Giancarlo Esposito may not be a household name, but for millions of Americans and fans of AMC's Breaking Bad all over the globe, he will forever be known as "Gus Fring". Yet, Esposito is far from a one-dimensional artist. His second directing credit belongs to This Is Your Death, another 2017 SXSW selection recently experiencing a world premiere at the festival.
After a deadly rampage is captured live on a reality tv show finale, the network head (Famke Janssen) and show host, Adam Rogers (Josh Duhamel), create a twisted new series where people take their own lives on air for the betterment of those they care most about in their lives. But as the fame and success of the show grows wildly out of control, Adam starts to lose a handle on why he wanted to go through with creating the show in the first place.
This Is Your Death begs to unveil a poignant message about the savage nature of our society and our fixation on exploitative reality television. Instead, Esposito's muddled tale goes off the rails with illogical plot points and melodramatic writing. As a filmmaker, Esposito delivers fine direction that's nothing spectacular, but completely adequate. Yet, the character development surrounding host Adam Rogers is both perplexing and drastically artificial. While the fault clearly belongs to co-writers Noah Pink and Kenny Yakkel, Josh Duhamel's performance does nothing to improve the situation. Futhermore, Giancarlo Esposito steps out from behind the camera and offers a major supporting turn as well. While his role is executed slightly better than the film's leading star, flawed writing once again tears down this emotional dynamic to the story. Due in large part to an influx of over-dramatization where you're constantly being told how to feel rather than actually being made to do so, This Is Your Death serves as a classic example of when a film's premise far exceeds the overall delivery.