Half Past Dead [2002]

Despite critical roasting and a blink-and-you-missed it theatrical release, Half Past Dead is surprisingly not half bad. Once you recognize this bastard child's recent action-flick heritage (The Rock being the most obvious of a dozen pilfered plot lines), you can kick back and enjoy the unexpected perks that arise when a deep-cover FBI sleuth (Steven Seagal) accompanies a convicted crook (rapper Ja Rule) into "New Alcatraz" prison. A death-row killer (Bruce Weitz) sits on a $200 million goldmine, keeping his secret as a bargaining chip when criminal commandos (led by the ever-cool Morris Chestnut) drop in for a lethally greedy raid. After cutting his teeth on trashy, short-lived TV series, director Don Michael Paul can't do much to help the puffy, career-tanking Seagal, but he's got lively allies in Ja Rule and alleged "has-been" Nia Peeples (forget Lara Croft, this babe rocks), and even legendary action-TV producer Stephen J. Cannell drops in for a cameo. Derivative from the get-go, but fun just the same. --Jeff Shannon

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