Saturday, February 20, 2016
HALF PAST DEAD (2002)
Written & Directed By: Don Michael Paul
Cinematography By Michael Slovis
Editor: Vanick Moradian
Cast: Steven Seagal, Ja Rule, Kurupt, Morris Chesnut, Nia Peebles, Bruce Weitz, Tony Plana, Claudia Christian, Mo’Nique
A criminal mastermind has set in motion a plan to infiltrate a high tech prison in order to persuade a death row inmate to reveal the whereabouts of $200 million worth of gold. It's up to an undercover FBI agent to stop him before it's too late.
This I believe is Steven Seagal's last theatrical release and was the follow-up film to his surprisingly successful comeback film EXIT WOUNDS. That film paired him up with DMX, a rapper turned actor. So since that formula worked so well. Here he repeats it by co-starring with rapper turned actor Ja Rule.
In these films. While action is supreme, The film also have a lot of humor in them. I beleive as they realize how ridiculous they are, but still play into the worlds they operate In. While both films are fun. This one feels more silly.
These films also seemed aimed at a more urban market. I can understand after exit wounds to keep him in the same formula and factors. Though i wonder if these films were also more of an attempt for him to crossover and appeal to more minority base or did he always have a more minority base and again was appealing to them to show an appreciation?
Here Seagal is without his ponytail and noticeably overweight, but at least they don’t have him doing any high wire martial arts as he seemed to do in the last film. He also has more of a natural chemistry with Ja Rule.
The film is fun because not only does it take place at some super secret hi-tech prison facility that is supposedly impenetrable, but also has some of the nicest or easy going prisoners around.
The film feels like a 90's holdover as sprinkled throughout the cast are actors who were more famous in an earlier decade. Here playing more against type and restructuring their screen presence that would take a hold in the future. Especially Morris Chesnut here playing the villain, but this is really the first time seeing him playing more the smooth laid back and menacing type character. He is good at it too. As soon after this film he seemed to get a lot more work.
Unfortunately the same can't be said of Nia Peebles who plays the bad ass Hench-woman to Chesnut's character. She is as beautiful as she is dangerous in this film. Yet surprisingly after this film her career never made a resurgence. As here she proves she has the skills. She also performed all of her own stunts.
The film has impressive action sequences. Though most of the action takes place in this prison setting only. As the film progresses the prisoners find themselves being the heroes and the liberators against these terrorists. Who have infiltrated and taken over the prison. Using the old DIE HARD plan of misdirection.
The film just positions itself so perfectly into It’s action scenario. That you can even pardon it for it's weaknesses. As the film doesn’t present itself as anything but what it is. It offers no illusions. It knows it is a cheesy action film. It stays on that track. For a theatrical movie it still reminds me more of the made for cable or straight to video action films. Not only because of it's cast. It also has a colorful lovely script. That includes bonding between Seagal and Ja Rule's character even though Seagal is an undercover cop. So the theme of the film slowly becomes trust and friendship.
Also even though the film looks great it feels like it has more of a modest budget.
A bunch of the action sequences aren't as much hand to hand as they are shoot 'em up. Thought he film provides it’s own thrilling moments. It feels more like it has more of a comic book sense ability. Though Seagal doesn't break as many people’s limbs this time around. Which might have to do with this film and exit wounds both being rate PG-13.
Which might be one of the many reasons though i am Sure not the main one. Why he seemed to go back to straight to DVD films. Other then the budgets. I am sure he reasoned he wanted a return to Rated-R action films where he wasn't so contained or restricted. He could really free himself and let himself loose.
Now understand I won’t say I am a Steven Seagal fan, but will admit to having quite s few of his films be noted guilty pleasures. This film, EXIT WOUNDS, MARKED FOR DEATH, UNDER SEIGE 2 and OUT FOR JUSTICE. I can admit these films aren't good, but they are entertaining and at times unintentionally funny. The interesting thing is that very few of them actually had big budgets. This was his last theatrical release.
The film did have a straight to video sequel that bring back the Kurupt character. This time with wrestler turned actor Bill Goldberg starring when it seemed he was becoming a straight to DVD action star thanks to his appearance in the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER sequel. That was a modest hit. Unfortunately that film isn't as good or fun as this film is.