Film: A Bad ‘Day to Die Hard’

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu
A Good Day to Die Hard | Directed by John Moore | Rated R
RATING: 1.5/5

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It’s rather ironic that a series titled Die Hard would have trouble knowing when it’s time to end its run.

In his fifth outing, John McClane (Bruce Willis) once again returns to the big screen. This time, he’s back to protect his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), a spy for the C.I.A., from being convicted into a life sentence in the Russian criminal system. Along the way, the two get tangled inside a terrorist criminal scheme to steal thousands of pounds of uranium out of Chernobyl. They must team up to stop the criminals from their dangerous plans.

Looking back, I didn’t think there was every going to be a worst Die Hard film than Die Hard 2: Die Harder. But alas, they have found a way-for A Good Day to Die Hard is undoubtedly the worst film in the franchise (so far, gulp).

It breaks my heart to say this. Like most film fans, I grew up on the Die Hard series. I love the first movie. I just put it on my list of favorite Christmas movies of all time. I love the third one, Die Hard with a Vengeance, too; I don’t care what anyone says. It’s easily one of the most underrated sequels ever made.

Much like the previous Die Hard film, Live Free or Die Hard, this is not a Die Hard film. This is a standard action thriller that happens to feature the character of John McClane. But at least the last movie was fun. It had good action pieces, rather competent action direction, a villain that felt a least mildly threatening, and a good cameo by Kevin Smith.

A Good Day to Die Hard has none of this. For that matter, it practically has nothing going for it at all. The direction and the cinematography in this film are horrid. Even worse is the editing and the writing. Either nobody behind the scenes of this production knew what they were doing, or they didn’t care. I don’t which one is worse. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it revealed that it was a team of aliens that put this film together. I would have an easier time believing that then knowing that a group of humans thought that this film would be enjoyable on some level to human eyes, ears, and brains.

Nothing about this plot makes any real sense. Further developing my theory that the people behind the scenes were lazy or incompetent. Everything about the script feels slap-dashed together. I wonder if the credited screenwriter, Skip Woods, is just a pseudonym for a team of 20th Century Fox executives who wanted to make a quick buck of their existing franchises. This is the “guy,” after all, who “wrote” X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In poor sequel fashion, the filmmakers found a way to make the scale of this film feel less than the previous films. Part of the trend of the Die Hard sequels, much like any sequel ever made, was that they got bigger and bigger with each outing. The first was in a building, the second was in an airport, the third was in New York City, and the fourth was, at least fighting for, the whole United States and, arguably, the whole world.

While geographically, Russia is bigger than the United States, the story never makes the audience feel as though the characters are in any deep threat throughout the film. Everything about it seems cheap. The special effects, the camera work, the character interaction, the action set pieces, everything about this feels held back, even the running time. Clocking in at about 97 minutes, this is the shortest entry in the series so far (the others were at least 2 hours).  In one sense, I’m grateful, giving what they gave us. But on the other hand, if you can barely make a film out of this, then why bother?

The main reason why John McClane is just a great action protagonist was that he was an everyman. Sure, he had a little more expertise and skills in his field, but he was still just a wisecracking guy who wanted to go back home to his family. In his film, and in the last, he’s a video game character. He’s made out to be an unstoppable force of reckoning. Where the original McClane hid from the bad guys and thought tactfully about his plans, this guy goes in guns a ‘blazing. The cleverness is gone, the originality is gone, and the spirit of the series is all wrong.

If I will give director John Moore credit for one thing-and only one thing- it is that he is able to recapture some of the grittiness of the original series. But what does this matter when your script can’t provide the rest? I mean, sure, the movie is R-rated again. It’s nice to see John McClane utter his full catchphrase-without interruption-and hearing him yelling and swearing again. But if he doesn’t have anything funny or clever to say, then it doesn’t matter.

Willis looks like he is at least trying, and even his co-star Courtney (Jack Reacher) looks as though he is putting in some effort. But the movie never gives them enough time to develop any legitimate chemistry, unlike in the third movie, or even the fourth one at times. And when it does, it’s so ham-fisted that it’s too fake and emotionally drought to make the audience care.

Ultimately, this is not a Die Hard movie. This is not the John McClane that I-that we-grew up to know and love. This is a generic, bottom of the barrel action thriller plot that threw in John McClane to grab an extra buck. They are planning on making a sixth film. Now I’m sacred. It’s an embarrassment for everyone involved, and it is truly a bad day to die-hard.

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