Die Hart Review: Kevin Hart and John Travolta’s film has fine performances but falls short of being a true blue action-comedy that sticks


Film: Die Hart

Cast: Kevin Hart, John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jean Reno, Josh Hartnett, Brandon Quinn

Director: Eric Appel

OTT: Prime Video

Rating: 3 Moons

Prime Video brings satirical action-comedy Die Hart that features the original 10-episode series of Quibi reimagined into a feature film format. Die Hart stars Kevin Hart, John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jean Reno, Josh Hartnett, Brandon Quinn and others and is directed by Eric Appel. It sees Kevin Hart as a fictionalized version of himself attending a hard knocks ‘action star school’ so that he can break the stereotype of hero’s sidekick and land himself a cool, action star role. As a comedy, Die Hart had a great premise but after a muddled execution and the big reveal that never lands properly, it’s only a modest and binge-watching experience.

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In Die Hart’s world, Kevin Hart is a movie star who is best known for playing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s sidekick. However, he is done with the stereotype and wants to break free from the typecast. In an interview he has a meltdown wherein he expresses his wish to become the ‘real’ hero of the film who fights the bad guys and saves the day. The film picks and chooses what it takes from reality and often mentions Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Jackie Chan and other action stars but it is erratic and surreal which hurts the comedic appeal of the film.

After his public meltdown, Hart is given one last chance to redeem himself an fulfill his action star ambitions, but first he must get into shape to by attending an acting school run by Ron Wilcox (John Travolta) who has made major stars turn action heroes. Jean Reno plays noted action director Claude Van De Velde who gives Hart his lone strike at becoming an action hero. He enlists and finds himself at the receiving end of the mercurial Wilcox who makes life difficult for him from the word ‘go’ while favouring his classmate Jordan King (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) who is more astute, fearless and a uneasy ally of Hart.

Ron’s school is preposterously dangerous with real fire, bullets, aluminum bats and total disregard for safety, not to mention the fact that Hart is targeted and humiliated while Jordan is applauded. Hart feels Ron is hiding something and is out to prove his theory that the former killed a drug dealer and is hiding secrets. At the end of Die Hart everything gets explained but because the viewer knows that Ron’s school is not the real thing and Hart feels it’s all a joke made at his expense, the big reveal in the climax comes out to be half-baked.

Die Hart alludes to a lot of popculture anecdotes from action-comedies released twenty years ago and drops big names without batting an eyelid. The crux of Die Hart never makes a full impact as it never finds its mark. It’s all about Hart’s resilience when faced with peril for his and his comrades’ lives.

However, Die Hart boasts of good performances by the lead star cast. As the foul-mouthed protagonist, Hart comes across as natural and beautifully portrays his frustration, his suspicions and even the triumph over his fears. He is not afraid to mock himself, his shortcomings and his fear of certain tree-dwelling animals.

John Travolta is impeccable and seems to having a lot of fun after turning up some seriously irrelevant characters for a decade. He excels in the scenes where he is supposed to make life hell for Hart and exhibits great comedic timing.

Nathalie Emmanuel turns in a prime performance as Hart’s better, more accomplished and more-than-capable competitor-cum-friend. Josh Hartnett appears in a cameo playing himself and delivers a suave, funny and enjoyable act who turns up as an alum of Ron’s action school to instill some new fire in the two recruits.

Die Hart looks great and features a fun cast but since Kevin Hart’s heart is not entirely given to following the school’s protocol and does not believe that whatever he is going through is real, makes the film a rather damp squib. It is worth binge-watching and has fun moments in-between but do not expect Die Hart to jolt you out of your reverie. It could have been a unique and interesting film but there is no depth or imagination. It does not sweat the small stuff and does not try to be a grandiose film and can be binge-watched if you have nothing else to do.

PeepingMoon.com gives Die Hart, 3 Moons.