"Do or Die" Film Review - by Ryan Fletcher
As part of the promotion for the new Philip Krieg movie, GK Productions allowed one critic to view the film in advance. On behalf of GK Productions, I would like to thank Ryan Fletcher, our critic, for this very insightful review. Not only was I pleased to hear that he found our project entertaining, but he has also given us many constructive criticisms that will certainly be helpful in our next film. -Martin Groff
"Do or Die" Film Review
((WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS **SPOILERS** FROM THE NEWEST PHILIP KRIEG FILM, DO OR DIE.))
It seems hard to believe that this is the 19th Philip Krieg film. I can't really tell you how many people have done close to twenty short films in total, much less twenty short films featuring the same characters and sense of continuity. That's where the dedication of the people at AMP Corp come in - each film has been at least as good as the last or even better, and Do or Die is no exception to this rule.
Do or Die features once again the MI7 operative Philip Krieg, who is experienced and skilled (the experience from the past films alone would build up a good résumé). The only really familiar character that returns is 17, played by Martin Groff. 13, played by Ben Carpenter, also makes an appearance, but he has not been in as many films and may not be recognizable to the audience. Miss Pennypacker, a character who was normally the light-hearted piece of the story, only makes a small cameo in the film and it is said that this will be her last appearance. However, there are many new characters in Do or Die that we have not seen in the past, and it is very interesting to see the old characters interact with the new and how they will play a role in future films.
Without giving too much away, the plot of the film is actually quite simple and easy to follow, a plus for when you're broadcasting to Internet viewers. In essence, the protagonist Krieg is assigned with investigating MI7 secretary-hopeful Lessis Moore (portrayed by Robyn Moore), and in doing so, stumbles upon a much larger scheme by green company executive Jake Waldman, played by Peter Groff. Along the way, Krieg meets Hope S. Cape, an abused mistress of Waldman who desperately wants to get away from her lover.
In contrast to previous Krieg films, this one is much more suspenseful while cutting out some of the action scenes, which in my opinion the film does very well. The film feels more like a spy film than some previous installments, as in the film many people spy on each other, then directly afterwards lie to their faces (a common attribute of the espionage world). Luckily for some viewers, the action is driven by the plot rather than the other way around, as we see in many films on the Internet (although one scene in Do or Die might be the exception).
The locations are another highlight that I would like to address. They are varied and believable which helps the film immensely. When they tell me that a certain place is in Spain, I can believe that as it takes place in a lavish hotel that one might see in Europe. A residence is actually a residence, and although I know from behind-the-scenes knowledge that a certain place is a residence, when they tell me it's an office, I can believe that since it is set up in a very office-like manner. The locations are just another thing that help me believe in the story and the characters shown.
The visual effects have gotten better in this installment. Where I wouldn't like to criticize a film on its visual effects since not too many of us extremely low-budget independent filmmakers have the capability to make dazzling effects, the visual effects here were good enough that they did not blow my immersion. Muzzle flashes fit, explosions told me that a car exploded rather than an Action Essentials element placed over footage, and there were many screen-replacements that were believable.
Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty of this review, where my obsessive compulsive nature comes out and I start nit-picking at various things. Every film has it's downsides, and this was no exception. There are some technical things that can be corrected in future films, such as the audio in the Barcelona scene. With a loud fountain in the background, I had a hard time discerning some of the character's dialogue. An external recording medium such as a boom microphone or even some free audio editing software that allows one to take out various background noises could have been used here.
Directing was on par, able to tell me a story while keeping in the plot. The 180 rule was broken a few times which was disorienting, although a few times it was permissible, as in the scene in Barcelona were we see mostly the backs of Krieg and 17 as they talk to each other. One flaw that I should point out is some unnecessary sequences that could be cut from the final film, such as scenes with just walking or entering a building. I know I have my own problems in this area, but I feel that scenes of just 'walking' should be for two purposes: establishing the geometry of a scene (what environment they are in, where people are in relation to each other, etc.), or to quietly display something about a character and their personality. For instance, a man who has had extensive espionage training could be seen looking at various exits, people around him, his environment, etc. If done correctly, these shots could display a lot about a character without having to directly tell another character (or the audience).
Unfortunately, as with a lot of films on YouTube, a low point here was acting along with dialogue. Many times, some of the dialogue sounded like it was being read or recited rather than actually spoken by a real person. Also, with some of the way the dialogue appeared to be written, the words spoken seemed a bit awkward or out of place. Now, I know this is a challenge, since reading it on paper sounds just fine, but spoken out loud we get these weird sounding sentences that sound more like the characters are just there to tell the audience information rather than actually interact with other characters. Emotions seem either a bit diluted or uncalled for in certain situations. For instance, the character of Kathleen Omni would have been a fabulous addition to the Krieg film if she didn't just seem like a Deus Ex Machina for Krieg's escape towards the end of the film. When Krieg frantically comes up to her and asks if she has a car, one would think that Kathleen would be a bit more startled and afraid. Not to mention the fact that the sound of gunshots can be heard nearby and most importantly, they are shooting directly at them. However, with a few simple words, Krieg manages to convince Kathleen to let a complete stranger (a stranger being chased by bullets, might I add) into her car and they just drive away. Kathleen seems very unfazed by the whole ordeal, as in her situation she's just an innocent bystander who was pulled into a very dangerous situation - I would expect a little more emotion from her.
The addition of Hope S. Cape into the film was nice, and will help to bring out Krieg's more human side. However, I didn't really sense much a connection between them in order for her to suddenly decide that she wanted to run away from a man she met that day (unless Krieg is just that good of a guy... I don't know. Must be a real ladies man). The addition of a nice dialogue scene between the two of them would have been nice, so as to build their connection and make the audience start to care for the Hope character. Although, from hints of the character's rather unknown/ambiguous fate at the end of the film, I will admit that a touch of worry came over me.
One out of place scene was when Krieg is attacked by an unknown assailant outside of Walden's home. The scene really has no context, and isn't addressed later. After all, Krieg straight up kills a man outside of someone's home, yet it has no relevance to the plot. Not sure if I missed something, but it feels a little bit like the scene was inserted to keep the audience's attention rather than convey an important point of the plot.
Despite all of these pitfalls that I have pointed out (to perhaps an unnecessary extent), the film is very well put together, the characters are more engaging than before, and it has a stellar cliffhanger ending. What writer and director Martin Groff has done here is sort of put all of the 'boring stuff', if one wishes to call that, in the first act, and then the finale can be completely dedicated to the suspense and action that "Do or Die" has set up. From Krieg's very Bond-like appearance to his final scene with Kathleen Omni, my attention was set and focused. Although AMP Corp compares the Philip Krieg films to the James Bond franchise, I would go a step further and dare say that the Krieg series is slowly evolving into its own very original espionage series. While some motifs are borrowed from the Bond series of films, the plots and characters are original enough to where I can watch a Krieg film without having to have watched a Bond film previously. This is what makes Philip Krieg so unique than other films on YouTube - I have seen enough James Bond fan films for one lifetime. Martin Groff makes it seem like I am watching an original spy story without feeling like anything has been overtly ripped off of.
"Down to the Wire" looks promising, and I know I will be watching the project intently when the first production photos of the 20th Philip Krieg film are uploaded to the Web. Great job guys!