A romance between two lovers from rival families is rekindled as their parents fight to keep them apart. As another retelling of a Shakespeare classic hits our screens, digital editor Dan Jensen is here to tell you why you should avoid it.
DIE IN A GUNFIGHT is a modern telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in the same vein as 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man — loosely based on the source material while making an attempt to be its own movie.
Directed by Collin Schiffli, the film stars Alexandra Daddario and Diego Boneta as Mary and Benjamin, the heirs of rival media families who, despite being kept apart for several years, have reignited their love for one another. Mary’s father wants her to marry Terrence (Justin Chatwin) who will stop at nothing to win her heart. And if you’re familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet, you pretty much know how the story goes.
At its core, Die in a Gunfight has a lot of good ideas. Unfortunately, barely any of them work. The movie tries hard to be interesting and exude style in the same way that Gunpowder Milkshake did earlier this year but unlike that film, it falls flat here.
The dialogue isn’t just bad, it’s confusing at times. There are a lot of moments where characters will either say or do something that leaves the viewer wondering what the writers were thinking. But it’s not just the writing, there are some rather poor directing choices on display here, too. One scene in which a character is assassinated in a moving vehicle shooting is shown in a blur of lights, colours and noises — and it's assumed we'll understand what’s going on.
For a film about a pair of star-crossed lovers, there is absolutely zero chemistry between the two leads. Both seem like they don’t even want to be in the film, the performances are that bad. And because the audience doesn’t care for the characters, there are no stakes. And despite the title, there is a distinct lack of gunfights or anything to keep the viewer interested.
We’re also given the bare minimum of information about the supporting characters, making them completely two-dimensional. For a film about rival media families, one might expect them to include something interesting on a political front — perhaps some Left-versus-Right subtext or even a mainstream empire against an independent company. But all we are told is that there has been a 150-year rivalry between the two families and that’s it.
The cinematography is passable, but nothing special. Some elements of the film are told through animation with narration from arguably the movie’s most recognisable actor, Billy Crudup. And this is another area in which the film falters — there’s a heavy reliance on voice-over to tell the story rather than actually showing us what is taking place. It’s incredibly lazy writing.
There is no doubt Die in a Gunfight will be compared heavily to Baz Luhrmann’s far superior Romeo + Juliet from 1996. But at least that film had spectacle, a pair of lead actors who lit up the screen and gave memorable performances. It also boasted a unique style that was much talked about at the time of its release.
Die in a Gunfight is instantly forgettable. While it tries hard to look slick, it’s not going to make you think or even feel anything. There are no deeper themes embedded in the story and it doesn’t do enough with the original source material to shape itself into anything. Aside from that, the cast is comprised of actors who aren’t exactly going to make anyone rush to buy a ticket.
There are far better movie choices out right now, so give this one a miss.
Die in a Gunfight is now showing in cinemas across the country.
You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.
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