Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I got a ton of mail after we ran the last few Foywonder reviews (for MONSTURD and EXTREME OPS, respectively) asking for more. You didn’t know what you were asking for, though. You aren’t ready for this. You think you want to read another hilarious dissection of a hideous film? Try somewhere in the neighborhood of nine million words, all focused on HALF PAST DEAD...
I remember this short-lived show that used to air on Nickelodeon back when I was growing up called Rated K: For Kids By Kids. I forget exactly what year this was, but Danger Mouse and You Can’t Do That On Television! were still airing so that should give you a hint as to the time frame. Some of you may remember this show, but for those who don’t, Rated K was Nick’s version of a movie review show featuring three young teenagers reviewing non-R rated films. Instead of the usual star system or “thumbs up/thumbs down” method of rating a movie, they’d grade it with a word or phrase they felt best described their opinion of the film. For example, one graded a movie he liked as “Cool” and another who didn’t like a movie would give it an “S for Skip it.” You get the idea. Seeing as how I was really into movies even back then, I watched this show religiously. At least I did for the first few months until that one faithful episode when the mop-topped Greg Brady look-a-like gave a rating that forever soured me on the entire program. I forget what the film was, but he hailed the movie as being “Crazyfresh.” When asked by his confused co-hosts about the meaning of the word “crazyfresh,” he gleefully explained that it was a cool sounding word he just made up and encouraged them and the viewers at home to begin using the phrase in real life.
With this said, the co-hosts began grinning like lobotomized idiots and hailed this new word and this new concept of bastardizing the English language for the sake of making a movie review sound far hipper that it could ever possibly be as the single greatest idea of the 20th century. To this day, I still am not sure exactly why, but they’re doing this utterly insulted my intelligence as well as every fiber of my very being. Even as a kid with only a little media savvy, it reeked of a corporate decision to make a simple program seem cool in that artificial sort of way that has now become the norm on television. I hated that back then and I hate that today. It’s almost as if you could envision those idiotic TV execs who are forever tormenting Krusty the Klown standing just off-camera thinking to themselves, this’ll bring the kids in. More importantly, I hated it because I just found it to be so utterly stupid. A film critic describes a movie they like as being “wizard.” Does that really tell you anything? They continued this practice on the show, well, at least until it got cancelled six months later, but I only stuck around a few more episodes before I could just take no more.
So you’re probably wondering, what the hell does that trip down bad memory lane have to do with the subject matter of this review? Well, it’s simple actually. As much as I have always despised the concept of trying to force feed a new hip word or cool phrase into the English speaking populace, I am about to do just that. Unlike them however, I am not doing it to try to be hip or cool, but to simply state a personal opinion, one that I think many may take to heart. I highly recommend that from now on whenever you are trying to come up with a word or phrase to sum up just how truly bad a movie that is so absolutely awful on every possible level of filmmaking, you should describe that movie as being “half past dead.”
HALF PAST DEAD is not only the worst movie I’ve seen all year, but it is the single worst movie I have seen IN years! Admittedly, I have not seen the latest HALLOWEEN sequel, SCOOBY-DOO, THE NEW GUY, THE COUNTRY BEARS, JUWANNA MAN, any of this year’s crop of gross-out comedies, or anything that starred a former cast member of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but I’m extremely confident that none of those movies could hold a candle to the cinematic atrocity that is HALF PAST DEAD. It is a movie so off-the-charts horrible that it’s title is worthy of becoming a bad movie adjective. For example, ever see that direct-to-video CAPTAIN AMERICA movie that Albert Pyun directed? One could now say that CAPTAIN AMERICA was “half past dead.” Nor am I exaggerating when I say that HALF PAST DEAD is the kind of movie that is so bad that afterwards you want to go upstairs and beat the crap out of the projectionist in an attempt to send a message to the filmmakers! Not since HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING have I seen a movie this horrendous! HALF PAST DEAD is that fucking bad!
MY GOD!!!! WHAT A PIECE OF SHIT!!!! Okay, deep breath…deep breath…
Yeah, I know this movie has been out for over a month so this review is somewhat out of date. That said, this movie is still so wretched that, much like the villain from DEAD HEAT, it deserves to be brought back to life just long enough to be given a far more fitting demise. Bad movies come and go, but one’s that are this bad are so very rare. I originally intended to go see HALF PAST DEAD when it first opened in November, but my schedule prevented that from happening. In fact, the night I saw EXTREME OPS, I almost ended up going to see HPD instead. Thinking back on it now, I made the right decision. EXTREME OPS is DIE HARD compared to this festering boil on the ass of filmdom! On vacation from work and being really bored one night I finally got around to seeing HPD for myself. I knew it was going to be bad, but the majority of Steven Seagal’s films are, but at least they’re still watchable, although EXIT WOUNDS was most certainly not. Still, compared to HPD, EXIT WOUNDS is a cinematic triumph. Still, I rather liked UNDER SIEGE and some of his other films such as OUT FOR JUSTICE are entertaining in a cheesy way. I never suspected just how stupifyingly abominable HPD would prove to be. It’s even worse than ON DEADLY GROUND, which at least had camp value.
A few moments ago I compared the movie to HIGHLANDER 2, which is fitting because I suspect these two movies have a lot in common. Specifically, they both are really bad movies that ended up being even worse after the producers decided to butcher them in post-production in a failed attempt to salvage the movie. Granted, I’m only speculating that this movie got butchered in post-production, but I’m willing to bet that nobody set out make a PG-13 action movie set in a prison starring Steven Seagal and a hardcore thug rapper. Also, you hear repeated use of the word “mother” which leads you to suspect that the rest of that phrase got foleyed out. Also, the fact that most of fights and gun battles look as if they were edited with Leatherface’s chainsaw and then glued back together by a blind man suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder leads one to suspect that massive amounts of editing took place. It also seems that while they were removing all the naughty stuff in a desperate attempt to achieve a PG-13 rating, they also decided to remove entire scenes and not just extraneous ones. Either that or this movie was abducted by aliens because the it seems to suffer from what UFO abductees refer to as “lost time.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Make no doubt about it, HALF PAST DEAD is a total train wreck of a movie, but it is no ordinary train wreck. Try to envision a train wreck as written by Franz Kafka and visualized by Pablo Picasso. It is a train wreck where nothing makes any sense leaving the viewer to try and formulate their own conclusions as to just what in the hell it is that they are staring at. As hard as I’ll try to explain in words, there is simply no possible way to truly comprehend just how incomprehensible this movie really is without one actually seeing it for oneself. The problem is, that would actual require you to see it and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. With that in mind, I present to you this dissertation of the atrocious HALF PAST DEAD so that you will never ever have to see it.
As we all know, HALF PAST DEAD is the latest cinematic offering from Steven Seagal. Having watched the deterioration of his big screen career occur right before our eyes these past years, its safe to say that HPD represents those last few steps a dinosaur takes before he steps into the tar pit. It’s over! The end! Time for Mr. Seagal to pack it in and begin doing nothing but direct-to-video cheapies or perhaps he can go the Chuck Norris route and try doing a TV show. DEVITO, BROOKLYN RANGER has a nice sounding ring to it.
What can one really say about Seagal in this movie? He has slowly but surely evolved physically into the lost Belushi. As much as they try to hide his now chubby body with loose fitting clothes, that double chin still reveals the sad truth. He’s not fat in a Marlon Brando sort of way, but he’s definitely got that David Carradine mid-aged snack food junkie look going on. I’m not sure if the do-rag he wears on his head for the majority of the movie is his trying to hide his rapidly thinning hair or a failed attempt to give him something of hip hop look, but either or he still looks ridiculous with that thing on. Even more amazing is that his acting skills, what little he had to begin with, have actually gotten progressively worse to the point that he doesn’t even feel compelled to make any effort anymore. Perhaps if Mr. Seagal were performing in a 1930s German expressionist film, his ultra-minimalistic style of non-acting would today be hailed by artsy film critic types as pure genius, but, alas, this is in fact a 21st century action movie and the star needs to do a little more than just barely mumble above a whisper. Seagal also possesses a grand total of 6 different facial expressions that he continuously recycles throughout the course of the movie: blank stare, squinting, scowling, squinting and scowling, constipated, and “I’ve recently had a stroke and now I’m trying to smile.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the one thing that Seagal had going for him, his Aikido martial arts skills, also seem to be suffering. While I’m positive the man could kill me with his bare hands in real life that doesn’t mean they look all that impressive on-screen anymore. His style of hand-to-hand combat in this movie seems to have degenerated to being nothing more than a series of rapid-fire bitchslaps.
Still, as dreadful as Seagal is, he’s still far and away better than his co-star Ja Rule, who in this film has inherited DMX’s job of being the real-life thug rapper trying to make Seagal appeal to the hip hop market. Ja Rule, well, he ja reeks! His performance will make you realize that perhaps maybe you were way to hard on Mr. DMX. For about the first 10 minutes of HPD, Ja Rule seems to be trying to play Bill Bellamy, but the moment the film goes to jail, he spends the remainder of film talking like he’s reading his lines off a cue card just off-screen and constantly makes this one eye squinting, half smirk _expression that I think is supposed to make him look tough. Well, at least as tough as a 175 pound gangsta wannabe who is such a bad ass in real life that he has to carry a gun and still be surrounded by a half a dozen of heavily armed bodyguards whenever he goes out in public. If you read my EXTREME OPS review, then you probably remember my Jerry O’ Connell analogy. Well, it applies doubly to Ja Rule in this movie. Why is it that so many hip hop stars who are supposed to be “keepin’ it real” come across as world class phonies even when they’re acting? I recently caught a few minutes of Justin Timberlake on the show Weekend Vibe where even he was talking like and using the same mannerisms as a thug rapper as if that lily-white, boy band member has even an ounce of street credibility. It was the equivalent of watching Donny Osmond doing an Eminem impression. Ja Rule is so annoying in this movie that he should seriously consider changing his name to Jar Jar Rule.
Also showing up in an utterly thankless role is Claudia Christian as a federal agent who has very little to do and even less to say. I have the sneaking suspicion that the majority of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. The only thing noteworthy about her character is that she is named E.Z Williams, which maybe the single worst name ever given to a female law enforcement character. Apparently co-starring alongside Robert Davi in MANIAC COP 2 really helped her performance in this movie because she’s basically doing a Robert Davi impression. In this movie, she’s essentially Robert Davi with a vagina.
Morris Chestnutt, who already served one tour of duty in a Seagal film having previously played the wise-cracking, African-American sidekick in UNDER SIEGE 2, plays the movie’s main villain whose only defining character traits are that he’s the main villain and a really snappy dresser. The sad thing is that Chestnutt is a decent enough actor, but here he quite literally has nothing to work with and since he’s already been in one Seagal film, he really should’ve known better than to take a role in another one.
And rounding out the cast of notables is a character arch-type that is rapidly becoming one of the most overused in Hollywood today, that being the female bad ass henchwoman, who usually is of some particular ethnicity. In this case, Nia Peeples plays Chestnutt’s right hand woman and her only defining character traits are that she’s a martial arts expert, dresses like a slutty X-Men, and wears so much eye shadow that you wonder if Tara Reid was her make-up artist.
As the agony that is HALF PAST DEAD begins, Ja Rule shows up at Seagal’s crib with his crimelord boss. You see Seagal and Ja Rule are big-time car thieves who specialize in stealing only the most expensive brands of automobiles so that this multinational criminal mastermind can sell them for big bucks overseas or something like that. He’s just now on the verge of getting accepted into the crime family with the final test being his having to pass a lie detector test. It’s here that we learn that Seagal’s character is supposed to be a Russian immigrant named Sascha Petrosevitch. The movie never even bothers to tell you if his character really is supposed to be Russian or if it’s just a false identity he’s using since he’s actually an undercover FBI agent. Either way, it doesn’t matter because Seagal never ever utters a single word with a Russian accent although everyone else acts like he does. Thanks to his icy nerves of steel, Seagal passes the lie detector and so he and Ja Rule celebrate by boosting a car. As the actual opening credits roll and rap music blares, we’re treated to Seagal and Ja Rule doing their best Speed Racer and Trixie impressions in a stolen sports car.
They briefly come to a stop for a few moments of exposition in which Seagal fumbles with his wedding ring and Ja Rule, playing the wise sage, lectures him about how his wife died over 2 years ago and he needs to move on with his life. They also have a brief exchange over the proper pronunciation of the term “beeyotch.” It is during this exchange that the single most hysterical piece of dialogue I have ever heard in my lifetime of film watching was uttered. At the end of their conversation, Ja Rule refers to Seagal as “my nigga.” I swear to God, if I had just taken a sip of my soda at that moment I would have done a massive spit take right there in the theater. Steven Seagal is a puffy-faced, portly, middle-aged, white guy with two chins, a receding hairline, and an uncontrollable urge to mumble. Steven Seagal is not hip, dope, def, fresh, fly, jiggy, phat, slammin’, jammin’, wack, and he damn sure is nobody’s “nigga!” Jesus H. Christ! This man has never been and will never be a homebody from the hood! In fact, I don’t even believe that a character like Ja Rule’s would become best buds with a character like Seagal’s even in a fictional film.
So as the opening credits come to end, Seagal speeds into this warehouse/chopshop doing about 80 mph and comes to screeching stop which causes Ja Rule, and I swear on a stack of bibles that I’m not making this up, to go flying out of the side door soaring through the air about 15 feet and crashing onto the trunk of a parked car. It’s like a sight gag from a POLICE ACADEMY movie. Ja Rule gets up, dusts himself off, and starts laughing about Seagal being a maniac. Moments later, Claudia Christian drives up in an SUV accompanied by a small army of heavily armed federal agents to arrest them. She yells at Ja Rule something about testifying against his boss who apparently is one of the most wanted men in the world. He spouts off something about loyalty followed by some macho BS about rather going out guns ablazin’. Seagal thinks that’s a bad idea and advises him to listen to the nice lady officer with the butch hairstyle. Before you know it, the first incoherent action scene of the movie takes place. I’m not exactly sure who’s shooting who or for that matter why this gun battle goes on so long because there seem to be about three dozen cops and maybe seven criminals and that’s including Seagal and Ja Rule. All I know for certain is that Christian and Ja Rule are doing some really lame Chow Yun Fat-style two-handed slo-mo gunfighting while Seagal scampers about trying not to get shot. Finally, just as Christian is about to bust a cap in Ja Rule’s ass, Seagal uses himself as a human shield and takes several bullets to protect his friend, at least I think that’s why he did it. Oddly enough, the shooting of Seagal immediately causes the shootout to end.
Flash forward to a short while later where paramedics are trying to revive Seagal who is apparently dead. We know he must be dead because he briefly has some GLADIATOR-style flashbacks in which he makes out with his dead wife who appears to have been about 20 years younger than he is. The paramedics are finally able to revive him and begin acting all giddy because he had been dead twice the medically given amount of time in which a dead person is supposedly no longer able to be brought back. Hence the movie’s title, HALF PAST DEAD. I got a question. If he was that far gone then why were they still bothering to try to revive him?
Flash forward about 6 months or so to the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay where the infamous island prison has been reopened and re-dubbed as New Alcatraz. Some politico, played by TV producer Stephen J. Cannell of all people, accompanied by his right hand man, the Morris Chestnutt character, is holding a press conference explaining how he got the facility reopened due to crime spiraling out of control and how this New Alcatraz is going be a state-of-the-art detention center for the absolute worst society has to offer. Also, to help celebrate the opening of the facility, they’re going to fry some guy in its state-of-the-art electric chair tonight.
Inside the prison, Ja Rule is inline with the rest of the newest crop of prisoners waiting to be processed when he spots Seagal who is also inline waiting to be processed because apparently he’s still deep undercover. Ja Rule expresses shock because he thought Seagal was dead and then explains about how he got 3 years in prison for stealing cars. Why a guy who only got three years for grand theft auto has been transferred to a supermax prison for the worst of the worst is never explained. When Seagal walks through the metal detector, it goes off. He quickly mumbles some phony sounding explanation about his metal knee and how it’s always setting off metal detectors. Of course the guards don’t buy it and want to search him. Seagal responds to this request with pointless violence. I’m thinking that he must be wearing a wire or something and doesn’t want his cover blown. The warden breaks up the fight and inspects Seagal’s leg and sees the surgical scars that would be left behind from having bolts in one’s knee. Yes, he was telling the truth. He really does have a metal knee. Where did this come from? It was never mentioned before and he wasn’t shot in the leg. We’ll never know for sure because we’re never told and the subject of his metal knee is never brought up again. This begs the question, why exactly did an undercover cop just start wailing on some correction’s officers for no reason whatsoever? Again, we’ll never know.
The only bright spot of the whole movie and it’s not even that bright a spot is the prison’s warden. He’s a major hard ass Puerto Rican ex-prison guard nicknamed El Fuego. I would have much rather seen a whole movie about him running that prison than the actual film I’m watching. You know something is seriously wrong with an action movie when a minor supporting character comes across as a more intimidating bad ass than the actual hero or villain of the film.
It’s also during this scene that we’re introduced to two more characters. The first is a 400-pound inmate who for some reason is allowed to play video games in his cell inside a supermax prison. The other is Twitch, played by another thug rapper named Kurrupt, who is supposed to be comic relief but somebody completely left out the comedy. I guess the way he yells every line of dialogue he has in a way that sounds like Chris Tucker to the next power is supposed to be funny. It’s not. El Fuego finishes his speech introducing them to the prison and advises them to behave before heading off to greet a Supreme Court justice who is coming in to witness the execution of the man she sentenced many, many years ago.
It’s during these few scenes that we are given an indication as to just how futuristic this state of the art prison really is. For starters, all the security guard carry nightsticks outfitted with tasers and by tasers, I mean the kind that emit a cartoonish electrical charge. Also, condemned prisoners are allowed to spend their final few hours in this room with a holographic wall that can change into various different scenic views. And then there’s the piesta-de-resistance, the floor of the death chamber opens up and a sleek, black electric chair rises out it on a hydraulic lift. Yes, it’s your tax dollars at work!
So the same security guard who Seagal beat the snot out of for no reason a little earlier escorts him from his cell to the holographic room to meet with the man who is to be executed shortly. According to the guard, dead men walking are allowed to meet with whomever they request before execution. This begs a couple questions. What would happen if the condemned requested somebody really famous? Would the prison be obligated to go out of their way to try an arrange this? More importantly, who in their right mind would want to spend their last few hours on earth with Steven Seagal? Well, his name is Lester and the guy playing him bares an uncanny resemblance to the leader of that Heaven’s Gate cult. He’s one of those gentlemen thieves who committed grand robberies without anyone ever getting hurt, but his last big robbery was onboard a train and something went wrong and it derailed killing several federal officers. In addition, Lester still managed to steal $200 million worth of gold during that fatal robbery and hid it someplace so secret that no one has been able to locate it and Lester has refused to reveal it’s location even for a lighter sentence in exchange. He rambles on and on and on about how he used to be in denial about what happened but now he’s overwrought with guilt about it and even contemplated killing himself but he just couldn’t do it and so he finally decided to stop appealing the death sentence and accept his fate. He really hates the fact that his fate is in someone else’s hands. However, he still refuses to reveal the gold’s location even in exchange for a stay of execution.
After going on like this for a good 5 minutes, he finally gets to the point and tells Seagal how he heard about his dying and being brought back after so much time had passed and wanted to know what it was like on the other side. How he heard about this is yet another one of those great mysteries we will never know.
Unfortunately, just as Steven Seagal is about to reveal to the world the secrets of the afterlife, their conversation is interrupted by the Supreme Court justice who has come to witness Lester’s execution. Strangely enough, it seems she and that politico who helped get the prison open are the only two who are going to witness this man’s execution. We’re then treated to yet another long period of exposition this time between Lester and the justice as they engage in a dialogue that sounds as if the film is trying to make an anti-death penalty statement which would be the ultimate hypocrisy coming from a violent action film.
Finally, Lester is being strapped to the chair as his final minutes tick away. At the same moment, in the stormy night skies above, our villains skydive out of a plane and land on the roof of the prison killing all the guard’s in sight and then they override the computers so nobody realizes anything is actually wrong. Then, in one of those truly head scratching moments, they shatter the skylight which is built into the roof of the cellblock, repel down, and proceed to gun down every last guard in the prison while the prisoners themselves look on in shock. Pardon my lack of knowledge on the subject of prison architecture, but how many prisons actually have a glass skylight built into the ceiling above the jail house, let alone the ceiling of what is supposed to be a maximum security penitentiary? Also at this very moment, Seagal is being led back to his cell by the prison guard when the heavily armed bad guys start coming right at them. They fire, Seagal and the guard fall to the floor, and the bad guys just keep walking right past them heading for the death chamber. The guard got shot about 3 times and is dead while Seagal having the reflexes of one of THE MATRIX’s agents managed to avoid the gunfire.
Morris Chestnutt, looking like he just stepped off the cover of Ebony magazine, sashays into the death chamber with Nia Peeples and the rest of his merry henchmen and take everyone hostage. Chestnutt gives a speech about being a pencil-pushing sociopath and that he hates his dead-end desk job so he and his goon squad are there to prevent Lester’s execution so that they can force him to reveal the location of the $200 million in gold. Exactly how is never fully explained. At first he plans to prey on Lester’s conscious by threatening to kill the innocent hostages if he doesn’t give up the location. Then, after getting into a brief argument with his former boss, the politico, Chestnutt seemingly forgets the plan and starts talking about making their getaway and taking Lester with him to force him to actually physically take them to the exact location. Unfortunately, the chopper that is supposed to pick them up is brought down by the mini-monsoon outside and ends up crashing nose-first through the skylight of the prison house so that it ends up hanging there through the ceiling with its nose pointed down partially inside the building. Chestnutt calmly tells his henchmen that they’ll just switch to “Plan B,” which doesn’t mean a damn thing to the audience since they still haven’t even given us a complete explanation of what “Plan A” was.
Okay, up until this point I have given you an in-depth point-by-point recap of the events of this movie. However, at this point in the movie, that becomes completely impossible to do. Up until now, HALF PAST DEAD has been just another really crappy action film, but once the bad guys show up, reality as we mere humans know it ceases to exist. So much happens. So little of it makes any sense. I’ll try to give you the major points. Sit back, brace yourself, and try to imagine this mind-numbing onslaught playing out for over an hour. I’m even going to write it up as just one gigantic paragraph so that you get an idea just how relentless it all was. While you’re reading it, just try to envision this being told to you by someone whose voice gradually becomes louder and more agitated as it goes along and you will truly grasp the emotions I was experiencing while watching all this play out. Here goes.
Back in the hallway, Seagal successfully recessitates the slain corrections officer by shocking his chest with his taser baton. Then, in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN-like fashion, he successfully carries the barely alive guard to the prison infirmary all the while being shot at by random nogoodnicks. Meanwhile, across the bay at The Presidio, which now apparently doubles as the New Alcatraz’s mainland command post, Claudia Christian shows up and starts talking about finding out that Seagal is a deep undercover fed and that she’s come to get him out. Back at the infirmary, Seagal, the angel of mercy he is, performs minor surgery on the guard and stitches him up thus saving his life, at least I think he does because after this we never see or hear from that character again. Seagal soon finds himself engaged in a battle of full contact patty cake with one of the bad guys. The fight ends when Seagal backhands the guy so hard that he flies through the air sideways and crashes into a shelf. This is followed by a very awkward jump cut to a close-up of the guy’s death face. Clearly this guy suffered a far more violent death that they had to edit out to keep the PG-13 rating unless this film actually expects you to believe that Seagal quite literally bitchslapped this guy into the next world. While all this is going on, for reasons unknown, all the jail cells unlock freeing the prisoners. However, rather than attempt to escape or even wander around, they choose to stay within the confines of this one lone cellblock and engage in a game of pick-up basketball. I think that’s what they were doing. A couple of others unsuccessfully attempt to climp this rope or cable or whatever that is still hanging from the ceiling with hopes of reaching the helicopter lodged in the roof. Why? Who knows? It should be noted that even though there was a raging storm outside and this thing partially crashed through the ceiling, not a drop of water is ever seen. Nia Peeples wanders around a lot patrolling for Seagal or something like that and occasionally pops into the cellblock where none of the prisoners ever bothers to even ask what the hell is going on. In fact, she’s essentially ignored by the prisoners except for Ja Rule who keeps making this sneer at her that usually a prison inmate would make at a woman if they were contemplating a rape. Exactly what is going through Ja Rule’s mind is unknown, but he decides to follow her all the while still sneering. Finally, Chestnutt unveils Plan B and it is without question one of the most mind boggling plans ever perpetrated by a movie villain. Ever! He notifies the authorities at the Presidio who seemingly had no idea anything bad was happening at the prison that he has in fact taken over the prison and will kill this Supreme Court justice unless they deliver an escape helicopter to the prison in one hour. Fuckin’ brilliant! Since Claudia Christian is there she’s immediately put in charge of the situation. She reads a file about the Chestnutt character that reveals that he is an ex-soldier who sued the federal gov’t because he began suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. None of this means anything because Chestnutt himself never mentions any of this at any time. Seagal and Peeples bump into one another and have one of those silent staredowns with guns pointed at one another until Ja Rule suddenly comes running into the area screaming at Seagal to shoot her. This whole scene ends with Peeples doing some mid-air back flips then grabbing some ropes and running away. In fact, a short while later, she’ll have another encounter with Ja Rule, who will still be sneering at her, where she’ll briefly kick his ass Michelle Yeoh-style until Seagal shows up and she has to back flip to safety again. Seagal and Ja Rule head back to the cellblock where, despite the fact that prisoners in much better shape were unable to do so earlier, Seagal shimmies up that rope like Spider-Man and climbs into the helicopter’s cockpit to use the radio to contact the Presidio. In yet another extremely awkward edit, the conversation between Seagal and Christian seems to pick up right in the middle because they are talking to each other as if they had been having a conversation for several minutes and discussed other things prior. Long story short, she tells him the situation and he tells her he’ll help. Chestnutt has the Supreme Court justice strapped into the electric chair and, in a scene that supposed to show you what a heartless monster he really is, he proceeds to recount her life story and chastise her for never marrying or having kids. Yes, the big bad’s big moment of absolute villainy is hurting a woman’s feelings! At one point, Chestnutt demands the helicopter arrive in one hour or he’ll kill the judge and then after Seagal starts causing problems, the demand gets changed to 15 minutes. The time passes, the helicopter never arrives, the judge isn’t executed, and everyone acts as if these ultimatums were never made. Seagal and Ja Rule storm the death chamber and while they are unable to rescue the judge, they are able to rescue Lester. I think the warden and the politico also got away too, I’m not sure because the whole scene is an incoherent blur. Chestnutt and what’s left of his crew take chase culminating in a showdown between him and Seagal in the prison’s boiler room in which the two of them end up swinging from chains while shooting at and kicking one another. This movie actually wants you to believe that Steven Seagal can do wire-fu! Bullshit! The two finally decide on a prisoner exchange in which he’ll hand over Lester to Chestnutt in exchange for the release of the judge. Chestnutt goes and gets the judge and tells Peeples and his last two or three surviving men the plan. Seagal finally reveals to Ja Rule that he is an undercover cop and that they had planned to have him do time with Ja Rule because it was believed that he’d be more willing to spill the beans about his supercriminal boss to a fellow inmate. Ja Rule is pissed off for all of about 30 seconds before just going back to wanting to help Seagal fight the bad guys even though we have no clue as to why he was so eager to fight them in the first place. Even more perplexing is why the prisoners of New Alcatraz themselves are so eager to help as Seagal actually takes them into the prison’s armory and outfits them with massive firepower to prepare for the final showdown. Never do any of them even consider trying to escape or even entertain the notion of offering to help out the bad guys in exchange for them taking him with them. Nope. I guess these hardened felons are out to defend their prison sanctuary from the outsiders who dared to violate it. It’s about this point that I come to believe that this movie may have set a record for the number of bald guys to appear in one movie. Seagal also formulates some secret plan with Lester who then reveals to him the location of the gold for no particular reason. Claudia Christian has apparently gotten tired of not having anything to do in this movie so she gathers up the SWAT team and prepares an assault on the prison. As all the prisoners take their positions for the big climax, Seagal and Ja Rule climb back into the cockpit of the chopper where Seagal tells Ja Rule the sad story of how his wife was murdered during a carjacking perpetrated by guys who worked for his big boss. This makes Ja Rule sad. At least, it did until Seagal teaches him how to operate the attack chopper’s big gun turrent so that he can gun down bad guys. Seagal heads back down to oversee the prisoner exchange. As soon as the Supreme Court justice is safe, the good guys who massively outnumber the bad guys 3-to-1 proceed to ambush the villains. The gun battle begins with Twitch and another inmate jumping off the second story balcony while firing their uzis. We see Twitch land unharmed, but the other guy mysteriously vanished into the void of time and space never to be seen again. As all incoherent hell breaks loose, Seagal heads back up the rope and joins Ja Rule in the copter. Claudia Christian arrives with an assault team so now the odds are 5-to-1 against the villains. How they got into the prison that was supposed to be locked down is yet another one of those questions never to be answered. Also unanswered is why a gun battle between 3 dozen guys on one side and about 5 people on the other goes on for so long. The 400-pound inmate gets killed. This makes Twitch sad. Bad guys start firing rocket launchers at the chopper, but years of playing Missile Command paid off for Ja Rule as he easily blows them up before impact. However, the explosions cause the crashed helicopter to dislodge and it begins to fall all the way through the ceiling. Seagal, having the reflexes of a jungle cat, leaps out of the cockpit and swings on the rope to safety as Ja Rule takes the death plunge all the while screaming like a bitch. Excuse me, a beeyotch. Chestnutt grabs Lester and the judge and exits stage right. The warden beats the crap out of Nia Peeples and then Claudia Christian shoots her dead. The battle comes to an end. Seagal rushes over to the chopper wreckage still alive, but badly injured. They share a tender moment until Christian blurts out something about Chestnutt having Lester and the judge and stealing a helicopter. The next thing you know, it’s broad daylight and Christian and Seagal are in a police copter pulling up alongside the stolen helicopter in which Chestnutt is threatening to throw the judge out of if they don’t go away. I thought Chestnutt was the only bad guy left so who the hell is flying that chopper? When the police chopper doesn’t turn around with 5 seconds of his demand, he tosses the judge out. He laughs about this, but I don’t know why because he just lost his only bargaining tool. Fortunately, Seagal had the foresight to wear a parachute and, in addition to being a cop and surgeon, he’s also an expert skydiver, so he dives out and rescues the judge in mid-air. Back on the villain’s helicopter, Lester unbuttons his shirt and shows a stunned Chestnutt the explosives he has strapped to his chest and proceeds to detonate himself. In this day and age, there is nothing more refreshing than a movie where a suicide bomber saves the day! Why the police chopper didn’t also get blown up since it was right alongside when the other exploded is, alas, the final great mystery that this movie never explains. We cut to a remote lakeside cabin where authorities find a metal crate loaded with gold bars while Seagal stars off into the sunset wondering exactly where his movie career went so horribly wrong. Back to New Alcatraz a few weeks later, Seagal visits Ja Rule who is wearing a variety of casts and informs him that they were able to put away his crimeboss without needing his testimony thus completely rendering everything Seagal has been through as pointless. He informs Ja Rule that the judge has taken into account his actions during the ordeal and so he is now a free man. This makes Ja Rule happy and he actually stops sneering. Does this mean that all the other violent felons who participated in the gun battle will also be freed? They smile, laugh, and joke again about the proper pronunciation of the term “beeyotch.” Fade to black. Credits roll. The nightmare is over. Or so I thought because just like EXIT WOUNDS, this movie tries to apologize for the crappy movie that proceeded it by tacking on a comedy routine during the closing credits. In this case, Twitch is getting visited in prison by his wife who is played by comedienne Mo’nique, who looks like the lovechild of Nell Carter and Bigfoot. None of this is even remotely amusing. Finally, it fades to black again and now the nightmare is truly over.
I try to decide whether to run screaming from the theater or to fall to the ground, curl up in the fetal position, and begin weeping uncontrollably. I love bad movies, but sometimes there just comes a film that can just break the spirit of even the most die hard lover schlock and this movie crossed that line and then some. Even more horrifying, as I walked out of the theater, I overheard a woman talking about how this was a really good movie. It made me weep for the species. Hearing this woman actually state that she thought this was an entertaining movie once again reminds me of my “dangling car keys” theory of modern cinema. Sadly, there is an ever-growing number of moviegoers who are so easily entertained that a movie could just consist of nothing but a movie star standing on-screen dangling his car keys at the camera for 90 and people would go home happy. There would be noise, non-stop action, and something shiny for them to stare at. Have him tell a few jokes and those people will still walk out of the theater talking about how entertaining it was. I mean, how else can one explain the success of THE SCORPION KING or the fact that Rob Schneider makes millions of dollars?
One more person deserves getting bitchslapped for this crime against humanity. I remember back when FIRE DOWN BELOW came out and seeing a story on CNN Headline News about the film’s director. He had worked in the industry for years and through a series of flukes he ended up getting his big break by landing the directing gig for that film. He talked about how all he had ever wanted to do was direct a feature film for the big screen and how he was so proud of the fact that he finally got his big opportunity. Unfortunately, his big chance was making a Steven Seagal film that not even Martin Scorsese could have a done anything with. This whole news story was so inspiring like the movie RUDY, only if RUDY ended with him finally taking the field only to get spiked into the turf and stretchered off the field. The reason I bring this story up is because that guy, who has gone on to direct for TV, has yet to get another chance at making a big screen feature yet the writer/director of HALF PAST DEAD is a guy by the name of Don Michael Paul, whose name you may recognize as being the writer of 1991’s turkey-de-jour HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN. Not only did someone in Hollywood actually buy another one of his screenplays they actually let him direct it too! Why is this man getting a second chance? Huh? I know it’s not entirely his fault because this movie got edited to hell, but still the fact that this movie failed on every level falls at his feet. Somebody really needs to file a restraining order to keep this guy at least 50 yards away from a video camera and at least 100 yards away from a word processor!
HALF PAST DEAD is hate. It is hate in its purest form. It hates everything. It hates you. It hates me. It hates all those who dare gaze upon its hatefulness. Deep down, I suspect it even hates itself. Well, you know what? I hate it right back! I suspect there’s going to be a special edition R rated cut of the movie released on DVD in the near future, but I’ll be damned if I ever watch it! I’m 100% positive that even with the stuff that was deleted, it will still be 99+ minutes of life sucking agony with the only difference being that it’ll be 99+ minutes of slightly more coherent life sucking agony. Hell, Russell Mulcahey, in his attempts to justify one of the worst movie’s ever made, is responsible for there being three separate cuts of HIGHLANDER 2 floating around the home video market all sharing one common trait – they all suck beyond comprehension!
Frankly, I don’t know what’s more frightening, the fact that somebody with millions of dollar to waste actually believed this was a movie worth making or the fact that I actually spent days writing this massive critique. Granted Mr. Seagal may read this and put a hit out on me, but if having read this comprehensive lambasting of this celluloid crap-on-a-stick stops even one of you from ever making the fatal mistake of seeing this movie then it was all worth it. And if this synopsis actually makes you want to see this movie, then may God have mercy upon your soul because this film won’t.
HALF PAST DEAD is truly “half past dead.”
I’d like to point out that Steven Seagal should direct all dead fish and car damage to The Foywonder, and not to me, since I didn’t see HALF PAST DEAD, due in large part to my fear of its obvious genius.