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Good Day to Die Hard, A
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by Brett Gallman

"A bad day to be a Die Hard fan."
2 stars

I’m generally hesitant about burying a franchise, and “Die Hard” has put up a pretty good fight. One might say it’s lived up to its name by staying compulsively watchable over the course of two sequels whose mere existence was absurd enough. “Live Free or Die Hard,” however, truly seemed to toss the franchise as we knew it into the grave (forget “nuking the fridge”: McClane hopping onto a fighter jet is an even more odious point of no return), and the latest entry, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the dull thud of the nail being driven into the coffin for 90 minutes.

There’s very little semblance of “Die Hard” to be found here, as the franchise continues the mistake of going bigger and bolder. This time, John McClane (Bruce Willis) becomes a globe-hopping detective when his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), gets tossed into a Russian prison for an assassination attempt. Apparently (or not, since I found it difficult to make heads or tails of much of the plot), it was all a ruse, as Jack is an undercover CIA agent caught up in an elaborate operation involving a political prisoner (Sebastian Koch). He’s turned into a witness for the state and has information that’s valuable to America, so father and son McClane attempt to escort him to safety.

I’d say a “Die Hard” movie proceeds to break out, but this endeavor is so wrongheaded from the concept on down that you’d swear this started life as an action movie script that eventually morphed its way into a franchise sequel. But in an ironic turn, “A Good Day” actually boasts the first script in the series written as a “Die Hard” from the start. Somehow, it results in a film that feels the least like a “Die Hard” movie so far and will leave you wondering if anyone involved even bothered to remember what made the original work in the first place.

Back in 1988, it was of course the antidote to its contemporary American action films; whereas theaters were often populated by Golan and Globus’s rampaging supermen or the chiseled machismo carved out by Schwarzenegger or Stallone, Willis’s wiry, reluctant hero represented an everyman, a quality that has gone unnoticed by no one during the past two decades except for just about everyone who has worked on the last two “Die Hard” films. Consider this: one of the original film’s climactic scenes features McClane hesitantly hurling himself out of a window with the aid of a fire hose. In “A Good Day to Die Hard,” he plunges through high-rise windows with reckless abandon, their shards of glass bouncing off of him to no effect (remember when a floor full of shattered glass represented a huge obstacle for this guy?).

That probably crystalizes just how far the series has come (for the worse, I’m afraid), but it only gets worse when you consider how righteously oblivious the film is. Moments of unintentional irony--like Jack accusing John of being out of his depth—only serve as a reminder that no one really gets it. The funniest moment comes when the film’s main villain, a carrot-chomping Russian who hates “everything” about Americans, assures the McClanes that it’s not 1986 anymore; meanwhile, “A Good Day to Die Hard” feels exactly like the type of film the first movie was a reaction against. If you were to tell me the script was actually found in the old Cannon Films office and dusted off, I’d believe it. You’ve got John McClane playing “007 of Plainfield, New Jersey,” which is about as far removed from the original character as you can get (well, until the inevitable sixth film reveals that he’s actually a fucking mutant or something).

Speaking of McClane, I’m not even sure Bruce Willis is actually playing him in this movie. Instead, he’s either playing a vague, smart-ass Bruce Willis persona or a McClane action doll, complete with a pull-string that allowed director John Moore to dub in the same handful catch-phrases in post. About half of his dialogue consists of the words “Jack” or “Jesus,” and his big refrain in this one is “I’m on vacation,” even though he isn’t. The script tries to provide some semblance of humanity for McClane by reuniting him with son, but this feels like an afterthought since the movie is much more preoccupied with “killing scumbags.” Forget about McClane being a reluctant hero; at this point, he’s a borderline sociopath who delights in mowing down cartoonish Russkies without much of the wit or charm that made him endearing in the first place.

Jai at least hangs in there pretty well, which either says a lot about him or a little about Willis’s half-hearted performance. He’s got charisma, and it’d probably be put to good use if “A Good Day to Die Hard” actually bothered to explore the estranged father-son dynamic, which is one of the few things that feels native to the franchise here. For some reason, though, someone decided that McClane and Son would also have to destroy half of Russia to reconnect, and the whole affair just seems so unwieldy. Despite being the shortest film in the franchise at 97 minutes, it feels needlessly clogged up and misses the sharp precision of the original, a film that’s a poster child for high concept simplicity.

Comparing this one to the original probably seems a little unfair, but it also fails on its own merits. If this film were to switch titles with “The Cold Light of Day,” I’m not sure many would notice. Between its generic plot and unremarkable aesthetic (it’s that steel-grey, pallid sheen that’s smothered action movies lately), there’s not much that separates it from the pack of bad, bland shoot-em-ups.

It does have a sheer volume of action going for it, but nearly all of it is rendered incomprehensible by Moore’s apparent decision to toss his dailies into a blender. An opening car chase is particularly disappointing since its various (and ludicrous) stunt work is lost along with geography, spatial logic, and sensible editing. A procession of tedious shootouts follow, and the decision to give “Die Hard” its balls back feels tacked on since the film is full of CGI blood and ADR’ed F-bombs.

The franchise’s fall from grace is undoubtedly the most disappointing thing here; that “Die Hard”—a standard bearer for authentic, balls-to-the-wall action—could degenerate into something so phony and forgettable is a testament to the Hollywood machine. It might be hard to kill John McClane, but Fox has proved that it’s not all that difficult to make him boring.

I have little doubt that sixth film will allow this franchise so shamble on like an aimless, undead corpse; however, unless someone makes a genuine attempt to recapture the original film’s effectiveness, the next one should go meta and feature Bruce Willis attempting to foil Fox’s plans to make another “Die Hard.”

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23952&reviewer=429
originally posted: 02/15/13 02:13:58
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User Comments

8/25/14 KingNeutron Forgettable. I walked after 40 min- poorly done, not up to par with others in the series 1 stars
10/10/13 Jacob Montgomery Ugh. Completely misses the point of the Die Hard films. 1 stars
8/06/13 mr.mike Decent home vid rental. 3 stars
5/26/13 Philip Plenty of action but it doesn't feel like a Die Hard movie. 3 stars
4/21/13 Durwood Action movies are all the same these days--car crashes, guns, bombs, and the "f" word. 2 stars
3/03/13 Nicole Davis It was ok but I wished I had waited for it to come out on ondeman. 3 stars
2/25/13 Jeff Wilder The series low point. Time to retire John McClane. 2 stars
2/19/13 radium56 It was so bad and forgettable... Even IMAX could not help. If you love DH1, avoid this one. 1 stars
2/18/13 Waldemar Walas The worst Die Hard Movie 1 stars
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  14-Feb-2013 (R)
  DVD: 04-Jun-2013

  14-Feb-2013 (15)

  21-Mar-2013 (M)
  DVD: 04-Jun-2013

Directed by
  John Moore

Written by
  Skip Woods

  Bruce Willis
  Jai Courtney
  Cole Hauser
  Amaury Nolasco
  Megalyn Echikunwoke
  Sebastian Koch

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