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.