Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Title: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Director: John Moore

Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead


John McTiernan’s  Die Hard (1987) was a smash hit during the 80’s because it gave us John McClane, the regular everyday Joe who takes matters into his own hands and “makes up shit as he goes” in order to stop a group of terrorists that have taken a whole  building hostage,  on Christmas Eve no less. During that first film we meet a very vulnerable hero, a guy who suffers, who’s pain we feel, he doesn’t come off as superman. He’s not indestructible. Willis’s performance makes us believe he’s in danger, he’s scared, he’s hurt, but he gives it his all till the end. Too bad this latest installment, A Good Day to Die Hard has de-evolved the series into a childish action fantasy where nothing feels real and everything feels like a joke. This is Die Hard Today!

On this sequel, John McClane must travel to Russia in order to rescue his son (a CIA agent) who happens to be caught in the middle of a Russian political assassination plot. You see, a terrorist is trying to steal some uranium in order to sell it in the black market. It’s sad, but this is exactly the same plot we saw only a few months ago in The Expendables 2 (2012), so, as you can see, the lack of originality in Hollywood has grown to embarrassing levels. And with that I close the synopsis for this new film, it really isn’t more complicated than that.  

The problem with me and this new John McClane is that you can see that smirk in Bruce Willis’s face, he isn’t even trying to live the role, to Willis himself, John McClane is just a joke, he’s just going through the motions. He doesn’t have that intensity he had in Die Hard (1987), but of course, the same intensity can’t be expected, after all, this is John McClane at 57 years of age and of course, wear and tear is bound to show up. Watching Willis play John McClane entering his late 50’s is the equivalent of seeing Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). It just isn’t Indy anymore. Indy seemed tired, static when compared to his golden days in the Temple of Doom.  The same can be said of McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard. It’s a more laid back John McClane, quieter, not as crazy. And so, we’ve entered into an era where aging action stars are trying to milk their franchises for all their worth before completely fading out, which in my opinion is exactly what should happen with these Die Hard movies, let McClane go while he still has some dignity in him; or at the very least give him some more balls to the wall crazy attitude, because in my opinion, on this one Bruce Willis was just winging it.

This doesn’t mean McClane doesn’t deliver his one liners with a vengeance and with as much speed as the bullets that whiz by, he just says them with less emotion.  I’m guessing the reason why they introduce his son –Jack McClane- whom we’ve never even heard of, is because they want to pass the franchise over to him, so he takes over. Kind of the same thing they were aiming for when they introduced Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystall Skull (2008), let Indy’s son take over the franchise. Problem for me with introducing John McClane’s son is that they didn’t make his character remotely memorable, they should have taken the opportunity to introduce to us a character that could maybe carry the franchise into future sequels, but Jack McClane simply fails to have any sort of charisma, which is something that film producers seem to be forgetting when making these movies:  you’re supposed to give us characters with some charisma, it’s the reason why we loved Willis in Die Hard in the first place, here was a likable guy, one of us. Not so with this new Jack McClane guy; sadly, we are introduced to a generic action hero, sans a personality.

Now in terms of action these films have evolved. When compared to the first Die Hard, these new ones have decided to go into unrealistic territory bordering on freaking fantasy. Remember the action in Live Free or Die Hard (2007)? This one goes the same route. At least in Die Hard they aimed to make things believable within reason, yeah we were still watching a movie, but come one, at least the first film aimed to make us believe it! On this one, CGI John McClane takes over whenever Willis can’t handle the stunts, which is all the time . But I will say this; the destruction was ample and epic.  I enjoyed the films chase sequence where McClane chases the bad guys on a jeep across the streets of Russia. Lots of destruction, lot’s of cars flying through the air, lots of explosions. It’s all in good fun but isn’t it funny how McClane wants’ to rescue his son yet in order to do so he drives his car over 50 civilian cars? This is what I find most ridiculous about the film! In order to rescue one guy, McClane destroys a couple million dollars worth of private property. I mean, he literally drives his jeep over a bunch of cars stuck in a traffic jam (with drivers inside of them) all while screaming “sorry!”  And this is supposed to be the good guy! It’s funny because McClane is always talking about “killing some bad guys” throughout the entire flick, yet he doesn’t act that heroic himself.  Even more hilarious is the fact that McClane isn’t even five minutes in Russia and he’s already stealing cars and destroying whole expressways. But what the thell,  in the name of total devastation in an action movie, well, of course I was willing to let it slide, I was having fun.

So yeah, the movie is fast paced and entertaining, if only it had invested more time in giving us the John McClane we’ve known and loved from previous films…I mean, how hard can it really be to give us that old Die Hard magic again? How hard can it be to write a script with memorable characters and a story with some weight to it? Instead we get John McClane making fun of his old age and all that, apparently it’s the thing to do when you turn into an aging action star, just as Arnold and Stallone. Sadly, though entertaining and filled with lot’s of vehicular destruction, this movie left me feeling like they should just let the franchise die with some honor. This new Die Hard is a shadow of it's former glory. This isn’t John McClane, this is just a washed up version of him; I truly hope the series has died hard.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5


eddie lydecker said...

Francisco, strickly speaking i dont think the audiences for these movies give a tuppenny damn about John McClane or so-called strong characterisations, they just want to see as many cars and buildings as possible destroyed in the time allocated, and in that regard this film still delivers, it is still fabulous entertainment of the highest possible quality and calibre.

Dan O. said...

Nice review Francisco. This is a slap on the face to any of the fans wishing for another good Die Hard film, and a punch to the nuts to anyone else dumb enough to pay money to see it in the theater. I’m sorry; I was just really ticked off by this one.

Franco Macabro said...

eddie lydecker: Personally, I thought it was a fun action film, but entertainment of the highest possible quality needs more then just fire works, it needs some meat to it, some believability, and actors who invest themselves in their characters, and this movie had none of that. It was flashy, and fun, but it was empty calories in my book.

I do disagree with you eddie, fans of the original Die Hard films (the first two anyway) are looking for that old Die Hard magic, that old McClane, the one who said things and meant them instead of this version of McClane, who seems to be reading his lines from the script with no investment.

Dan O: I was ticked off too, I mean I enjoyed the action and the effects, but the story line about the father bonding with the son felt so cliched, also the nuclear heist thing, it was the story line for The Expendables 2! I dont know, it just felt like a lazy, half assed, rushed sequel. .They didn't take their time to make it a memorable sequel, or a sequel that matters. This one felt like a cheap quicky.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Theres also a possibility that this film was geared more towards the Russian market than the American market, it`ll probably do superb business in Russia where the audiences are perhaps a tad less discerning.

Franco Macabro said...

jimmie t. murakami: No matter how good or bad a Die Hard film it is, this one is a money maker, I've read that worldwide it's already gone past the 117 million dollars, so it's already made it's budget back, though technically, it's underperformed in America.

It seems Willis has turned out to be the winner in The Battle of the Aging Action Stars! Arnold and Stallone both lost BIG time with their latest films, yet Willis is apparently the only one coming out on top with audience support.

This doesnt mean the film is good, it just means that Die Hard really does Die Hard in the memories and hearts of movie goers, people love those first few films! In the end, nostalgia wins the day. No matter how good or bad, people just go to see it.

I think this is what Arnold and Stallone should stick to as well, doing sequels of their most memorable films, this is what audiences like....nostalgia. The Expendables proves that, why did they flock to see The Expendables? Because it brought all those action stars from the 80's together on the same film. Yet, these same stars on their own in new films? It doesnt work. They need to really mine their old films, they need to start making another Conan...quick! Because thats what people want to see, they want to remember the good old days of action movies. The 80's!

But let's not forget, audiences also went in droves to see Spider Man 3 and Transformers 2, so what do they know?? He he..

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, the thing to note is that although Bruce Willis "won" in comparison to Arnie and Sly he had the advantage of A Good Day to Die Hard being a sequel to a long running franchise. I'm willing to bet if this didn't have Die Hard in the title (and from the sounds of it that might have been quite an easy fix) it would have done just as badly as The Last Stand or Bullet to the Head.

I'm holding off seeing this at the cinema because Fox cut it for the UK market to it could get a 12A rating (idiots). I'll probably catch it on DVD later in the year.

I know what you're saying about Bruce Willis looking quite glum in all his recent movies. I really miss that peppy, wiseass "Bruno" persona he had in his early movies.

Franco Macabro said...

Jack: That's exactly what I'm talking about, Willis was always this fast talking dude with an attitude (See Hudson Hawk to see what I mean!) but now his performances feel like he switched his attitude and wise ass comments right off...

Agree, had this movie been called Russian Under Siege, it wouldn't have made that much money. I think this is the only way these guys will stay on top, by exploiting their old movies nostalgia value.

Unknown said...

Excellent review! This sounds like a depressing movie in the sense that it is a pale imitation of the films in the series that came before. The warning bells sounded with the last film, which was pretty generic in its own right but this own sounds downright awful. What a bummer!

Franco Macabro said...

It still has some fun action, but in my opinion, none of the heart. It's still watchable though, not a complete waste, but in comparison, like you said: a pale imitation.

Dard SMS said...

All the actors have justified their roles completely. The script was not up to the mark but the action, stunts and the explosions were really 'dhaansoo'. The best were, the car chase sequence (longest I have ever seen) and the ramming of the helicopter into the building by Irina (Yuliya Snigir). There were some humorous portions as well which showed McClane's (Willis's) cool dude style. Overall, the movie was a nice entertainer and the action sequences keep you glued to your seats.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree, it's a fun ride which I mentioned on the review, it just doesnt feel like Die Hard, this John McClane is a light version of the one we got in the first two films. The action is solid, but most of it is CGI. John McClane isn't vulnerable or suffering, he's indestructible, something they've forgotten how to portray in these newer films, and something that humanized the character more. This John McClane feels fake in that sense, when compared to the first films.

Thanks for commenting!


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