Friday, February 22, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard - 2013

"A Good Day to Die Hard" - 2013
Dir. by John Moore - 1 hr. 37 min.

Official Trailer #2

by Clayton Hollifield

There are good and bad things about the fifth installment of the "Die Hard" franchise.  The bad vastly outweigh the good, although the good probably take up more screen time.  My best analogy is that "A Good Day to Die Hard" is a decent house built on a shaky, rotting foundation.  If you work at it, you can probably push the bad to the back of your head and just enjoy the noise and fury in front of you.  I couldn't quite get to that point of living in the moment while watching "DH5," though.

John McClane's (Bruce Willis) son gets in trouble in Moscow, and so John Sr. heads there to help him out.  And things blow up and get destroyed.  Sound like a light plot?  Good, then I got it right.

Praise first: "A Good Day to Die Hard" is hardcore pornography for people who want to see cars get wrecked and things getting blown up.  The initial "car" chase scene in Moscow is pretty awesome, in terms of the sheer amount of destruction presented.  And this is a super-loud film, as well.  That might seem like a weird compliment, but the audience is going to get battered visually and audibly all the way through, and the consistency is at least consistent.  The action material is kind of fun to watch (if exhausting, and if given a pretty slim reason for existing), and isn't amateurish in the least.

Unfortunately, that's about all DH5 has going for it.  The story, such as it is, is one of a Baby Boomer wondering why his adult child hates him.  And then John McClane comes to his senses, understands that his priorities have been out of whack, and amends must be made.  It's a plot that already feels exhausted, partially because DH5 offers no new insights or twists on the scenario.  But also, it's an explicit admission of irrelevance.  People might be better off understanding that there is a time in a man's life where he needs to try to make his mark on the world, and the pursuit of excellence includes an admission fee for those who will be a part of that man's life.  But as long as a man actually is in the act of excelling, he rarely has a change of heart.  It's when he starts to slow down and become irrelevant that all of a sudden family becomes the most important thing in his life.  If that sounds harsh, understand that this is the film that you are being sold here.  Watch John McClane become irrelevant, and try to make his son love him again, with a backdrop of gunfire and helicopters and explosions.

I'm not sure if this plot is tired and awful and mealy-mouthed due to repetition, or if it just feels like I've seen this a million times too many already.  I hate the idea that characters who aimed big and tried to make a difference earlier in their lives are curling up into a ball and being repentant about their earlier actions.  It invalidates all the previous films in a franchise, and neuters the franchise moving forward.  So, again, understand that "A Good Day to Die Hard," as filmed, is essentially Bruce Willis squatting on John McClane's legacy, and coating it thoroughly in a hot, steaming mess.

That's pretty much the entire story.  There's a bad guy who schemes and pulls a bit of a Keiser Soze on everybody, and we get a final, intergenerational tag-team showdown between the McClanes and the baddie (The Most Interesting Man in the World) and his daughter (Black Widow).  And it happens at Chernobyl.  The action is non-stop and all-inclusive, and the film isn't too long, but the second you stop and try to think about what's holding up what you're seeing, it all goes to hell.  Russia (and Moscow) aren't made much of (other than seeing exotic cars wrecked, everything is predictably drab and captured with standard-issue Seizure-Cam technology), even Chernobyl isn't that big of a deal, which is unfortunate.  And I also spent the entire film thinking that McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) looked like what would happen if you pasted Scarlett Johansson's face onto an UnderArmor model, which was a little distracting.

I was curious to see DH5 because I liked the fourth film way more than I expected to.  But it had McClane struggling (but at least trying) to come to terms with modern technology and what it meant.  It represented an uneasy step into modernity.  But DH5 is a step into a retirement home.  If there's a sixth installment, and it doesn't center around John McClane's unexpected competitiveness at bocce ball, there's going to have to be a lot of work done to rehabilitate the character and the franchise.  Or they can just choose to ignore that "A Good Day to Die Hard" ever happened, which is probably the best available option.

1.5 / 5 - Theatre

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