July 16th, 2021
MOVIE: DIE IN A GUNFIGHT
STARRING: DIEGO BONETA, ALEXANDRA DADDARIO, TRAVIS FIMMEL, JUSTIN CHATWIN
DIRECTED BY: COLLIN SCHIFFLI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
In the process of making movies you can either try to make something different or keep doing the status quo. With Collin Schiffli’s Die in a Gunfight, I would argue that the director is taking more risks here than any Marvel movie ever has. I’m not saying his newest venture is great by any stretch, in fact I found parts to be off putting or disjointed, but it’s at least different from the usual movies you see in a theater. There’s a lot of style, campy performances, and a nice dash of romance to round it out. It involves two rival families, where the son of one family falls in love with the daughter from the other. There’s also a mix of hired killers, screwball characters, smooth talkers, and lovely ladies. Die in a Gunfight has a lot going on to say the least, but it’s certainly not going down without a fight.
To get a bit of backstory on director Collin Schiffli, his first two features, Animals and All Creatures Here Below are hard hitting independent films. Both films are the duo of Schiffli and the ever talented David Dastmalchian, telling stories of people in America that are just trying to survive. This time, Schiffli has ventured off on his own, working with Ant-Man and the Wasp writing team of Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. Schiffli is trying to spread his wings away from the natural and gritty dramas, and make a more fantastical, neon soaked, slick slice of coolness. If you like movies that push the boundaries of storytelling, have a stylish approach, and a snappy attitude, then Die in a Gunfight is right up your alley.
The overall look has multiple factors, an animated intro, narration to the story by Billy Crudup, and then the tale of mobster kids in love. The two lovers are Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta) and Mary Rathcart (Alexandria Daddario), their wealthy families are dueling empires of the media industry, which involves slinging mud at one another on their local news channels. The Gibbon’s hate the Rathcart’s and their two only children just happened to have a connection to one another. Long ago, Mary’s father sent her away to France, with all intention of keeping the two apart, but now that she’s back that old flame is ignited. But now, a hitman named Terrence Uberhahl (Justin Chatwin) has been hired to keep his eye on Mary, where he turns it into his own pursuit to win her love. It’s here where the narrative for Die in a Gunfight spins its wheels and is missing a bit more.
The second act turns into the connections being made between Ben and Mary, where they escape to Ben’s studio apartment, and Schiffli turns it back into the intimate settings, which he’s more accustomed to. That’s the conundrum with Die in a Gunfight, where the screenplay’s bombastically written characters push back against the intimate styles at hand. Deep inside the narrative, there’s not enough details to the characters, giving us not enough reason, or motivation for why the characters act as they do. The wild card characters are Travis Fimmel’s Wayne and Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Barbie. They’re a couple sticking their noses into the business of Ben and Mary, a somewhat distorted mirror image of the kind of wild love a couple can have. If anything, it’s Fimmel’s character that becomes incredibly fun to watch, where he’s channeling his inner Gary Oldman in True Romance, stealing every scene he’s in, playing a character that is larger than life itself. If there’s one reason to enjoy Die in a Gunfight, it’s for Fimmel.
The ending half is where Die in a Gunfight wraps up in an unsurprising and exceedingly clunky way, which left me wanting much more. I desperately wanted a Django Unchained inspired shootout, but lord knows the budget may not have been there. But the change of tone and style alone may have caught me off guard resulting in my final rating. The inspiration behind Schiffli’s work here is undoubtedly films such as Tony Scott’s True Romance, Quenten Tarantino’s wicked lovers in Natural Born Killers, or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, but great films such as those allowed for more attention to detail. It’s the writing that let’s Die in a Gunfight down. It needed more details of the characters and richer dialogue to elevate the look of it. That’s not to say that the direction from Schiffli isn’t strong, in fact in the hands of another artist would have returned much worse. Die in a Gunfight is a big swing for the fences. I have mad respect for a movie that is going down in a fiery blaze of glory.
DIE IN A GUNFIGHT IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND JULY 16TH
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady