Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video is the action-comedy, Die Hart. The movie – from director Eric Appel – stars Kevin Hart, John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jean Reno, and Josh Hartnett, and follows the fictionalised story of Hart’s attempts to transform himself into a leading action star.
In the movie, Hart has reached a point in his career where he is fed up and frustrated with the roles he is getting in Hollywood. Depicted as the eternal sidekick and comedy foil for Dwayne Johnson, Hart has had enough of the jokes and laughter, and wants to become the lead in a big budget action picture.
But things aren’t looking so good, and a bad guest appearance on a daytime television show looks as if it has ended his career rather abruptly. That is, until he gets a request to meet up with a high-profile action director, who is keen to cast Hart in his new film.
However, there is one stipulation: Hart needs to go through an intense school of training, which focuses purely on turning actors into action stars. This school is run by Ron Wilcox (as played by John Travolta) who is a curious guy, who believes in the importance of method acting.
Over the course of a few days, Hart is put through his paces, as he is tasked with undertaking a number of scenes designed to toughen him up. But something about Wilcox and his school doesn’t seem quite right, leading Hart to become suspicious of his new acting coach.
Now, if the above premise sounds a little familiar to you, or you are convinced you have seen this film before, then chances are you already have. Back in 2020, Hart starred in a webseries called Die Hart, which ran for 10 episodes (each running 7-9 minutes in length), and this movie is that show, only edited together and repackaged as a film.
So, if you watched the show three years ago, then you don’t really need to watch this movie. There is nothing new here, it is everything you have seen before, only streamlined into one long story.
On the flipside, if you didn’t watch the web-show, then you may be interested to check out the movie. Reworked as an 85-minute film, Die Hart plays out fairly well as one continuous piece, and it is certainly an easy watch.
However, those who are about to embark on Die Hart should be advised this is a low-budget affair, with a limited cast, limited locations, and limited gags. While the movie is funny in places, and has some decent performances from Hart and Travolta, there’s not much going on here.
Die Hart is one of those movies that you watch once, you get a few laughs out of it, but you never return to it. It’s not a main event picture, which you reserve for Saturday night viewing; it is more of an early Saturday afternoon thing, which you stick on for an hour or so while you’re waiting for the local takeaway to open.
It’s not rubbish, it’s just not particular great either. Some parts of it work, some don’t, but I guarantee you’ll have forgotten all about it by the time your Szechuan crispy chilli chicken has arrived.
The biggest sticking point is that the premise of the film doesn’t seem like a comfortable fit for Kevin Hart. This isn’t to say he’s not good in the movie; it’s more to say this film should be about a different actor.
The hook of this movie revolves around an actor who puts himself through some bizarre, dangerous ‘acting’ training, in order to land bigger, better parts. However, this suggests that Hart isn’t already getting sizeable roles, which doesn’t seem to gel all that well, considering he pops up quite regularly on the big screen.
Sure, he does often take on the sidekick part (usually in Dwayne Johnson movies), and his leading roles tend to be lesser-seen films, such as Fatherhood, but he’s still getting plenty of work. It’s not as if his career has dried up, and he only gets to appear in straight-to-video tosh that no one watches.
For a story like Die Hart to really land, you need an actor who has either had a significant downshift in his career, or who has made some odd acting choices that have confused audiences. That way, the story has more weight, and the audience is able to buy into the lead role better.
Put simply, the story doesn’t work in the way it should, because Hart is currently too successful. To pull off something like what Jean-Claude Van Damme did with JCVD, or what Nicolas Cage offered up in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (both movies where the actors played fictionalised versions of themselves), you need an actor who has hit a rough patch in their careers.
The other reason Die Hart struggles in places, is because it never allows itself to go as deep, or as hard as it should with the comedy. There are some gags which are funny, but there is always the feeling they could be funnier.
The film seems content with producing one laugh here and there, when it could arguably go for more, and this is a shame. There is a sense throughout the whole picture that Die Hart is holding back, rather than going big.
For example, why have John Travolta play the character of acting coach Ron Wilcox, when he could easily (and more effectively) play himself? Travolta is great as Wilcox in Die Hart, but he could be even better if he was allowed to riff on his own career, becoming an exaggerated version of himself in the process.
Hart plays a fictionalised version of himself, and so does Josh Hartnett, who turns up in a brief support role; so why not Travolta? This seems like a bizarre choice, when a few simple adjustments to the script would have made this possible and allowed for more gags.
Other parts of the movie need a little adjustment too, to make them stronger. Once again, this film is fine in places, and it certainly made me chuckle at times, it simply could be better with a few tweaks.
While Die Hart does have some issues, and it isn’t going to be anyone’s favourite film (or favourite webseries edited into a film to be exact), it is entirely watchable. Hart is fun, Travolta is on fine form, and there are just enough gags to keep things going for a while.
The movie does run out of steam a few times, and its budget limitations are evident throughout, but it does provide some entertainment. The runtime is also quite short, so even when the premise does begin to wear thin, you know everything will be wrapping up soon anyway.
So long as you approach Die Hart with the understanding it is a paper-thin picture, which started off in a different format, than you should get something out of it. It’ll fill some time, and make you laugh on occasion, and that may be all you require.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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