Thursday, February 21, 2013

Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard
Directed by: John Moore.
Written by: Skip Woods.
Starring: Bruce Willis (John McClane), Jai Courtney (Jack McClane), Sebastian Koch (Komarov), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lucy), Yuliya Snigir (Irina), Radivoje Bukvic (Alik), Cole Hauser (Collins), Amaury Nolasco (Murphy), Sergei Kolesnikov (Chagarin), Roman Luknár (Anton).

Whenever Bruce Willis dies the first line of his obituary will almost certainly mention Die Hard. Willis has had a good career, but he is more associated with John McClane than any other character he has played. You would think then that Willis would be more concerned about protecting the Die Hard legacy than he apparently is. Between 1988 and 1995 he made one great action film and two very good sequels, and then, like most franchises, it seemed that Die Hard was put away. 12 years later he came back from Live Free or Die Hard, and while the film wasn’t nearly as good as the previous three (and as Michael Scott succinctly put it on The Office the problem was that McClane went from being an everyman to being a superhero), it was at least an entertaining diversion. If you wanted to see shit blow up real good, than Live Free or Die Hard fit the bill, Willis showed he still had most of his old charm intact. Now, six years after that entertaining but better forgotten chapter we get A Good Day to Die Hard which should be an embarrassment for all involved.

In this chapter, McClane finds out his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested and is being held on murder charges in Russia. So, he does what any sane person would do, and immediately hopes on a flight to Russia to try and help his kid – his kid who cannot stand him by the way (but hey, that kind of worked in Live Free or Die Hard when McClane bonded with his daughter, played by the always lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead, stuck in a thankless cameo here). McClane is barely off the plane when he makes his way to the courthouse where his son will be taken – and of course all hell breaks loose, and soon Jack has made off with a big time Russian political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch), and is being pursued by what appears to be a private army, so of course, McClane steals a truck and pursues – and when that truck is destroyed, he simply finds another one and keeps on trucking.

Eventually, of course, the movie will slow down just long enough to explain everything. Jack isn’t a murderer – but a CIA Agent, whose job it was to get Komarov out of the country, and McClane screwed it up. Komarov apparently has dirt of Chagarin, some big-time Russian politician, who controls that private army. But now everything is screwed up and the McClane are on their own, left to protect Komarov all by themselves.

I suppose you could make a good movie out of this premise – action movie premises are all fairly ridiculous anyway, but this one takes some ridiculous, predictable plot twists – really the only people who DO NOT see the plot twists coming are apparently the McClane boys. Eventually, the movie ends up in Chernobyl, in what I would describe as an offensive plot twist, if it weren’t so cartoonish – especially considering it gives the McClane boys a chance to act tough. Radiation can’t kill us – we’re McClanes!

The film was written by Skip Woods, who should never have been allowed to write another movie after his first – Thursday (1998) which is one of the most ridiculously offensive films of the 1990s that no one has ever heard of (trust me, there’s a reason for that). The dialogue in the movie is laughably bad, as it tries to exploit the catch phrases of Die Hard’s past, but just serves to remind us how good those movies were and how bad this movie is – it doesn’t help that Willis seems to be sleepwalking through his role. Coming off of 2012, where Willis delivered two wonderful performances – Moonrise Kingdom and Looper, both of which played off his usual tough guy persona wonderfully, perhaps Willis just realizes how bad this movie is, and phones it in.

Directed by John Moore, A Good to Die Hard at least knows how to shoot action sequences. For the most part, all the gunfights and car chases are handled professionally, if nowhere near spectacularly. I suppose if that’s all you want from a movie you may find this a mild diversion. But that’s not what made Die Hard so good – or what made the series still loved by audiences 25 years after it first came out, long after most action movies of its day have been relegated to the dust bin of history – which this film will find itself in before too long.

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