Movie Review: ‘Die in a Gunfight’ Struggles to Entertain
Director: Collin Schiffli
Writers: Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari
Stars: Diego Boneta, Alexandra Daddario, Justin Chatwin, Travis Fimmel, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Billy Crudup
Synopsis: In New York City, a young guy falls for the daughter of his father’s nemesis.
After about fifty-five minutes of pure exposition, Collin Schiffli’s Die in a Gunfight begins to take form. However, at that point, it’s too little too late for the film to make any impression whatsoever, as most audience members have already checked out. Marketed as an updated version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (spoiler alert: it’s not), the film tediously sets up the rivalry of two families: the Rathcarts and the Gibbons. Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta) loves Mary Rathcart (Alexandra Daddario), even though the families’ parents forbid any union between the two. No matter, as the film’s last forty minutes link a potential political scandal with the Rathcarts and the family’s bodyguard (?) hitman (?) (played by Justin Chatwin), madly in love with Mary, trying to stop her wedding with Ben from happening. If you thought that sounds not very clear, wait until you see the film. It’s all so terribly superficial and haphazard that it ultimately becomes nothing but a time-killing product, to which you’ll feel robbed after viewing it.
Time is a limited resource. We all know it. Life is terribly short and precious, and we’ll do just about anything to get more time. Film critics, in particular, have to spend a substantial portion of their time watching films and discussing them, and they can’t obviously watch every single new release out there. This is why we make careful choices to watch and discuss the most sought-after films of the year. Unfortunately, Die in a Gunfight isn’t one of those careful choices. It’s a film with absolutely nothing to offer, from a purely visual standpoint, and nothing to say in terms of its script. This is just a film that exists to rob you of precious time you’ll never get back. Think about it. When you want to watch a film, you want it to entertain, or at least, to make you interested in talking about it. Yet, this film is so superficial, so empty, that it’ll do the exact same scene, at the same time, between the two families. Mary and Ben are both invited in their respective family’s brunches, while their respective father lectures them about their relationships with one another and how that can jeopardize the thinly-developed and unimportant scandal I’ve mentioned above. Schiffli tries hard to impress with exuberant amounts of split-screen and loud, classical music; all the while Ben randomly imitates a monkey inside a daydream he’s having while his father talks about how it’s “bad” for him to hook up with Mary. None of it is funny, and none of it feels urgent.
The film spends so much time explaining Ben and Mary’s diverging backstories through 2D animation and voiceover narration by Billy Crudup that it forgets to establish a compelling story instead. It desperately wants to impress through diverse filmmaking techniques, like split-screen, dream sequences, flickers, fast-motion, and animation but fails to remember that without a gripping story to invest audiences into your picture, they’ll check out rather quickly. And spending about 50 minutes out of 92 to introduce your characters is a rather missed opportunity to expand and establish your plot instead. That’s the problem, though: the film has no plot. Instead, it tries to distract you with so much visual razzle-dazzle to pretend it has any form of style, but that style can’t hold without some substance to back it up. Unfortunately, it has nothing entertaining to offer, minus a terrifically caricatural performance from Justin Chatwin as hitman/bodyguard Terrence Uberahl.
Chatwin seems to be the only actor who knows how foolish and inherently pointless the film is. Because of this, he’s the only one who has any form of fun with his role: breaking down in a fit of uncontrollable rage mixed with crippling sadness. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen all year, and yet it works. Every time he’s on-screen, the film quickly starts to lift from its convoluted “plot” and becomes more interesting. Instead of Diego Boneta, Chatwin should’ve been the lead actor, who gives a rather flat and unengaging performance as Ben. And that causes another problem. Because Daddario and Boneta are both completely unengaged with the film’s script, then the two characters don’t have palpable on-screen chemistry and make the film even duller than it is. Without Chatwin’s manic performance, the film ultimately falls and does absolutely nothing else to make you want to watch the film until the very end.
If you want to spend your time judiciously, making sure you get the most of out life, you wouldn’t dare rent or see Die in a Gunfight in theatres. Minus Justin Chatwin, it’s a fairly soulless and vapid production that has absolutely nothing of interest to offer, save for an overbearing amount of style. Otherwise, you’re spending time you’ll never get back in front of a film that desperately wants you to waste the most precious resource you have right now. So please don’t make the mistake I did while sitting down in front of this film. Avoid it at all costs, even if you’re mildly curious. It’s not worth it.