in his contribution to the album. He passed away not long before the release of this album. So it was fitting that this was released as a posthumous album. It also should be noted that with the absence of Prince Paul and RZA, this album was produced by Frukwan (Gatekeeper), Poetic, True Master (who had contributed to “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”), Diamond J, and LG. So with or without RZA and Prince Paul, it had no effect on the quality of the album.

Anyway, how does this album compare to “6 Feet Deep” or “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”? Well, credit is given where credit is due. Some of the instrumentals in some of the tracks were a little weaker than its predecessors, though the lyrical content is still really sharp. The instrumental used for the skit, “Last Man Standing,” was eerie, as it was not only produced by Frukwan and Poetic, but also True Master, Diamond J, and LG.

The first actual song on the album, “Bloodshed,” actually kicked the album off on a high note. Frukwan and Poetic delivered some great rhymes mixed in with a dope beat.

Also, it seemed that there were some appearances from Wu affiliates once again. “False Things Must Perish” had an appearance from Prodigal Sunn, of Sunz of Man, which is funny because Killah Priest and Shabazz appeared on the previous album. Yet, another member appeared on this one. There was also an appearance from Shogun The Assasson, of Killarmy, another group affiliated with Wu-Tang. He appeared on the song, “Man Only Fears.” Both rappers did a good job in their respective appearances.

I can’t think of a lot of negative things to say about this album, except for maybe a couple of tracks, which were “Running Game On Real” and “Wanna Break,” but their flaws were mainly the beats. The beats sounded rather messy and too bassy for my tastes.

Frukwan and Poetic did a great job in the lyrics in all of the songs, but I have to give a lot of credit to Poetic for even going so far as to rap about his illness in “Burn Baby Burn.”

Yo, pain builds my character
Deranged cancer cell begin to damage my shell
Tissues begin to swell
A human pin-cushion needles begin pushin’
Through my, melanin color, blood begins gushin’
Hunger, pain is, fed through my veins
Tryin’ to maintain body and brain under strain
Belly bein’ drained from my nose through a catheter
To maintain my stamina, game is high caliber
Flashback my dossier file before the hospital
Lots’ll pay a pile of cheddar to see me rock my style
Got lots of smiles from man woman and child
A grave digga here runnin’ wild like the Nile
Ghetto, X-File, the horoscope bringers
City morgue singers, new rap era beginners
Four years out of seven I remember tourin’
And this year I’m measurin’ my urine

I didn’t know this when I bought this album, but it appeared that there was an original version of this album. There was actually an original release that had come out a few months after Poetic’s death and according to a review on Amazon.com, it said that there were a couple of extra tracks on it. Also, what was noted was that there were different beats used on certain tracks, for example, “Bloodshed” had a different beat on the 2001 release. I am now curious about getting my hands on this version so that I can hear the differences, though I COULD listen to them on YouTube, but still.

Overall, issues with the production aside, being that it was slightly weak (But by no means bad), this album was actually a good swan song for this group. It is a shame what happened to Poetic because he had the skills and talent to really shine as a solo artist. Frukwan later released his own album after that, which I may check out down the road one day. I might even check out his work with Stetsasonic. This was actually a decent album.

3.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Bloodshed
  2. False Things Must Perish
  3. Burn Baby Burn
  4. Man Only Fears
  5. Nightmare in A-Minor
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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films

*Sigh*  I know that I haven’t keeping up with this lately. On one hand, I have been contemplating writing about the rest of my Fast & Furious soundtracks. Another part of me wants to write about Death Row albums, particularly post-Tupac death and also when Dre and Snoop departed the label (Probably because I have been on a Death Row kick lately, especially having written the Death Row Records documentary). Then I have remembered that I also wanted to review the State Property films.

I know that there are plenty of rap movies out there to talk about. The State Property films fall into the same category as when I wrote about Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz. For all the shit that I had talked about with those two, I think I have found a film that kind of blows them out of the water in terms of badness. I am sure that in some areas I still get a little nostalgic for Thicker Than Water and while I have spoken ill about Hot Boyz (Note to self: Watch other No Limit films), I think I may have found a film that I can put above it in terms of some of the worst rap movies that I have seen.

State Property is basically a movie that stars Beanie Sigel as a character named Beans who is trying to make a name for himself in the crime world. He wants to be feared and known by everyone and has a bunch of guys working for him. Of course, there are a bunch of gangster movie cliches of “one guy messing up and getting killed for it” or “someone pissed off the wrong guy, so he has to get tortured.” Not to mention drug deals gone wrong and women getting kidnapped, as well as random shootouts taking place. You get the picture.

Usually with these types of films, I don’t expect great acting from them. Also, the story has every cliche there is. It’s no secret that this film sucks. Although I will admit that there were moments when I laughed AT certain parts. But when these rappers on screen are only good at playing certain personas, that just showed how they needed to take acting lessons prior to it. It didn’t help that there was not a single likeable character in this film. Though Beans was the protagonist, there was nothing about to make me want to root for him.

It also was of no help how this film was loaded with misogyny. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like looking at scantily-clad women just as much as the next guy, but there was no purpose in some of the scenes with closeups of a woman’s body. Also, a minor spoiler, but in one scene when a deal took place, the camera turned and closed in on a couple of women sharing a rather gratuitous kiss. There was absolutely no reason for that part to even be in the movie other than fanservice.

While the poster said had Jay-Z billed, he was only in it for about five seconds max. The other Roc-A-Fella guys had bigger roles than Jigga himself. Damon Dash had a bigger role than Jay-Z, for crying out loud. Hell, I didn’t even expect to see Amil (Remember her? As in the woman in “Can I Get A…”?) in the film. It seemed like this was a film project for Roc-A-Fella.

I really don’t know what else to say about this film except that this was a bad film, though I think you may have already gotten the picture after reading all of this. I will admit that I remember flipping through channels and coming across it on HBO a long time ago and seeing how bad the acting was from the two minutes I saw of it. However, only one positive I can say about it was that it had a good soundtrack, which I may write about in the future.

Of course, I am aware of the sequel, which I will do next.

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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Continuing with my special on Murder Inc compilations, the second one that The Inc had put out had seen the roster expanding a lot more than before. One could argue that the Murderers compilation had a lot more content considering there were more tracks on that one, but during the time this album had come out the roster had gotten new talent, and also had some selling albums in the process. Ja Rule had come out with “Pain is Love” the year prior, as well as “The Last Temptation” on the way later that year. Ashanti had come out with her self-titled debut album earlier that year, which had hit songs in “Foolish,” “Baby” and “Happy.” So The Inc had found its mark in the hip-hop and R&B industry at that point, which had the label put out another compilation album which showcased the talents and skills of the performers of that label.

While a few familiar faces had returned such as Ja, Vita, Ronnie Bumps, Black Child, 0-1, and Caddillac Tah (Formerly known as Tah Murdah), this compilation included the likes of new talent such as Chink Santana, Jody Mack, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc (Pronounced “merce,” not “merk” like how it is often pronounced) as well as Ashanti, who had quite a presence up to the point of the release of this album, and Charli Baltimore, who was known before signing to The Inc and had an album that was shelved (I will try to hear “Cold as Ice” one day if I find a way). So she was a veteran in the game up to that point.

So with a lineup like this, it would seem that the best way to let the world hear what they are made of is through a compilation or mixtape. So did The Inc offer some good talent and songs to go with it? Well, let’s see.

Like the previous compilation before this, most of the songs were collaborations between different artists. However, unlike The Murderers album, there were less solo songs. In fact, there were only two this time around. In fact, the only solo tracks on here were from Black Child and Chink Santana. “O.G.” from Black Child has a laid-back beat to it but the content from the lyrics and the chorus left more to be desired than the beat. While “Hold On” from Chink Santana was actually a deeper track. He sang about struggles in the ghetto and also life in general. He also a good job in the production of this track.

When I said that there were a lot of collaborative songs on here, I meant that. Many of the songs have the subject matter of being thugs and gangsters and anything of that nature. Even the intro to this album was more of a song than an interlude with some of the rappers providing some verses here and there. “Gangstafied” is a definite example about living the gangster life with a good beat and chorus to go with it. The only part that seemed to be the one flaw of this song was Ronnie Bumps’s verse. It was not terrible, but it felt a little out of place. It was still a good song, though.

Every time I hear “Down 4 U,” it reminds me of the summer of 2002 because that song was everywhere during that time. People can say what they want about how Ja did a lot of R&B and love songs during that time, but there is no denying that he had a lot of hits that charted, including those lovey-dovey songs that he did. This was one of them, by the way. Ja had assistance from Vita, Ashanti, and Charli Baltimore in this song. Ashanti provided a good chorus with her vocals as well as a good verse. Vita and Charli Baltimore did a good job in their verses, too. Plus, the beat was nice, too. I have to hand it to 7 Aurelius for providing some influence in the production.

Speaking of 7 Aurelius, he also did some production for a couple of other songs on this compilation, which are “No One Does It Better” and “The Pledge.” The former is a collaboration between Charli Baltimore and Ashanti. It is really more Chuck’s track as she actually had verses while Ashanti mostly did the chorus of the song. Charli has a good flow and I have always thought that she was an underrated female rapper. While “The Pledge” is basically the closest to a solo Ashanti track on there. Bear this in mind, this is the original version as the more known version is the remix with Nas and Ja. Anyway, this song also had Caddillac Tah providing the rap on this song. I have always thought that this version was more underrated as it’s a good R&B track and it seems to be overshadowed by the remix. Ashanti did a good job on this song, with both the verses and the chorus, while Tah’s verse was actually pretty good.

Many of the other tracks are mostly songs with a lot of the then-new artists from the label showing the world what they have. Some of them stood out in some areas, others didn’t exactly measure up. One thing that I had noticed is that the song “Tha Nexx N****z” is a collaboration with a couple of Death Row artists from that time, Crooked I and Eastwood. I remember reading about how Death Row and Murder Inc were sort of collaborating at that point, which was the reason why there were appearances from those two. I am more familiar with Crooked I (This was way before Slaughterhouse, by the way) than I am with Eastwood, although I remember reading about him way back when. I think that this song is the only appearance from Dave Bing, who had a few more tracks on The Murderers compilation than he did here. Still a decent track, though.

One standout track in particular is the song “We Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” which is obviously a follow-up to “We Don’t Give A Fuck” from the previous compilation. One exception is that there is no sample of a Rocky song (Well, it’s actually Bill Conti’s score, but you probably would know what I mean) and that there are more people this time around. Also, Ja was not on this track at all, neither was Vita. However, it gave some of the other artists a chance to shine. This was song was also among the very few appearances of 0-1.

Although “Down 4 U” was the main single from this album, there was another song that was a single on this album, but it had existed before it came out. That song is “Ain’t It Funny,” the Murder Remix from Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, and Caddillac Tah. When I first heard this, I was a bit surprised to find it on here as J-Lo’s remix album had already been out before this one was released, but I guess because there was a Murder Inc influence to it that it was inevitable that it would be on this one. I am not complaining as it had a good beat, even though it was a direct sample of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.”

In the end, this album was not bad. It was decent, if good in some areas, but my main issue is that it felt like there was more focus on the newer artists on this. Also, being that Charli Baltimore was a seasoned veteran, there could have been a lot more songs that she could have rapped on. I have read that she even had an album on Murder Inc that was set to be released, but it didn’t happen. I wonder if there is a way to listen to it. Irv Gotti did a good job with the production. Of course, this compilation was mainly to give music fans a taste of what the label had to offer at the time.

3.5/5

Next Up: Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Down 4 U
  2. Gangstafied
  3. We Still Don’t Give A Fuck
  4. The Pledge
  5. Hold On
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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead

half_past_dead

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Franchise Pictures

I have not really been keeping up with this lately, but because I have plans to write about the Murder Inc compilations in February, I figured that this would be a good place to start. It is not just because Ja Rule is in this film, and also Kurupt, but also because there is a good amount of songs from The Inc on the soundtrack, and also other stuff from non-Murder Inc performers.

I will add that I have also been on a Steven Seagal kick lately, probably thanks to a YouTuber who I follow named Ramboraph4life as not too long ago he had done a Seagal marathon where he reviewed and ranted on films that he starred in. I still have Exit Wounds to do, and I will cover that one in the near future along with its soundtrack, but that will be for my Andrzej Bartowiak’s martial arts hip-hop trilogy marathon which also consists of Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave, along with the soundtracks to those films.

Anyway, I am here to talk about Half Past Dead, the last movie that Steven Seagal starred in that was given a theatrical release, which also has Ja Rule in a starring role. This movie came out nearly two years after Exit Wounds, which was a surprise hit and that was also another movie that Seagal had done with a rapper, who was DMX. For many years I had heard that this film was the last straw for Steven Seagal as a leading man in theatrical movies because afterwards he had starred in a slew of direct-to-video films. I think another reason was that this film was a critical and box office flop. A lot of people disliked the film and it did not make a lot of money. Of course, I decided to see it for myself.

Some of my synopsis may contain spoilers.

The film’s story in a nutshell is about this undercover FBI who is infiltrating a prison because a criminal plotted to interrogate a prisoner about stolen gold and where to find it. The film’s title has to do with how Seagal’s character was declared dead at the beginning of the film, only to be revived. Seagal played Sasha, the FBI agent who was undercover in a criminal operation with his friend, Nicholas, played Ja Rule. Of course, Ja’s character did not know that he was undercover at first. The opening sequence was more of a prologue as Sasha was shot and the main plot takes place eight months after those events. The villain, who is called 49er One (don’t ask), played by Morris Chestnut, leads a team of criminals, also codenamed 49ers with a number after that. For example, the second-in-command, played by Nia Peeples, is named 49er Six. My only guess is because the film took place on Alcatraz and being that they are after gold, it is rather clear as to why they are named that. In some ways this feels like The Rock, with Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, but with elements from The Matrix thrown in.

In regards to whether this film was bad is entirely subjective, but I personally didn’t mind it. Would I call it good? No, but there was some fun to be had. The thing that really got me were the acting from parts of the cast. I can’t really say much about Seagal’s acting considering how he has admitted that he is not much of an actor and how in a lot of movies he basically plays the same type of character, or is he playing himself? I can never tell. Ja didn’t do a bad job in his role but I have not seen enough roles of his to really say if he is playing himself. I know he was in a movie with Pras (From The Fugees) called Turn It Up, but I have never seen it. He was only in The Fast and The Furious for a few minutes and the only other film that I have seen with him was The Cookout, but that was a long time ago and I mostly remember that being a cheesy comedy. As for Morris Chestnut, his performance as the villain felt like he went through the motions. I couldn’t buy him as a bad guy. I felt that he was more convincing as a criminal-type in the movie Confidence, which came out sometime after this one. He didn’t really convince as a bad guy in this film and he is usually such a good actor. Nia Peeples didn’t have much to work with except be the femme fatale who wore tight leather and did martial arts. Also she reminded me too much of Trinity from The Matrix in this. She even wore a trenchcoat in some fight scenes.

As for others, Kurupt basically played the comic relief in this film. He was actually pretty funny in some scenes, one of which included comedienne, Mo’Nique. I can’t say he acted much before this except for one small scene in The Wash, but that was it.

As for action scenes, this movie was chock full of explosions and pyrotechnics that I think it would make Michael Bay blush. The film was already over-the-top, but it just felt like firework show in some sequences. There was a lot of ridiculousness in some other sequences like one that had Seagal and Ja driving a car and Ja totally flew out of a car or when Kurupt fired a rocket launcher and was sent flying. Those scenes got a laugh out of me for the absurdity in both scenes. Not to mention when a gun got caught in an elevator door and Seagal flipped it over to have it point at the bad guys. Also, I could not help but laugh during the climax when two guys jump from a balcony and start firing their guns. I mean, come on, how could the bullets not hit the other guy who jumped as well?

Of course, I can’t complain about the fight scenes, even though some involved doubles for some people. Although Peeples’ character was a total knock-off of Trinity, she impressed me a bit in her fight scenes. I can’t say that I am surprised because she had done a lot of fight scenes when she was in Walker, Texas Ranger.

Acting and action scenes aside, the complaint I had for the most part were some songs from the soundtrack. I wonder if this movie was edited and initially supposed to be rated R. This was PG-13, and I believe it is Steven Seagal’s only PG-13 film. The reason for my complaint is that a lot of the songs were edited. This film came out around the same time as the compilation, “Irv Gotti Presents The Inc” and a number of songs from that compilation appeared on the soundtrack. The film started with “Gangstafied” from a few Murder Inc artists (Including Ja) and it was distracting to hear parts of the lyrics censored. The same can be said about the use of “I’ma Bang” from DMX. It was just weird to hear it censored when it said “Do My Motherfucking Thing.” If the movie was rated R, the lyrics would all be intact.

I also must add that the song in the credits, “The Pledge (Remix)” contained clips from this film in the music video for it.

End spoilers.

Half Past Dead is more flash than substance, however, the film is still fun to watch for some reason. I don’t think this is a good film, but it is entertaining in some areas. I found myself laughing with and at some scenes, especially at a little Sony product placement with an inmate playing PS2 in a cell. The film also didn’t take itself seriously which was one reason that I had fun with it. I also must add that there is a direct-to-video sequel that stars Bill Goldberg and from what I understand, Kurupt reprised his role in that film. I might watch that and review it one day because judging from the DVD artwork it appears that Kurupt has a bigger role in that one than in this one. I am also curious about Bill Goldberg’s performance being that I am mostly used to seeing him in his wrestling persona. I’ll check it out one day.

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