Half Past Dead (UK - BD)
Our own Scott McKenzie checks Steven Seagal's sequel to Quarter Past Dead...
I could start by discussing the finer points of Half Past Dead's plot, but after watching the movie I can't see how it wasn’t important to writer/director Don Michael Paul so I may as well not bother.
What Half Past Dead clearly wants to be (or certainly where it steals ideas from) is Die Hard meets The Shawshank Redemption. Steven Seagal and Ja Rule are locked up in Alcatraz just before a crack squad of terrorists that are really thieves turn up, hoping to blackmail their way to untold wealth. It's up to our hero to save the day along with his wisecracking sidekick. However, Steven Seagal takes more of a back seat in this movie and it's pretty obvious this is the movie that was supposed to propel Mr Rule to box office stardom. Incidentally, it's also the first of a short series of movies where Seagal is buddied up with a rapper, just before his movies started to go directly to DVD.
It's no surprise that Half Past Dead was not a commercial success. Great action movies are based around strong characters and (partly) believable situations, but what we have here is a set of mindless action scenes tenuously linked together. A lot of the action on screen happens for no good reason and the characters often stop what they should be doing just so they can have a choreographed punch-up. Most unbelievable of all are Ja Rule's fight scenes, where he is thrown around in ways that defy the laws of physics. And don't even get me started on his flight out of a car in the opening scenes.
The dialogue is appalling on more than one level. First of all, we get Steven Seagal mumbling his way through the screenplay with very little charisma, but then we get line upon line of 'street' dialogue including an excruciating sequence where Ja Rule teaches Seagal to talk like a black man. It's clear that either this movie was supposed to serve two purposes—improve Seagal's street cred and give the 'urban' demographic an action movie starring 'people they can relate to'. Half Past Dead succeeds on neither of these counts and I found the whole thing pretty offensive to be honest.
Long before making this movie, Steven Seagal apologised for making movies that were 'less than spiritual', but he continues to make lowest common denominator action movies. There are one or two moments of deeper meaning with talk of death between Seagal and a man on death row but even though it explains the stupid title of the movie, it goes no way towards redeeming the whole production. Half Past Dead is notable only for appalling dialogue, pointless use of slow motion, far too much eye shadow on the bad chick and one of the dumbest stand-offs ever committed to film.
Half Past Dead is presented in 1.78:1 1080p and the quality of the picture follows the pattern of other recent mediocre releases—sometimes it looks great, but at other times it looks pretty bad. The movie opens with a dark scene involving bright lights in the background, which does the picture no favours, highlighting the edge enhancement and grain in the picture. The grain is particularly bad when the action goes into slow motion, which is more often than is necessary. However, this is quite a colourful movie and the colours are bright from beginning to end and as expected, there is good detail in close up shots.
With a Dolby TrueHD audio track, fans of Ja Rule will be in hip hop heaven, since so many of his songs are used on the soundtrack. The only problem with this is that the music is given so much focus that it's considerably louder than anything else. I assume this is a problem with the audio editing rather than this particular transfer. It's most obvious during the big action sequences where the viewer is blasted into their sofa with rap (and occasionally metal) music that drowns out the explosions that should blow them away. The dialogue is also quieter than I expected, notably during the opening credits. There are some decent sound effects during the brief moments when music isn't playing but for some reason they are given the surround treatment when they don't need it. For example, when a character is strapped into the electric chair, the effects come through the rear speakers even though the shot on screen is a close up of the device making the noise. Surely the effect should have come through the front channels?
If I had to sum up the director's commentary in one word, that word would be 'denial'. He tells us that the screenplay was written ten years earlier and was called The Rock, but it had to be delayed because of Michael Bay's vastly superior (my words, not his) blockbuster. He admits to playing on the gangster rap angle and waxes lyrical about the growing influence of rap music, blah blah, and then admits that he hadn't heard anything by Ja Rule before he was cast! Phrases like 'strong performances' and 'hip hop opera' leave his mouth without even a hint of sarcasm.
The thirteen-minute ‘Making of’ is promotional fluff, focusing more on Ja Rule and behind the scenes footage of the stunts. There are plenty of clips from the movie and given the relatively short running time, quite a few spoilers. There are three deleted scenes that would have only served to make the torture last longer and a theatrical trailer. There are no Blu-ray exclusive extras aside from trailers for Men in Black, Vantage Point, Close Encounters and Blu-ray in general, and a BD-Live option that requires a higher profile player than I (and many consumers) have.
The Marine is the worst action movie I've ever seen and I'm sorry to say that Half Past Dead runs it pretty close. There are so many better movies out there that are what this production wants to be and even if you've seen them a million times before, you should watch them again before going near this stinker. This transfer doesn't look great and doesn't sound too bad but with no exclusive extras, the idea of releasing Half Past Dead on Blu-ray is as dumb as the movie itself. It could have been worse though—they could have used Seagal's songs on the soundtrack instead of Ja Rule's.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 25th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian
Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Hindi, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Deleted Scenes,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Don Michael Paul
Cast: Steven Seagal, Ja Rule, Morris Chestnut, Kurupt, Claudia Christian
Length: 98 minutes
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