Living and Dying (2007) – By Nic Brown

 What happens when small time bank robbers get cornered in a diner by the police? Well if it is the film Living and Dying by writer/director Jon Keeyes, it won’t be what you expect. Within minutes of entering the restaurant they, along with everyone else inside, are taken hostage by two psycho killers there having lunch. Now the robbers, Sam (Edward Furlong) and Nadia (Bai Ling), must figure out a way to keep themselves and the other hostages alive while caught between the police and the killers.

This is a complicated situation for the detective in charge, Rick Devlin (Arnold Vosloo), that becomes even more desperate when agent Lind (Michael Madsen) from the ATF shows up to take over the scene. Lind’s agenda doesn’t seem to be the hostages safety. He’s more concerned about getting the stolen money back for local tycoon Nicholai Duca (Tamer Karadagli). With all this going on, both inside with the hostages and outside with the police, the line between the good guys and the bad guys is blurred and the question becomes: will anyone get out alive?

Living and Dying is an exciting movie. There is plenty of gunplay to keep the action junkies happy, but the multilayered plot is what really makes the film entertaining. Keeyes does a fantastic job of building suspense as it becomes apparent that very few characters are really what they seem. It is the story’s complexity that allows Living and Dying to be driven more by characters than action. This is a rare quality for what at first appears to be a typical cops and robbers shoot ‘em up.

Keeyes assembled a first rate cast for the film. Vosloo and Furlong are both engaging as the “cop” and “robber” for the story. Fans of Jon Keeyes’ other works will also notice many familiar faces in the cast. Trent Haaga stands out as the more perverted of the two killers and young actress Hayden Tweedie gives a great performance as one of the hostages.

There is definitely more to Living and Dying than first meets the eye. If you have the chance to check out this film, you won’t regret it. However, you will have to pay attention, because Jon Keeyes isn’t slowing the bus down to let slow students catch up for this film.