Two warring gang factions have come to an impasse, and their respective leaders -- Patsy and Swetlana -- have been forced to come together by their boss, Cyrus, to work out their differences. Both Patsy and Swetlana arrive at the abandoned warehouse, each backed up by plenty of other fighters in case something goes awry.
But in anticipation of the tension, Cyrus has sent his marriage counselor, Riley, to help the two sides unravel their conflict. But as the conversation proceeds, a showdown seems inevitable, even as Riley's methods open up unexpected avenues of commonality and connection.
Directed by Jonathan Hammond from a script co-written with Ryan Roach, this short action-comedy is essentially a riff on the gangster film, taking the final climactic "standoff" scene as a jumping point to entertain and amuse while also provoking thought on the contours and confines of genre. It begins as the two sides converge, and the opening's stylish cinematography and confident camerawork announce a bold take on the crime drama.
There's plenty of tense moments built up by the vivid storytelling, but as the discussion between the criminals unfurls with sharp, witty dialogue, Riley's role as the touchy-feely counselor trying to find reconciliation skews the film into comedic territory. Trying to get a room of hardened killers to talk about their feelings, much less play an ice-breaker game of "two truths and a lie," is ineffectual and shortsighted, causing everyone to draw their guns in both aggression and defense.
We think we're headed into a standoff, but soon the henchmen's bladders, appetites, quirks and libidos hijack the conversation. The killers each reveal a multi-dimensionality, full of experiences and interests outside their "jobs." They all have more in common with one another than not, whether it's unexpectedly shared outlooks or an agreement that the clothes at Zara have gone downhill. But the raised guns still pose an obstacle to everyone getting what they want -- which requires getting out alive.
Well-crafted, fun and smart, "We All Die Alone" keeps the pace fast and the twists and turns even faster. But it's all held together with stylistic panache and a certain playfulness. The secret ingredient here is empathy in its willingness to imagine full lives and personalities for its side characters. It allows them the urge to look for fulfillment -- one strong enough to survive a climactic showdown, however many detours it takes to get there.