“A Day to Die,” perhaps borrowed from “A Good Day to Die Hard,” is another slapdash thriller that continues Bruce Willis’ career’s decline. The film follows a bombing that kills a handful of hostages and comes to be known as the Brownsville Road standoff. Fast-forward 18 months, and we have Connor, a police officer who kills a gang member and, in return, has his pregnant wife kidnapped by a ganglord, Tyrone Pettis. In order to get her back safe and sound, he needs to pay a ransom of $2 million. He contacts his former team, which includes himself, Captain Mason (Frank Grillo), Connor’s brother Tim, Dwayne, and Steve. [This team was the one responsible for rescuing the hostages in the Brownsville incident.] They carry out a heist at a drug hideout to recover the illegal money, which also corrupts Alston’s involvement in it. Upon going to Pettis with the money, Connor finds out that it was his brother Tim (also a member of his tactical team) who aided Pettis in kidnapping Connor’s wife.
But before things get worse, the other members arrive, Tim and Connor, sort themselves out, and they take down the gang together, leaving only Pettis alive. Pettis, in turn, reveals that Alston is involved in the racket and has been making money out of Pettis’ drug business. The team, along with Pettis, decides to bring Alston in for his crimes. What follows is a gunfight at a bank between Connor and his team and Alston and the police department (which doesn’t know of his illegal involvements other than his partner). In the fight, Tim, Dwayne, and Steve died. However, Mason is able to escape with Connor, his wife, and Pettis to the airport, where an airplane will take them away. But with cops behind them, there is a chance for them to get caught. So Mason decides to slow them down and thus stays back, sacrificing his life in the process. Connor, his wife, and Pettis manage to escape. And thanks to a video that Alston’s partner recorded of him shooting another officer during the gunfight at the bank, Alston was arrested.
The Brownsville Road Standoff
The Brownsville Road standoff is the opening sequence of the film that shows Mason and his team, under the guidance of Alston, facing a hostage situation. They have to rescue a handful of people from what seems to be a group of mercenaries. The chemistry within Mason’s team is made clear right from the beginning. However, the mission doesn’t go as planned, as the evacuation results in many people losing their lives. And in the middle of it, all are Connor and his brother, Tim. While Tim has mistakenly shot an innocent civilian, a move by Connor results in triggering a landmine that kills not one but many innocents along with the bad guys. That Mason doesn’t gel well with Alston, or that they have their differences, is also hinted at.
An Unusual Brotherhood
Brotherhood, or the word “brother,” to be exact, is repeated again and again to stress the relationship that Connor shares with his team and their captain, Mason. That Mason understands that Connor is still disturbed about the Brownsville incident proves that they have been together as a team for quite a long time. Furthermore, when Connor asks his younger brother Tim for help, the whole team arrives on very short notice. And all of them are really happy to be back working with each other. Perhaps, it is this treatment of their relationship that somehow affects the seriousness of what they are about to do. It is a question about Connor’s pregnant wife. Also, they are outside the law on this mission, so if they get caught, there is no escape. And not to mention the possibility of getting killed. But none of these reflects on even one of the team members. They simply go in, take all the thugs out, steal the money, and leave. It is also striking how “A Day to Die” treats the dead team members. When Steve arrives with the van and crashes into the bank, he finds out from Connor and Mason that Tim and Dwayne are dead. But there is absolutely no reaction from him. He just blurts out some abuse and asks them to get inside the van. Even for trained agents like them, a little bit of emotion should have been provided. Perhaps, the film, in trying to establish their professionalism, turned the basic emotion that they showed when the team first met, i.e., brotherhood, on its head.
Now let’s come to the brothers, Connor and Tim. When Connor meets Tim (18 months after the Brownsville incident), who has clearly retired from work, the mutual hatred between them is made very clear. From the way they speak, it is also clear that they had a rough childhood and had to grow up pretty much on their own. However, both of them got into the force, and Tim probably left midway for some reason. This is why Connor mentions bringing him back when they are all in the van and about to reach Brownsville (at the beginning of the film). As we can make out from the state of his home, Tim is clearly leading a wretched life. And he is still pretty shaken up about Brownsville. When Connor tells him that he has shot a person, Tim is disgusted. However, when he finds out that he is about to become an uncle, he does the needful. And he does seem pretty serious about getting his brother’s pregnant wife, Candace, back.
What “A Day to Die” is really able to pull off after the revelation that it was Tim who aided Pittis in tracking down Connor and his wife, And the reason is also shocking. Tim apparently took drugs after the Brownsville incident, which he got from Pittis. But Tim couldn’t pay him back in cash, so he cleared his debt by bringing in Connor. Here we have to consider the possibility that Pittis gave his word to Tim that he wouldn’t hurt Connor’s wife (keeping in mind what we discussed about Pittis). This is further stressed when Tim asks Pittis to shoot him and let his brother and his wife go. But does this justify his previous actions? Although he had Pittis’ word, we cannot ignore the fact that he consciously brought his brother and his wife so close to danger. We don’t know if he knew Candace was pregnant. So it is doubtful if he did what he did to clear his debt to Pettis or out of regret for aiding him to find Candace and risking not just her life but the unborn baby’s life too. Yet, it seems too much for the pregnancy to be a concern for him since he got Candace abducted. And herein lies the irony of Tim’s nature.
There is another suggestion. Since Tim had Candace’s kidnapping planned, it means that the killing at the drug house, the recovery of the money, and the destruction of the drugs were all a plan of Pittis and Tim. Pittis now has no competition from the South and is the sole drug runner in the city. This can also be the reason why Pittis decided to let Connor, his wife, and Tim go free after getting back the money. With so much more money on his way, he need not worry about loss or, from the looks of it, threat either.
A Detached Alston
Before talking about Alston, it is imperative that we talk about Bruce Willis. This guy, once an action hero, and stalwart of the renowned Die Hard franchise, is now on his utter free fall. We have no idea why he is opting for roles that have only a little screen presence. His last outing in Gasoline Valley had him in the same light, a corrupt detective with little screen time. However, we can only pray that he gets a good movie to make his comeback and that too soon.
If you have not noticed, the name of the film we are discussing, i.e., “A Day to Die,” itself seems to have been borrowed from one of Bruce’s Die Hard films, A Good Day to Die Hard. But unfortunately for Bruce, it is neither a good day nor a good night, and rather than making dying hard, he puts on handcuffs.
Coming back to his character in “A Day to Die,” Alston is a corrupt officer who makes money out of his connections with Pettis. He ensures that Pettis’ thugs stay out of cop trouble, for which he gets his price. This also means that he is involved in the drug business to some extent. He is indeed responsible for managing the peace between Pittis and his rivals in the South. Regardless, we aren’t given much information about him to help us figure out who he is. But then again, there is always a corrupt police officer in almost every other movie. Such characters kill innocents to prevent their secrets from being revealed and end up getting either killed or arrested at the end of the film. And it seems that Bruce Willis is on his way to becoming their new representative.
A Pittis Too Nice
Eighteen months have passed since the Brownsville Road incident. Connor still works as a police officer. One day, he shoots and kills Cornell, a member of druglord Tyrone Pettis’s gang, while trying to protect his parolee, Joaquin Smith. As revenge, Pittis kidnaps Connor’s pregnant wife and will return her only under one condition. Connor has to replace Pittis’ asset, i. e., the member of his gang that he just killed. For a drug lord, Pittis is quite professional in nature and words. That money is all that matters to him is also established when he calculates the ransom that Connor has to pay him in return for the loss he incurred for him. He is a true businessman and not that dominating. This is probably what makes him sound reasonable. He gives Connor 12 hours to get his money and take his wife. He even gives Connor the address. Pittis, on the other hand, makes it clear that he is watching him.
He receives a warning on his cell phone just before he is about to approach a police officer.
“A Day to Die” provides two events that make Pittis a true businessman and drug lord. On the one hand, he kills Joaquin for stealing from him, as he admits to Connor. On the other hand, he lets both Connor and Tim live despite having the opportunity to kill them. This is because they kept their word and brought the money. Pittis’ nature is testimony to the value of keeping the word and being faithful that we have come to learn from movies belonging to the gangster genre, like The Godfather franchise. It is a person’s word and his faithfulness to his gang that matters more than anything else. In Pittis’ case, this rule applies beyond his own gang to all people in general.
However, where the film doesn’t make sense is when Pittis also flees with Connor and his wife to Mexico. Moreover, from the looks of it, he leaves his drug lord self behind. And while we are glad about it, it doesn’t seem likely for such a person to retire in this fashion. It would have made more sense if he fled to some other place after bidding goodbye to Connon. He probably has many more members under him and their families, too, all of whom are dependent on him financially, just like Cornell’s sister (or wife; we don’t know how she is related to him). However, there is a catch. With Alston arrested, he doesn’t have the legal backing to carry on his business. Thus, it might be that he has connections in Mexico and can continue functioning from there.
‘A Day to Die’ Ending Explained: Why Did Mason Sacrifice Himself?
At the very end of “A Day to Die,” Mason tells Connor, Candace, and Pittis to escape on the airplane while he himself returns with the car to distract the cops. Here’s when it is revealed that his son, Jeremy, is in a coma and, according to the doctor, he will never come out of it. So, even if Mason escaped with all the money Alston had recovered from the bank, it was of no use to him. He couldn’t save his son. So he decides to save Connor’s kid’s life and make it worth living. It was a nice touch, but after such a dull movie, it was left to the grace of the viewers.
“A Day to Die” is a 2022 action thriller film directed by Wes Miller.