A bad day for Die Hard…
Director: John Moore; Writer: Skip Woods; Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sebastian Koch; Running time: 98 minutes; Certification: 12A
I’d to begin by saying I enjoyed the hell out of Die Hard 4 (or Die Hard 4.0, or Live Free or Die Hard.) Of course it doesn’t hold a candle to the magnificent original or its impressive sequel (Die Harder), but it was still loads of fun, and I possibly even prefer it to Die Hard 3 (or Die Hard With A Vengeance – can’t fault the effort put into these titles can you?). So, I was cautiously looking forward to the fifth entry in the series which sees Bruce Willis’ John McClane head to Russia to team up with his son Jack and blow a bunch of stuff up. Suffice it to say, A Good Day To Die Hard is a very bad day for Die Hard. Perhaps that’s what it should be renamed.
The immediate problem is that John McClane feels like a secondary character. One gets the impression that this might be his last outing as the world’s unluckiest cop as the film just feels like a set up for future Die Hards (Die Hard: Try Harder, perhaps?), where Jai Courtney’s Jack McClane will probably carry the torch. And this is probably the reason Bruce Willis looks so unbelievably bored throughout. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor who’s less interested in being in a film. He’s just kind of there, popping in every so often with wise cracks and wry smiles and what looks like purposeful overacting because he just doesn’t care. One of the running gags is McClane shouting the line: “I’m on vacation!”, which I assume is supposed to make the audience titter at his wit, but makes positively zero sense as the very reason he went to Russia in the first place was to find his son, not for a vacation, and at every turn it is he who decides to keep chasing the bad guys instead of going home.
Seriously. There’s a scene when Jack effectively gives up and suggests catching a plane home, but it is John who talks him into jumping back into the fight even though he has no logical reason to be involved. Then sure enough, once they’re back to shooting bad guys again he cracks out the line: “I’m on vacation!”. Hardy har. All of this is down to Skip Woods’ lazy, poor excuse for a script. Littered with lackluster dialogue, lazy plot structure and silly set pieces, I honestly don’t understand how such a poor piece of work got the greenlight. There’s even a moment when a character whips out a “radiation neutralizer” and makes a room that’s been baking in radiation for over thirty years safe to breathe in a matter of seconds. Yeah, that.
Director John Moore has succeeded in little more than making a strong entry for the most lens flares possibly in a single shot, and insulting fans of the original by making us not care about one of the greatest characters in action movie history. A Good Day To Die Hard demotes John McClane from tough-as-nails but human cop to some kind of super soldier. He swings around in trucks that are hanging off the back of helicopters as they smash into brick walls, repeatedly jumps off the top of tall buildings, and smashes through and lands on glass multiple times as if it were candy floss. No bloody feet this time.
I know the franchise has never been steeped in realism, but it’s getting ridiculous. And when did John McClane lose all compassion for civilian life? He used to be a man who courageously put his own life at risk for the safety of others; now he’ll gladly murder anyone who gets in the way of his truck. There’s a scene where – through no actual necessity on his part – he joins in with a massive car chase through central Moscow, during the course of which he blows up, smashes into and drives over bypassing vehicles as if they were daisies. Basically, he acts like a big toddler smashing through some other kid’s sand castle.
The film has been whittled down to a measly 12A to appease the younger audience. I know as well as anyone that the certificate doesn’t necessarily dictate how good a film is, and in most cases it’s quite the contrary. But come on. It’s freakin’ Die Hard. Since when is it a kid’s film? It shouldn’t be getting made for them, it should be getting made for fans of the original. The worst result of this ‘softening’ comes when instead of saying the line “Yippi ki-yay motherfucker”, as John McClane has always said, he says: “Yippi ki-yay mother-“. What’s the point in evoking the line without saying it? Either go for it or don’t, but don’t just wimp out half way through. I’m reminded of Louis C.K.’s joke about how TV presenters always use the phrase the “n” word, which is actually just as bad as saying the word because it puts it in the viewers head anyway. Well the same is true of that line. Everyone knows he swears, so saying part of it automatically puts the words in everyone’s head anyway. But what makes even less sense is that they do say “fuck” once in the film (because apparently hearing the word once is okay for kids, but any more and their heads will explode, or something), which begs the question: why didn’t they use their one and only use of the word for the “yippi ki-ya” line? WHY?
I always try to find at least one thing to praise in a film, but it was tough in this. I guess Bruce Willis is still enjoyable to watch, despite his aforementioned overacting and lack of wanting to be there. There’s also a short scene towards the end between John and Jack where they take a moment to exchange their feelings towards one another, which was kind of nice. It’s still quite lazily written, but it at least has some genuine intent, and it’s the only time you actually care about either of them. Otherwise this is just a boring, plodding, stupid and completely insulting addition to the franchise. There’s action that doesn’t excite, a plot that doesn’t intrigue, and dialogue that makes you want to shoot yourself. There will no doubt be more to come, but this is looking like a pretty good place to for the franchise to die. Hard. (Sorry, I know that joke has been way overused, I just couldn’t resist).
I’ll leave you with a little anecdote. There was a group of kids, I’d guess around 9 or 10, sitting in the row behind me who chatted through the entire movie. They discussed everything from chocolate icing to what they were having for dinner to their favourite weapons in Black Ops 2 (why their parents allow them to play 18-rated shooters I’ll never know), which at first was a real annoyance, before I gradually realised that their conversation was actually far more interesting than what was happening on-screen. When the film finally finished and I stood up to leave, I hadn’t realised just how many kids there were in the screening, all of whom looked like they’d had a thoroughly romping time. That’s when I suddenly realised, in a light bulb above the head kind of way, the depressing truth: this is the audience the film was made for, not me. And you know what? They can have it.