Film Review: A Day To Die (dir by Wes Miller)

A Day To Die is a low-budget action film with a ludicrously complicated plot.

The film opens with an elite SWAT team reacting to a terrorist incident in a small town.  A group of white supremacists have taken over a hundred hostages in a high school.  An elite SWAT team, led by Brice Mason (Frank Grillo) and Connor Connolly (Kevin Dillon), attempt to rescue the hostages but a mistake leads to the school blowing up and many of the hostages dying.  Corrupt police chief Alston (Bruce Willis) breaks up the SWAT team.  Some of the members become auto mechanics.  Some of them become drug addicts.  Connor becomes a …. parole officer.

A year or so later, Connor is forced to kill one of the henchmen of the local drug lord, Pettis (Leon).  Pettis is upset because, by his estimation, the dead man would have brought in over two million dollars over the course of his career.  Pettis orders Connor to steal two million to pay off his “debt.”  Pettis gives Connor 12 hours to find the money and, just for good measure, he kidnaps Connor’s pregnant wife (Brooke Butler).

Pettis suggests that Connor get the money by robbing a rival’s drug house.  With no other choice, Connor puts in a call to Brice and soon, the old SWAT team has gathered in a garage.  Quicker than you can say Fast and Furious, the team is talking about how they’re family.  If Connor needs them to rob a bunch of drug dealers, that’s what they’re going to do.  However, they’re also going to take down Pettis in the process.  Of course, what they don’t realize is that Pettis has a connection of his own with Chief Alston.

Probably the best thing that can be said about A Day To Die is that Bruce Willis seems to be remarkably steady on his feet.  This was one of the batch of films that Willis made before his family announced that he was retiring from acting.  Knowing what we now know about not only his health but also the allegations that Willis wasn’t always sure what type of films he was being singed up for, it’s always a bit awkward to watch his last few films.  But, in A Day To Die, Willis actually gives a credible performance as the corrupt police chief.  Though there’s not much of evidence of the swaggering wise guy charisma that made Willis a star, Willis still delivers his lines convincingly and he seems to be invested in the character.  While I’m faintly praising the film, I should also mention that Leon appears to be having fun with the role of the sharply-dressed drug dealer and Frank Grillo is his usual rugged self.  They’re all good enough to keep you watching.

Unfortunately, Kevin Dillon uses the same facial expression that he used when he played Johnny Drama on Entourage and, as a result, it’s a bit difficult to take him seriously as an action hero.  (If anything A Day To Die seems like the type of film that everyone would laugh at Johnny for doing while Vince was appearing in Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby.)  Ultimately, the film is done in by an overcomplicated plot that really doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.  As entertaining as Leon is, Pettis’s actions never really make sense.  In the end, A Day To Die is better than American Siege but nowhere close to Gasoline Alley.

8 Things To Which To Look Forward To In March

It’s March!  March is the 3rd month of the year and it’s always been a favorite of mine, just because it has one of the best names of any month.  March!  It sounds so decisive and forward-looking.  Who doesn’t love that?

Here’s what I’m looking forward to in March:

  1. The Batman

Okay, honestly, I don’t know that I’m so much looking forward to The Batman as much as I’m just happy for everyone who I know can’t wait to see this movie tomorrow.  I will say that I support anything that brings Paul Dano to the public eye.  And I’m happy for Robert Pattinson, though I hope he will continue to also make challenging films like Good Time and Cosmopolis.  The Batman seems guaranteed to become the first really big hit of the year.  With Pattinson starring in this and Kristen Stewart having a decent chance to win an Oscar, it may be time to seriously reconsider the legacy of Twilight.

Critically, The Batman has been receiving the best reviews of the year so far.  If I have any doubts about the film, that’s due to the fact that it’s a 3-hour film and Twitter, which is where I’ve seen the most enthusiasm for The Batman, tends to be an echo chamber when it comes to evaluating the box office potential of comic book films.  If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that you really can’t use Film Twitter as a way to gauge how enthusiastic the general public may or may not be for a movie.  If The Batman somehow does fail at the box office and we get yet another reboot, I guess they’re going to have to call it “A Batman.”  It’s hard not to feel that we’re running out of titles here.

2. The Oscars

The Oscars will finally be handed out on the 27th and, as always, we’ve got a lot planned for that day here at the Shattered Lens.  With all the controversy surrounding the show and the decision to do stuff like give out “Fan Favorite” awards, this year seems primed to be an even bigger fiasco than last year’s show.  Every “fix” that’s been announced for the show feels like a “threat.”  I mean, when you announce that the show is going to be hosted by Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, that also makes the promise of “time for more comedy bits” seem rather ominous.  (You’ll notice that I didn’t mention Regina Hall because she’s the best and really, she’s the only host the show needs.)  The Academy and ABC are so desperate to not go over that three-hour running time that I’m personally rooting for a four-hour show.  I want people to ramble on interminably in their speeches.  I want technical difficulties to slow things down.  I want the ABC execs to freak out as the clock strikes ten and the show is nowhere near being over.

Of course, the only question that really matters is whether the ratings will improve or not.  To be honest, I’m kind of hoping the ratings don’t improve because I don’t want the Academy thinking that “Fan Favorite” and less categories is the way to go.  My hope is that less than 100,000 people watch and the Oscars move to a streaming platform.  Next year, I want to see the Oscars on Peacock, with Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley hosting.  Hmmm….maybe I shouldn’t watch this year….

3. A New Season of Survivor

Admittedly, the most recent season of Survivor was weird.  Jeff Probts kept trying to be nice and every member of the cast had some big, dramatic story to tell about their life back home.  There were a lot of emotional tribal councils.  There was a lot of hugging.  That’s not what we watch Survivor for.  Survivor is not meant to be a show that makes you feel better about humanity.  Survivor is supposed to be a show that celebrates betrayal and ruthlessness.  Survivor is about great villains, not sob stories.  Fortunately, a new season of my second-favorite (after The Amazing Race) reality show is starting in March and I hope it will be a return to the Survivor of old.

4. Deep Water

Finally, this Ben Affleck/Ana de Armas film will be getting its release!  Earlier this year, it went from being a theatrical release to a movie that’s going to premiere on Hulu.  Some people may think that’s a bad sign but personally, I think that indicates that the film will be enjoyably trashy.  We’ll find out this month!

5. A Day To Die

Another Bruce Willis film?  This will be Willis’s third film of the year and it’s only March!  I’ve made it my goal to watch every Bruce Willis appears in this year.  I still haven’t gotten started so I guess I’ll have to do an American Siege/Gasoline Alley/Day to Die marathon sometime this month.  My hope is that, at some point this year, we’ll get the Nicolas Cage/Bruce Willis/Frank Grillo collaboration that VOD fans have been waiting for.  (For the record, Frank Grillo is in A Day To Die but Nic Cage apparently is not.)

As for A Day to Die, I wonder how many people will accidentally watch it because they think it’s a Die Hard sequel.  You have to admire the hustle, that’s all I’m saying.

6. American Song Contest

Wow, that’s a bland title!  Anyway, this is America’s version of Eurovision.  Singers from all 50 states will be competing and I’m sure our media will not use this as a way to push this whole Blue State vs. Red State narrative that they are so proud of.  I’m looking forward to this because I can’t wait to hear how bad the songs are.  Vermont’s song will probably be some sort old folkie nonsense and I can’t wait to ridicule it on Twitter.  I know that’s kind of a negative way to look at things but fug it.  It happens.

7. Lent

I gave up cursing for Lent!

8. After Yang

I’ve heard very good things about this film, which will be premiering this Friday on Showtime.  I look forward to seeing it!

What are you looking forward to in March?