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It's Twenty Minutes Into the Future, and Alcatraz has been reopened due to rising crime rates. Sascha Petrosevitch (Steven Seagal) is a car thief though really, an undercover federal agent who's brought in by criminal Nick Frazier (Jeffrey "Ja Rule" Atkins) to work for crime boss Sonny Eckvall. Alas, he and Nick get busted, and Sascha has a near-death experience (hence the film's title). Eight months later, they're at Alcatraz. Lester McKenna (Bruce Weitz) is a prisoner who stole $200,000,000 worth of gold and stashed it somewhere, killing five people in the process. With the location of the gold still unknown, he's scheduled to be executed that night. Alas, a group of terrorists called the "49ers" invades the island and takes it over. They want McKenna to tell them where the gold is. Sascha, Nick and the other inmates are forced to battle the terrorists to regain control of the prison.
A commercial and critical disaster; this film was the final nail in the coffin for a rapidly-floundering Steven Seagal. Any hopes that might have been raised briefly by the surprise hit that was 2001's Exit Wounds were dashed in an instant. All of Seagal's films since this one (except, until recently, Machete) have been direct to DVD.
This film itself got an In Name Only direct to DVD sequel in 2007, sans Seagal, titled simply Half Past Dead 2 (well, it stars one of the supporting characters, so its more like a spin-off). Most notable thing about that is that it co-stars Goldberg.
The film is also notable for being the only Seagal film with a PG-13 rating. It becomes obvious when profanity and violence are edited out. In his review, Mathew "Film Brain" Buck stated he felt like he was watching a TV version.
- The Alcatraz: In many respects, it can be considered a rip-off of The Rock.
- The Atoner: Lester. He has become deeply religious and mournful for the deaths he caused. Subverted in that he's not doing anything in particular to make up for it, since he isn't sure if anything in his power would make up for what he did.
- Badass Boast: El Fuego, describing his history working in the prison system, where he had been spit on, stabbed, shot, and burned, but had always survived and persevered.
- Bald of Evil: 49er One.
- Bare Your Midriff: 49er Six.
- Bulletproof Vest. Used by the bad guys along with Playing Possum to get the drop on two Red Shirts.
- Chekhov's Gun: the crashed Huey. Twice.
- Dark Action Girl: 49er Six (Nia Peeples).
- Designated Girl Fight: Zig Zagged: 49er Six ends up fighting most of the central male characters by the end of the film, and is finally apprehended by the warden. When she tries to stab him once he turns his back, Williams shoots her.
- Destination Defenestration
- Die Hard on an X
- Dynamic Entry: The 49ers sky dive in over the prison, then enter the prison proper via Fast Roping.
- Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: 49er Six.
- Fan Service: 49er Six's latex costume.
- Guns Akimbo: 49er Six's style of shooting.
- Hannibal Lecture: The leader of the terrorists gives one to Supreme Court Justice June McPherson, who they're holding hostage.
- Hellish Copter: The 49er's getaway chopper crashes in bad weather within the first minute or so of appearing in the film.
- Ironic Nickname: Little Joe.
- It's Probably Nothing: El Fuego is told that they have lost all of their phone lines, and dismisses it as being due to the storm. He then sends a guard to investigate it anyways.
- Karma Houdini: Twitch. He's pretty much personally responsible for the final shootout between the 49er's and the inmates, despite there being pretty much nothing to gain from it, and no mention is made of him suffering any consequences. Indeed, he mentions that he is being released soon.
- Well in sequel, he was rejected at the start. Not to mention it being shown that he has bad blood with most of the inmates, probably due to said shooting.
- Law of Inverse Recoil: One scene involves a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher that packs enough recoil to launch a person back by a considerable distance. The immediate shot after then shows no recoil whatsoever.
- Lzherusskie: Sascha.
- Made of Iron: Nick. He gets thrown around a lot without a single scratch.
- The Stinger: Ends with one of the inmates talking to his girlfriend.
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Taking You with Me: Lester takes out 49er One by blowing themselves up.
- Time for Plan B: After their primary getaway plan fails spectacularly and immediately, they demand the FBI send a helicopter for them to use as a getaway vehicle in return for not killing Justice McPherson and the other hostages.
- Train Job: The reason why Lester is in jail.