Steven Seagal plays undercover FBI agent Sascha Petrosevitch in "Half Past Dead," and one of the gimmicks is that he's supposed to be legally dead for 22 minutes right after the film's first action scene. But why would anyone want to be revived into this hip-hop prison thriller of stupefying absurdity set mostly in a "state-of-the-art" jail full of rappers and psychos on Alcatraz Island?
Seagal's Sascha, glowering and wisecracking in the usual "Hard to Kill" way, has been assigned to buddy up to lovable crook Nick Frazier (Ja Rule) and penetrate his gang, even if it means months on Alcatraz, There, the two get caught up in a daring commando jailbreak orchestrated by evil turncoat Donny Johnson (Morris Chestnut) and aided by kung-fu cutie "49er Six" (Nia Peeples). Incredibly, these baddies are trying to spring born-again killer/thief Lester (Bruce Weitz), who has buried $200 million worth of stolen gold somewhere, on the very night of his execution before an audience of nabobs that includes Supreme Court Justice Jane McPherson (Linda Thorson) and hip jailer El Fuego (Tony Plana). All hell, very predictably, breaks loose.
What we get, while rarely boring, is a succession of senseless scenes bathed in formula-thriller blue light, full of blazing Uzis, exploding helicopters and sentimental male bonding between Sascha and Nick. Amazingly, thousands of rounds of ammunition keep getting fired at point-blank range with little human damage. But writer-director Don Michael Paul shows that logic doesn't faze him any more than death stops Sascha. Neither should it trouble any audience members who wander in, dead or alive, to "Half Past Dead."
1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
"Half Past Dead"
Directed and written by Don Michael Paul; photographed by Mike Slovis; edited by Vanick Moradian; production designed by Albrecht Konrad; music by Tyler Bates; produced by Andrew Stevens, Elie Samaha, Steven Seagal. A Screen Gems/Franchise Pictures release; opens Friday, Nov. 15. Running time: 1:38. MPAA rating: PG-13 (action violence, language and sexual content).
Sascha Petrosevitch - Steven Seagal
Donny Johnson/49er One - Morris Chestnut
Nick Frazier - Ja Rule
49er Six - Nia Peeples
El Fuego - Tony Plana Twitch - Kurupt
Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times