Half Past Dead is full-out stupid. It’s so brainless, however — and full of enough action to cauterize your eyeballs — that it manages to be a good Friday-night veg-out flick.
Steven Seagal (Under Siege) is Sascha, a Russian-born FBI mole who goes undercover in a futuristic — and nasty — Alcatraz prison. His mission is to betray his friend Nick (rapper Ja Rule) into revealing the identity of the gang leaders who blew up the car that killed Sascha’s beloved wife. In the process, Sascha gets involved in a bigger, messier plot with lots of ammo-toting bad guys who wear sexy but totally ridiculous black-leather boots and long capes. Led by frustrated prison bureaucrat Morris Chesnut (Like Mike), they set out to thwart the execution of master-thief Lester (Bruce Weitz of Hill Street Blues) in order to force a confession as to where he hid $200 million in gold.
Early in the movie, Sascha inexplicably takes a body full of bullets, and he flat-lines. Being half-past dead (get it?) fascinates the guy heading for the execution room, so Lester invites Sascha to talk about the white light of near-death, thus conveniently placing our FBI man in the center of the action instead of locked in his cell. Justice June McPherson (Linda Thorson of Straight Into Darkness) sentenced Lester to death, and thus feels compelled to be one of the witnesses at his execution. The bad guys instead put the judge in the death chair and threaten to kill her unless Lester fesses up to where the gold is. In the meantime, the helicopter that’s supposed to whisk away the bad guys crashes into the prison tower and gets lodged in the ceiling — convenient, because now Steve has a radio to report the bad news to the gun-toting mama (Claudia Christian of Never Die Twice) at FBI headquarters.
This leaves Sascha to sew up his wounds in the prison infirmary; load up all the prisoners with fire power so the murderers, rapists and robbers can wipe out the high-fashion bad guys; climb up lots of ropes and cables (even with stitches in one of his arms); and then kick, smash, chop, jab, stab and wipe them to smithereens. As if that’s not enough, when the bad guys escape the prison in another helicopter, they throw out the poor judge, leaving Sascha to catapult out of another helicopter and skedaddle through the clouds to try to save her.
As you can see, Half Past Dead has no intellectual pretensions whatsoever — although some cosmic questions do arise. How could Seagal let director Don Michael Paul (in his feature debut) talk him into all those horrible close-ups? Whatever made Seagal choose a paunchy guy to do his stunts for him? And why didn’t he personally punch in the chops the hapless slob who did his terrible haircut? (No ponytail this time, Steve-o fans, but some kind of bushy back-do. Yecch.) And how can Nia Peeples (The RIff) round-house kick a dozen would-be assailants and fly over endless prison stair railings and not once get a rip in her cape or mess up her brilliant blue eye shadow?
More intriguing is how can all these murdering thugs go through a whole movie without saying one naughty word? It’s amazing what people will do to avoid an R rating and make more of a killing at the box office.