We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
During the fake news coverage of Half Past Dead’s hostage crisis, the item “Polar Ice Caps Melt, Global Warming to Blame” inexplicably crawls across the bottom of the screen. This is about halfway through the new buddy flick/shoot-’em-up, and the appeal of being in some alternate universe where it’s the melting-ice-caps movie that’s playing out on the big screen is overwhelming. Steven Seagal plays Sascha Petrosevitch, a strangely non-Slavic this-time-it’s-personal guy who befriends Ja Rule’s Nick Frazier, an operative for a worldwide crime syndicate. After a shootout with the FBI, which Sascha survives after his heart goes dead for 22 minutes, he and Nick get sent to the hi-tech pokey, a newly refurbished Alcatraz with an execution chamber called Slaughterhouse 5. Brilliant literary allusions aside, Half Past Dead’s script is perversely bad: This is, after all, an action movie set on Alcatraz in which no prisoners try to escape. But why scale the razor wire when, for reasons involving gold and a pencil-pusher-turned-hostage-taker (Morris Chestnut), the Rock is a perfectly good venue for shooting people? When the shooting finally begins, it does so very, very slowly: There’s a woman (Nia Peeples) who fights really well in slow motion, there’s running and diving away from fireballs in slow motion, and, of course, there’s the shooting of two guns while flying through the air sideways in slow motion. Director Don Michael Paul, a veteran of Pacific Blue, may go way overboard with the snail-pacing, but it’s the movements of Seagal’s bloated, ‘do-ragged corpse of a body that are the slowest of all: It looks as if the man is recovering from his early-movie heart troubles—and perhaps an undiagnosed stroke—in real time. Rule, on the other hand, shows off his ability to locomote and more, displaying slightly more charisma than during his grunt-rapping day job. Given the material Rule has to work with—his best line here is “Aiiiiiight”—his swaggering, joyful delivery goes quite beyond the call of duty. —Josh Levin