Since this is a day ending in “Y” that means it’s time for another Bruce Willis movie to arrive, this time it’s A Day to Die. I may have used that line before, but he’s putting out so many films I’m running out of ways to introduce them. Although given their rapidly declining quality I’m starting to wonder why I bother reviewing them at all.
A Day to Die opens in the middle of a hostage situation. A special security team that includes Connor (Kevin Dillon, Poseidon, The Blob) and Mason (Frank Grillo, Boss Level, Jiu Jitsu) is called in to deal with a hostage situation at a school that involves what appears to be some well-armed militia types. It all goes very badly due to the police somehow not noticing several guys with RPGs on nearby rooftops. It also didn’t help that the attackers had a landmine that not only levelled the building but took out a police chopper flying overhead. Connor was blown out a window and several hundred feet across the lawn.
After that Connor transitioned into a career as a parole officer. When one of his charges is assaulted in front of him he intervenes, killing the attacker who, as it turns out, worked for Pettis (Leon, Cool Running, Above the Rim), a local drug lord, and he is not happy about it and demands Connor pay him the $2,000,000 the guy was supposed to make him. To be sure he gets the money he kidnaps Connor’s wife Candace (Brooke Butler, Lantern’s Lane, The Remains). As is required by the plot of these films Candice is, of course, pregnant.
Director Wes Miller (Hell on the Border, River Runs Red) shoots all of this competently enough. But the ridiculous script from Rab Berry and Scott Mallace who also co-wrote The Tracker makes it hard to take the opening massacre seriously, let alone be horrified by it. It doesn’t help that Willis in his couple of scenes as Chief Alston looks more like he wants to take a nap than resolve the situation.
Speaking of resolving situations, Connor, now out of a job, needs to come up with a lot of money and fast. So he calls on Mason, Tim (Gianni Capaldi, The Commando, Clown Fear), and the rest of his buddies from the team for help. If A Day to Die was an 80s film they would grab their weapons and lay waste to Pettis and his organization and rescue Candice. But this is 2022 so they rip off another dealer to get the money.
Saying that this plot is a cliche would be an understatement but it’s one that can still deliver some thrills if done right. Unfortunately, A Day to Die is content to spend much of its time simply being a collection of cliches and never trying to do anything new with it. It does take an interesting turn in the last act, however, although it somewhat ruins that by giving away details that should have been kept hidden way too early.
But then, if A Day to Die’s official synopsis gives away that Chief Alston is on Pettis’ payroll, I suppose it doesn’t matter if they tell us that in the first twenty minutes rather than saving the revelation for when it’s needed going into the last act. But it would have made the film a lot better if they had.
A Day to Die is an action film and in terms of its action scenes, it falls around the upper middle of the DTV pack. At an hour and forty-five minutes it’s a bit drawn out but, apart from the rather unbelievable opening it pretty much works. The CGI blood is kept to a minimum and the scenes are done. The final shoot-out is nicely done and the explosions are either actual pyro or exceptionally good CGI. Bonus points for surprising me with who’s alive and who’s dead by the final fade-out.
Once again Willis is barely in the film and doesn’t put a lot of effort into the few scenes he has, even when he’s shooting at people he looks bored. But as a whole A Day to Die hits enough of its marks that I had a good time with it. It’s hardly essential viewing, but it’s certainly one of the better options in its class at the moment. And that’s something I certainly didn’t expect to be saying going into this.
A Day to Die is available on Digital and VOD platforms via Vertical Entertainment. It comes to Blu-ray and DVD on March 17th.