cott 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
"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
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
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.