Half Past Dead Blu-ray Review
PictureHalf Past Dead, the third - and most recently filmed - Seagal movie to be released on the next generation format, comes to Blu-ray with a superior 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Detail is pretty good throughout, doing justice to the format, with facial close-ups and expressions presented well and little noticeable edge enhancement or digital artefacting. Softness is at a bare minimum, grain pops up every now and then - depending on the scene - but for a $13 Million Dollar action movie, this really looks good. The colour scheme is well rendered, even if it is limited by the locations - predominantly being set in the high-tech prison. Blues hues are dominant, a clinical feel given to the proceedings, with the orange prison garb offering a stark counterpart to the background. Blacks are reasonably solid and strong, which is good news considering much of the movie is shot in darkened indoor environments, but some of them do suffer with the aforementioned grain and softness. On the whole, it is nowhere near the standard we have come to expect from the latest action hits to hit the Blu-ray format, but it is certainly the best this - or any - Seagal movie has ever looked on any format.
SoundTo accompany the movie's solid video presentation we get a technically superior Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that also does this average actioner justice. Dialogue - from the mumbled whispers of Seagal to Ja Rule's grating growls and the shouts and screams - all comes across pretty clearly and coherently, given precedence across the frontal array. Effects are fairly numerous, often coming from the numerous gunfights where bullets whizz around the room (and seldom actually hit anybody) and allow the surrounds to bring the environment alive. There are a couple of louder explosions to give the LFE something to do, although it is really the score that more thoroughly accomplishes this job. Despite the fact that many of the tracks are unnecessarily heavy-handed, and arguably unsuitable (you don't really want to hear Ja Rule's voice any more than you have to, but a couple of Rule tracks during the proceedings were inevitable given his involvement in the film), they are also probably given the best presentation, really bringing some depth to the aural offering. Overall, it is certainly not a stellar, benchmark TrueHD mix, but - again - it is probably the best we have seen for this or any Seagal flick.
ExtrasAll of the Extras from the previous DVD incarnation have been ported over to adorn this Blu-ray release and, for a Seagal movie, this is the most that fans have ever received. First up we get a Commentary by the relatively unknown Director Don Michael Paul, who discusses the movie as if it were his greatest treasure (which, from his resume, it could easily be). He talks about providing us with a 'hip-hop action movie fusion', discusses shooting in Germany, the budgetary constraints and the original script. It is interesting to hear how it was penned as a much darker, more violent affair, but the hip-hop injection and attempt to reach a younger audience prompted the director to take a different, more comic-book style approach. Less realistically, he discusses the acting talent on board, being fairly honest about Seagal's charisma and limitations but talking about Ja Rule as a 'natural'. Hmmm, well natural at reading his lines like the script was a hip-hop track - “you felt the loss, cried the tears.” I think he also got the wrong impression from audience reactions, citing some lines as being provocatively funny at test screenings - sure, I bet the audience laughter, but for all the wrong reasons! As commentaries go, it is one of those pat-yourself-on-the-back kind of offerings, which soon gets tiresome due to its pretentious nature. It's a shame really, I would have much rather heard whether or not the Studios enforced a lower rating and if this was originally shot for a higher rating than PG-13, heard the creator talk about the flaws as much as the positive points. Unfortunately, this is just another self-congratulatory affair.
We also get a Making-Of Documentary that runs at 13 wasted minutes. Punctuated by ridiculous soundbites about how amazing the production is, this fluffy little Featurette has little to no intrinsic value. All the main cast and crew members contribute, from Morris Chestnut to Ja Rule, as well as Seagal himself - which is quite rare - but, along with the Director, they all just brag about a movie that they have no right to be quite so proud of. With a few glimpses of Behind the Scenes footage, this plays as little more than an extended, promotional trailer.
The three Deleted Scenes are - for the most part - pretty pointless, certainly the latter two offering unnecessary extensions to sequences already in the movie, although the first of the Deleted Scenes is actually worth checking out. It's only a couple of minutes' long but is probably unique - a Deleted Scene featuring Steven Seagal. In addition, it should have made the final cut - I kid you not. Visualising what is only verbally noted in the final film, it flashbacks to what happened to Seagal's wife, and is actually quite good - if not wildly original. Finally we get some Trailers to round off the disc.
VerdictWell, if you can get over the ridiculous title, the hip-hop populated cast and the parallels between this and the superior action movie, The Rock, Half Past Dead is far from the worst Seagal movie out there, and actually quite an enjoyable little no-brain romp. It could have been so much more, but at least it makes up for many of its faults by providing plenty of unintentional hilarity. It's like an action-movie version of Showgirls - some of it is so bad that it's actually quite fun to watch. An interesting choice for the third Seagal Blu-ray release, it boasts decent video and audio presentation, as well as a full but vapid collection of extras within which is but one gem. Overall, if you're looking for a silly, fun action movie to switch your brain off to, you could do worse, and Seagal fans may find that upon revisiting this, the last of his theatrical efforts, the end result was not nearly as bad as what he has done since.
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