This is like the action masterpiece “The Rock”, except for the fact that “The Rock” was original, and this is just as awful as anything I’ve ever seen. After being busted in a car theft ring, two gangster friends Nick (rapper Ja Rule) and Sasha (Steven Seagal) are jailed in New Alcatraz prison where mercenaries break in and storm the prison to hold a prisoner ransom who knows the location of a secret stash of over two hundred million dollars in gold. Now they must team up with other prisoners and beat the mercenaries before they kill everyone. I got the sense this is supposed to be a futuristic film, but there’s never truly verification. The prison is re-opened due to overcrowding and it’s supposedly advanced but shockingly stone age. The prison is supposed to be state of the art and advanced but there’s a shockingly low head count when it comes to prisoners (I counted twenty-five).
What’s awful is that when Sasha reveals to Nick he’s an undercover FBI agent, he explains: “I was busted with you and would do time to gain your trust.” His sentence was five years. Wow, those FBI agents sure are dedicated to their work. The two headliners: fake action star Steven Seagal (who gained about fifty pounds since his first film) and rapper Ja Rule (who is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen) really make “Half Past Dead” a grueling experience. The two are supposed to be friends for many years except they have zero chemistry and their delivery of their lines are cheesy, off-beat, and completely awkward. The characters are about as trite and one-dimensional as Seagal’s acting. The writer never attempt to conjure an even slightly original or interesting character to remember, exposing almost every cliche in the book from the stringy short wisecracking African American prisoner known as Twitch (rapper Kurupt), to the tough and stereotypical hispanic warden known as El Fuego (Tony Plana) who scoffs and scowls with a smug expression and mutters Spanish words into his English sentence in every bit of dialogue spoken.
There’s also the bossy agent (Claudia Christian) who communicates with the mercenaries attempting to bargain with them. Congratulations to her for over-acting her part to the point where it becomes laughable. Morris Chestnut, however, is good as the villain “49er One” in the film downplaying his menace and manages to deliver the bad lines very well. Soap star Nia Peeples as “49er six” is hot. What I remember most about this movie is her unbelievable beauty and the sexy outfit she dressed in throughout the film. Writer and Director by Don Michael Paul is a master illusionist in covering and hiding the revealing plus-size plump stature of the banner star of the film. He skillfully maneuvers the camera work to hide Seagal’s noticeably plump figure through close-ups and head shots, and purposely closes up on Seagal’s face to hide his double chin which he now sports. Not to mention there’s constant dark scenes that cover his fat and body doubles that pose as him in far shots.
Seagal has a little magnetic acting abilities as a paper tissue and manages to show why he’s such a joke in Hollywood. Don Michael Paul would be wise to return to acting because this screenplay is a joke; the plot is preposterous with many plot holes. Why does the senator and the warden say that the prison is impenetrable yet it’s so easy for the mercs to break into the prison? Where are security devices and technology? Why is there no light in the prison? Why is there such a low number of security guards for such a big prison? Why is it that Lester won’t reveal the location of the gold to anyone and would even go to the grave with his secret but reveals it to Sasha once he reveals he’s an FBI agent? This an awful movie with no brains, no story, and is low quality even for Seagal’s standards.