Just because a story has been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be told in a manner that offers something new. In the case of Die In A Gunfight, a supposedly romantic thriller influenced by Shakespeare’s classic tale Romeo & Juliet, its intent on bringing flare to proceedings is so chaotic and desperate that it loses any of its narrative substance in the process.
Horrid dialogue, empty characters, and usually reliable actors unfortunately stifled by their character limitations, Collin Schiffli‘s underhanded effort is doing no one any favours in its telling of Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta) and Mary Rathcart (Alexandra Daddario), two star-crossed lovers whose families have been feuding for apparent generations. When their respective parentals learn of their love, Ben and Mary are separated; he rebelling against his family’s wealth, she sent to Paris under the watchful eye of Terrence Uberahl (Justin Chatwin), a lovelorn man-child who can’t seem to accept Mary’s rejections of his advances.
Once back on U.S. soil and ready to run away together – though the two hardly ever exude enough chemistry to believe this romance is genuine – Ben and Mary’s plans are thwarted by their disapproving parents, especially Mary’s father (John Ralston), sending the film’s 92 minutes into exposition over-kill. Clearly hoping pithy narration will be enough to drive the story forward over explanatory visuals, Die In A Gunfight aims for no show and all tell; even Billy Crudup‘s charming voice-over as the storyteller can’t raise the film out of its depths.
The script – once prestigious enough to be featured on the lauded Black List, a collection of un-produced screenplays that are the most liked by studio executives – is at least self-aware enough to know it’s indulging in ludicrous actions, but it also takes itself far too seriously (for the most part) that it fails to execute any levity it attempts; Chatwin’s scene-chewing turn and the absolutely bonkers appearance from a wired Travis Fimmel are the closest the film comes to embracing lunacy, but their go-for-broke performances stand too far out that nothing earns cohesion.
The film’s elements of embracing the spit-fire dialogue and split-screen framing that bring to mind the likes of Guy Ritchie or Robert Rodriguez could have resulted in a better movie – however familiar it may have seemed – had Schiffli tried to further his story beyond the initial set-up. Inherently messy and not nearly as cool as it wants to be, Die In A Gunfight is dead on arrival and, sadly, not worthy of a resuscitation.
ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)
Die In A Gunfight is screening in select cinemas (where accessible) from September 16th, 2021.