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.
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.