Archive for March, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Posted in Action, Sequel on March 7, 2013 by The Confused Critic

(*½ out of ****)

A Good Day to Die Hard

Halfway through the magnum opus of chaos and destruction known as A Good Day to Die Hard, John McClane asks his son, “What’s my thing?” after being told that discussing feelings has never been his forte. “Fucking killing bad guys! That’s your thing!” bellows his precocious son in the midst of a gun fight. Such eloquent dialogue reminds us that this is what happens when you hire the screenwriter responsible for penning the A-Team and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Where is Family Matters’ Reginald VelJohnson (aka Carl Winslow) when you need him? I’ll even settle for Justin Long at this point…

The latest profit-seeking endeavor in the Die Hard franchise finds tireless Mr. Clean understudy McClane (Bruce Willis) venturing to Moscow to locate his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been arrested for assassinating a high-ranking Russian government official who we learn nothing about. In order to reduce his sentence, Jack, an undercover CIA agent, agrees to testify against Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner being forced to stand trial by a corrupt politician. Naturally, the elder McClane shows up right as terrorists blast their way into this hackneyed mess and force the father/son duo to reunite in a partnership for the ages. “Some kind of vacation…” and “I’m too old for this shit” jokes, a jaunt to Chernobyl, and boring CGI carnage ensue for 97 teal and orange lens tinted minutes.

The fifth in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard lacks all of the charm, excitement, and suspense of its predecessors. Essentially one long continuous chase sequence, it fails to establish a creative story or characters that draw us in. Whereas past entries in the series had notoriously hammy villains portrayed by the likes of Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons, we get nothing of the sort here. Rather than establish one head honcho, the film delights in an endless stream of reveals as to who the “true” villain is. Unfortunately, the script fails to provide enough character development for any of us to care or even feign a sense of surprise.

What truly dooms this sequel is the fact that the character Willis plays no longer bears any significant resemblance to the John McClane in the original film. Sure, he is still sarcastic, surly, and rough around the edges, but the original McClane reacted with fear and self-doubt in the harrowing scenarios he faced. Here, instead, we get an indestructibly cocky robot that seems rather ho-hum about blowing away hoards of terrorists with an oversized machine gun. Gone is the flawed family man who would walk barefoot across a floor littered with shards of glass to protect his loved ones. Conversely, we get a McClane who taunts his son after he is impaled by a metal beam in his side, mockingly asking him if he’d like to cry. Rather than being the self-deprecating protagonist who once infamously questioned how the “same thing can happen to the same guy twice,” we now find a jaded character who appears to have bought into his own legend and turned into a generic, one-note superhero.

Willis has reportedly stated that he would like to do one more Die Hard sequel before retiring the series for good. Whether he made this decision after viewing the disappointing final cut of this movie is unclear, but let’s hope that the people over at 20th Century Fox devise a better game plan the next time around. For starters, don’t hire a director whose credits include Max Payne. Second, develop believable stunt sequences that provide an actual sense of exhilaration rather than the notion that you are viewing a videogame cut scene. Lastly, make the entire cast and crew watch any of the first three films in the series so that there is a better understanding of why people wanted to see these movies in the first place.

The Confused Take: Despite all the negative press that this movie has been receiving, I went into the theatre feeling optimistic that I could at least find some redeeming qualities that others had missed. After all, I was sufficiently entertained by the oft-maligned Live Free or Die Hard, so I thought that perhaps this entry would provide an equivalent level of brain-dead enjoyment. Unfortunately nothing here works. The overblown, nonstop action quickly becomes dull, especially when it is soon apparent that none of the characters are going to be subjected to any real injury. Not even a shoe-horned Mary Elizabeth Winstead cameo as McClane’s daughter can bring any integrity to this mess. As a faithful fan of the Die Hard series, I sought out this movie for a sense of completion but left wondering whether Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head would have been a more productive use of my time.