Die (2010)

(On Cable TV, June 2012) You can almost picture the meeting in which this film was greenlit: “We need a low-budget thriller for cable TV… something like Saw II, but not as gory and with a bit more class.”  Months later, there it is: Die, a thriller in which six people find themselves locked up and subject to a deadly game with a slight possibility of redemption.  It plays about as well as this kind of made-for-cable derivative film ever does: it’s entertaining only if your expectations are set low, but it’s not offensively bad.  What really works well is the visual polish of the film, draped in green and gold beams of light.  Director Dominic James has occasional visual flourishes, and the film makes the most of its dark and mysterious locations without indulging in trash aesthetics.  Otherwise, though, the film is so similar to Saw that the viewer comes to ask what’s different about it.  While Die will strike most as being thankfully not as nihilistic as the Saw films, it doesn’t do much with its various innovations to the formula.  In fact, as the third act blunders into a large-scale development that robs the film of its intimate power, Die becomes more and more pretentious, putting questions of personal control over one’s destiny that the cheap and mean thriller mechanics of the film are ill-served to illuminate.  It ends up feeling cheap, and at odds with the care with which the film is presented visually.  The quality of the script itself isn’t transcendent: the dialogue feels flat while the actors don’t get to elevate the material.  Die is, in so many ways, exactly the kind of film that Canadian cable TV chains feel forced to produce in order to meet their Canadian Content requirements.  It’s not, in this light, terribly bad.  But it plays things safe by aping familiar formulas, and falls flat on its face once it tries to push that formula a bit farther.  At least it looks good while doing so.

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