Half Past Dead

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Steven Seagal, Morris Chestnut, Ja Rule, Nia Peeples
Director: Don Michael Paul

Sascha (Steven Seagal) is an undercover FBI agent working with Nick (Ja Rule) an errand boy for Sonny (Richard Bremmer) a major crime lord who is responsible for the death of Sascha’s late wife. Nick has no idea about Sascha’s true identity and as such loves him like a brother. During a shootout with the FBI, supervised by Sascha’s boss Agent Hartmann (Hannes Jaenicke), Sascha saves Nick’s life by taking seven bullets for him. After this Sascha’s heart stops for 22 minutes before he is finally revived, “half-past dead”.

Sascha takes his undercover work to a higher level by being sentenced to the same prison as Nick. They are both imprisoned to the newly reopened Alcatraz. On their first day there a prisoner is due to be executed by a new state of the art execution chamber.

The prisoner is named Lester (Bruce Weitz) and his harsh sentence is the result of stealing $200 million worth of gold. Lester managed to stash the gold and has not divulged its whereabouts to anyone. Disgruntled prison authority employee/ex-US Marine Donny a.k.a. 49erOne (Morris Chestnut) decides to break into the prison with a team of mercenaries, the 49ers, to extract Lester and thus get the gold.

As the 49ers take over the prison, Sascha rallies up support from the inmates to stop their plans and prevent the killing of the Supreme Court Justice who is present for the execution. Throughout the ensuing assault 49erOne is aided mainly by the brutal and deadly 49erSix (Nia Peeples). She is highly trained in weapons and martial arts. This leads to a battle between criminals and one very bitter FBI agent as Sascha is forced to blow his cover and consequently Nick loses faith in him.

Steven Seagal has still got what it takes to be a leading man and he gives a fairly warm performance here. Ja Rule is okay as the trusting sidekick, but Morris Chestnut is a refreshing money-driven baddie obviously relishing his role. Nia Peeples is fantastic as a fast, lethal mercenary portraying brutality and professionalism perfectly, as does Hannes Jaenicke as a very hard FBI agent.

Where this film falls down is with director Don Michael Paul, who fails to give a strong direction to the story. The script should also have offered more character development across the board and could also have expanded on the action scenes – it’s the action that really counts in a film like this. A more interesting dialogue would also have made more use of all of these talented actors. Finally a stronger, more charismatic relationship between the central characters would have enhanced the film.

All in all though there are still a few good action scenes, particularly those with Steven Seagal and Nia Peeples.

Verdict: Best viewed at home.

3 out of 6 stars