Review: We Will Not Die Tonight (NYAFF 2018)

by Matthew Hawkins

Time for another round of New York Asian Film Festival 2018 reviews! And today’s pairing stars individuals involved in the art of movie making…

We Will Not Die Tonight centers upon Kray, who as noted is in the film industry; she’s a stunt woman, one that alas gets zero respect on the set. Despite a hard day’s work, the director stiffs her on her pay, which especially sucks since Kray’s got bills, her dad’s doctor bills to be exact. Conveniently enough, members of the gang she once ran with make a surprise reappearance. Everyone went their separate ways after their glorious leader went to jail, but he’s out and is bringing the band back together, for a job that will finally earn everyone big bucks. Which Kray could use, so she reluctantly signs up.

The details of their new assignment are not stated up front, but they figure it’s something nice and simple and “innocent”, like transporting drugs. Instead, they’re tasked with rustling up street kids to have their organs harvested. It’s a gig that even the aforementioned crew chief didn’t sign up for, so when the good bad guys tell the bad bad guys “thanks, but no thanks” all hell breaks loose. Hence the majority of the film depicts the small gang of five (plus one kid that Kray rescues) end up being hounded by a way bigger gang the entire night. Ultimately, We Will Not Die Tonight is this year’s example of the NYAFF doing too good of a job selling a movie; admittedly what I just described does seemingly line up with the promised “homage to Walter Hill’s The Warriors”. But that’s not to say that they’re both otherwise comparable, cuz man oh man, they are not.

Never mind the fact that The Warriors and their pursuers all had distinct and charismatic personas, whereas everyone here is indistinguishable and boring, though there’s that too. Because unquestionably the biggest issue with this movie has to do with excess; every scene is too damn long. You’ve got single shots that uncomfortably linger, or an unnecessary amount of angles, with constant cutting back & forth, back & forth, to the point that you’ll either get frustrated, bored, or a headache, often all three. Then there’s the excessive amount of violence; this is one of those movies in which someone gets stabbed with a machete 39 times before finally dying. If the over the top violence was done for comedic or surreal effect, that would be one thing, but it’s played totally straight here.

So we have constant scenes of our heroes running away from danger, and we’re supposed to feel some kind of suspense, yet there isn’t cuz once someone’s cornered, it’s not like they’re actually going to die after being stabbed in the belly and hit on the head with a sledgehammer repeatedly (not exaggerating here folks). Yet the biggest offense in my book is, again, the lack of personality: I watch each and every NYAFF film hoping for some glimpse into the world from which it came from, even if I don’t fully comprehend it, and I suspect many are in the same boat. Well, speaking as someone with an abundance of Filipino friends, I can tell you for a fact that there is nothing distinctly Filipino about We Will Not Die Tonight. The primary bragging right of the movie is that it was shot in eight days, and mission accomplished for producing the most generic, wanna be Hollywood action flick imaginable in such a short timeframe. Which I suppose might explain why seemingly every single bit of footage was utilized in the final product. Perhaps I’m being too harsh? Guess find out for yourself this Friday June 29, at 10:00pm, at the Walter Reade Theater.

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