Movie Review: Half Past Dead

Half Past Dead vs Half Past Dead 2 - The Action Elite

credit: Half Past Dead

Remember back in the 90s when Steven Seagal was still popular, and his movies were still considered to be impressive enough to make people think that he really knew what he was doing and was worth calling a martial artist and actor? Yeah, those days have been long gone for a while, and the stuff he’s been cranking out ever since has only been noticeable since he somehow manages to convince enough people that he still has enough talent to be worth watching. Half Past Dead actually came out years ago when he hadn’t ballooned up to his current appearance and was still capable of looking as though he knew something about martial arts. Posing as a criminal who’s really an undercover FBI agent, Seagal is joined by none other than Ja Rule and Morris Chestnut in a story that is about as deep as it looks, which means that the audience is bound to barely get their feet wet. If not for the fight scenes and Nia Peeples, this movie might as well have been little more than another B-action movie that was bound to be forgotten before it was even released. 

Half Past Dead (2002) directed by Don Michael Paul • Reviews, film + cast •  Letterboxd

credit: Half Past Dead

When Ja Rule is one of the better actors in the movie, it doesn’t speak well for what’s to come. 

Recall when Ja Rule was a part of the Fast and Furious franchise for a short time anyway, and then recall that his short time in the first movie was one reason why he was tolerable. But keeping in the movie as one of the main characters is, well, a questionable idea at best since Seagal isn’t exactly a great actor to start with, and keeping him in as a lead is a good way to tank a movie. It’s kind of interesting when the villain who isn’t fully introduced for a good part of the movie is actually one of the best actors in the bunch. Morris Chestnut’s introduction is initially innocent enough, but when he returns to the story as a villain, it’s not much of a surprise, nor is it all that bad of an idea. In fact, it’s a better idea than watching Seagal’s character pine for a woman that we don’t even get to meet as a character since he pines for her from the start of the movie until the end when he’s seen standing by a lakeside after the FBI has found a crate filled with stolen gold that somehow becomes a major part of the story, kind of, sort of, but not really. Yeah, it’s a little confusing. 

Breaking into a prison doesn’t sound like the best idea, even for trained soldiers, but somehow it became even worse when the story was allowed to unfold. 

The reason that the villains were breaking into the prison in the first place was that an inmate that was about to be executed was going to take the secret of where he’d hidden the aforementioned loot to his grave. The score was obviously great enough to make the mistake of breaking into a prison, which is rarely a good idea, and holding hostages until they get their way. Of course, this means that Seagal, who’s already in prison under false pretenses, or undercover, as that story goes, is going to be in a position to wreak havoc on the bad guys’ plans, which he proceeds to do as he finds a way to procure a few weapons that allow him to start killing villains and mucking about as he tries to free the condemned inmate. Of course, this doesn’t work quite as well as it should since Nia Peeples is an eyeliner-wearing psycho who’s also a trained killer and is ready to go quarter-ton on those that get in her way. I would have said megaton, but she doesn’t end up blasting away every person she sees, so it’s fair to say that as badass as she’s supposed to be, she’s still kind of tame for an action movie. 

Half Past Dead (2002) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

credit: Half Past Dead

It’s a little too easy to forget the overall plot of this movie. 

From the guy that’s about to be executed to the FBI agent that’s trying to do…something, to the villain that was once an FBI agent and decided that he wanted a payday instead, this movie is all over the place and it’s a confusing mess of plot lines that don’t make a lot of sense. One might have thought that Seagal might have written, but thankfully that’s not the case. Still, from the dialogue to the insane plot points, this movie is, well, all kinds of horrible, apart from the scene in which Nia Peeples reminds Ja Rule that her character is a trained soldier. 

Steven Seagal isn’t exactly a big star any longer. 

If this point hadn’t been made before, this movie does a fair job of it since whatever he did in the 90s is what made him a legend, while all of the stuff he’s done since has simply taken the edge off of the legend he built for himself. Any movies he makes at this point are simply another nod to his tremendous ego. 

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