Rating: 4 out of 5.

Like Scott Pilgrim before it, Die in a Gunfight brings that comic book style into the crime and romance genres, with impressive visuals and an incredible ensemble cast. Just when you think you have the story figured out, another layer unfurls itself with quiet excellence. From two of the screenwriters responsible for MCU entry Ant-Man and the Wasp, this puts sharp dialogue and clever characterization at the forefront.

Bad boy Ben Gibbon (Scream Queens and Rock of Ages star Diego Boneta) has been in plenty of scuffles his whole life, and he loses every single one of them. Although, winning was never really the point. Detached from reality, Ben uses violence to actually feel something—it is not until he finds love that “his world came alive.” The problem? His love interest, the private school runaway Mary (Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s Alexandra Daddario), is from the sworn rival of the Gibbon family, the Rathcarts. The Gibbons and the Rathcarts have a blood feud dating back to 1864; now, they are opposing media conglomerates. When they catch wind that Mary and Ben are together romantically, the Rathcarts are quick to ship Mary away to a distant Parisian boarding school.

It has been many years since their forced breakup and crashing a party is the perfect opportunity for Ben and Mary to reunite. The spark of their union does not go unnoticed by either side of the rival houses. Terrence (Shameless vet Justin Chatwin), an annoying Mary-stalker, is hot on their heels as he tries to campaign for Mary’s hand in marriage, while Mary’s father will do anything in his power to keep Ben and Mary apart. If this setup sounds at all familiar, Romeo and Juliet can tell you all about the Montagues and Capulets…

The film’s stylistic flourishes allow us insightful commentary on every single character, with narration that actually contributes to the story. The side players, including a weirdo hitman with “a big heart and a big personality” named Wayne (Vikings star Travis Fimmel) and love bird partner Barbie (Wrong Turn actress Emmanuelle Chriqui), who travel the road together, are equally colorful, if not moreso than the leads. Many directorial choices are inspired and fit the film perfectly. The creative use of comic book split-screen is orchestrated with precision, used only sparingly to great effect. I loved how the movie quietly transitions from omniscient narrator and animation medium to live action brawl. It instantly dives one headfirst into the craziness.

Diego Boneta and Alexandra Daddario are a joy to watch together. When their stories converge into a harmonious domino effect of insanity, Die in a Gunfight becomes a fully-realized and hugely entertaining saga of titanic proportions. The stylish and enormously entertaining structure endures from beginning to end. Any movie that places hefty meaning on viewfinder imagery and blames a happy ending on “fate” is okay in my book!

Die in a Gunfight gets beaten beyond recognition when it debuts in limited release theaters and VOD streaming on Friday, July 16th.

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