A Better Way to Die (2000) Movie Review

Scott Wiper’s “A Better Way to Die” is almost a gem, especially for a movie of its modest budget. It’s quite a good movie, with some good action sequences, and writer/director/star Scott Wiper has the makings of a good filmmaker. I’ve never heard of Wiper before, although according to IMDB.com he had a no-name part in “Pearl Harbor”.

“Better Way” stars Wiper as Boomer, a Chicago cop who, after a drug bust goes bad, seeks out his girlfriend Kelly (Natasha Henstridge) in order to live a quiet life far from the big city. On his way to Kelly, Boomer gets mistaken for a man name Harry James, a Federal agent who has gone off the reservation and is being sought by the U.S. Government and an army of faceless gunmen working for the Chicago mob. At stake is a list that can put the national security of the U.S. at stake. Or some such nonsense.

Needless to say, Movie Coincidence has Boomer having the exact same voice, although not face, as the wanted Harry James. Apparently James is such a deep undercover agent that no one knows what he looks like, although this doesn’t exactly explain why no one has bothered to get a description from James’ girlfriend, who is actively looking for him, and who the cops/feds/mob is tracking in case she leads them to James. Also, if James is a Federal agent, wouldn’t they have pictures of him lying around? Then again, why am I asking these questions when the film makes as much logic sense as characters in a Bollywood film breaking out into song and dance?

For action junkies, “Better Way” delivers in spades. Wiper is a good director when it comes to gunplay, which bodes well because the movie is chock full of shootouts in alleyways, barns, condemned buildings, and even a supermarket. The movie doesn’t go more than 10 minutes without a group of people ambushing or sending a hail of bullets in our hero’s way. Proving that he has no overriding vanity issues, Wiper’s character Boomer gets beaten up, shot, stabbed, and generally put through the ringer. By movie’s end, Boomer is a shell of a man, barely strong enough to save his own life. Compare this to Donnie Yen’s vanity project “Ballistic Kiss”.

Of course for those of us who likes to turn our brain on every now and then, the general lapse in logic pretty much sinks “Better Way”. Andre Braugher (TV’s “Homicide”) plays a hitman who has no concept of discretion or following orders. Most of the hitmen, in fact, really shows little understanding of this concept: If you corner a man and send about 10,000 rounds at him in the middle of a city, people will come, including cops. Actually, the only time cops ever show up is toward the end of the supermarket shootout.

Lou Diamond Phillips (“Route 666”) co-stars as a FBI agent in charge of finding Boomer — or to be more precise, Harry James. Not surprisingly, Phillips, Braugher, and the incredibly beautiful Henstridge (“Maximum Risk”) gets top billing over everyone, including Wiper. Unfortunately Henstridge has very little to do, while Braugher plays a surprisingly unintelligent character. More Henstridge and less Braugher and Phillips and “Better Way” would be a much better film. Then again, this could just be my pro-Henstridge bias talking.

“A Better Way to Die” is not a bad movie at all. The only weak spot is the sometimes illogical screenplay, which despite not being very grounded in reality, still manages to offer up a coherent storyline. “Better Way” is not a bad attempt by Scott Wiper, but I suspect that his approach coming into the movie was to form the story around the action, and not the other way around. As a result, the screenplay has holes big enough to drive a truck through. Still, the guy has potential.

P.S. Joe Pantoliano (“Memento”) has a cameo as a one-arm private investigator and lasts for about 5 minutes before he gets shot in the head.

Scott Wiper (director) / Scott Wiper (screenplay)
CAST: Andre Braugher …. Cleveland
Scott Wiper …. Boomer
Lou Diamond Phillips …. Special Agent Bill Dexter
Natasha Henstridge …. Kelly

Buy A Better Way to Die on DVD