Combine edgy action movie clichés with a hackneyed “Romeo and Juliet”-inspired screenplay and you get “Die in a Gunfight,” a neon-saturated shoot-’em-up that follows a pair of brooding lovers as they fend off their mobster-ish parents.
The director Collin Schiffli draws from the hyper-stylized playbook of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and Nicolas Winding Refn, employing comic-book style animation and freeze-frame effects to introduce the film’s characters, all crazy rich folks and hip, teeth-gnashing hustlers.
Its hero is Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta), a typical bad boy who spends his days cruising around the city, party-crashing, and getting into street fights with his best friend, Mukul (Wade Allain-Marcus), always by his side.
But Ben’s impetuous ways conceal a broken heart. He longs for fellow malcontent Mary Rathcart (Alexandra Daddario), and when the two fatefully reunite at a swanky soiree, they run off together despite their parents’ efforts to keep them apart. Cue a series of flashy showdowns and roguish theatrics at strip clubs and dingy movie theaters.
It’s a shame that it’s all so wincingly contrived. The film tries so hard to be slick, but its efforts are both unoriginal and painfully amateurish.
Among its biggest missteps is its use of voice-over narration meant to lend the events a mythic quality. But the narration (performed by Billy Crudup, but sounding more like an automated recording) lands jarringly flat against the film’s loonier beats.
Boneta and Daddario at least play their star-crossed lovers with a lasciviously manic glint in their (dilated) eyes, but the formulaic script does them no favors. It’s a classic case of style over substance, only its style feels awfully passé.
Die in a Gunfight
Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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