There is absolutely no incentive in going to see Steven Seagal’s new action-thriller, “Half Past Dead.” Mindless dialogue, bad acting and a lame plot make one want to leave the theater shortly after the opening credits. Action films are supposed to rouse an audience and keep it rooting for the “good guys,” yet director Don Michael Paul simply saturates the viewer with constant violence and killing – with very little coherence – making the film feel like a dizzying spell of nausea.
The latest gossip is that Seagal isn’t looking too sharp these days. This is absolutely true, he isn’t. Yet, the film tries to avoid putting him in an unattractive light by using effective camera angles and techniques. It is painfully obvious, especially by only showing him from the neck up during much of his dialogue. And the dialogue, by the way, is not any better, especially when he attempts a Russian accent in one of his lines with, “You think you’re mean? I’m meaner.” Enough said.
Sasha Petrosevitch (Seagal, “Under Siege 2”) is an undercover FBI agent who gets into the crime scene through Sonny Ekvall (Richard Bremmer, “Just Visiting”), the head of a criminal organization. Sasha is trusted by the menacing, threatening Ekvall partly due to the support of his young buddy, Nick (Ja Rule, “The Fast and the Furious”), who vouches for him, saying he’s not part of any government organization – no FBI, no CIA, no nothing. Sasha has Nick fooled, too. Soon they both get into trouble, and are thrown into the “New Alcatraz” maximum-security prison. This will supposedly give Sasha an edge on finding out some new information, but I will be the first to admit, I have no idea what evidence he’s looking for. What is more likely, however, is that the director never told the audience, which makes the rest of the story even more meaningless.
The rest of the story, by the way, is that a group of not-so-scary villains, headed by 49er Six (Nia Peeples, “Blues Brothers 2000”) and 49er One a.k.a. Donny (Morris Chestnut, “Under Siege 2”), break into prison to find the whereabouts of the $200 million in gold brick stashed away by a death row inmate named Lester (Bruce Weitz, “Deep Impact”), who is just about to serve his death sentence. But Sasha comes to save the day, of course, along with his sidekick Nick.
Some elements of the story are just plain disturbing, and they seem to be there for shock value, and nothing more. For example, when Donny locks Lester in the electric chair and unsuccessfully tries to get some answers on the gold, Donny turns around and shoots a priest standing next to him. This resulted in a lot of gasps from the audience, but other than that, the scene simply reminds the audience that this is a horrible film, and that characters have to go to such great lengths as shooting a priest in the head in order to keep our attention.
There is no redeeming quality to “Half Past Dead.” The attempt to make Sasha a glorified hero creates nothing more than laughs. Moreover, the filmmaker makes a pathetic attempt at bringing status to the sidekick Nick. Ja Rule just can’t play a believable character, and he would have been better off recording another album than wasting his time on such a gutter-dwelling action-flick.