Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Dir: John Moore
Cert 12A / Running time 98 mins

Die Hard is from the canon of franchises that are sacred and revered. Alongside Terminator, The Matrix, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, just like all of those franchises, it too, can be fucked up. I'd got a sense for the reviews of A Good Day to Die Hard - they weren't great - but as I mentioned, its Die Hard. Sacred and revered. I went into the movie having parked all those comments and reviews and was prepared to let John McClane fire me up... It didn't happen. And it set about not happening pretty quickly.

Feeling like a Mission: Impossible movie from the opening credits, I watched just how McClane junior (played by Jai Courtney) winds up getting into the spot of bother which compels McClane senior (Bruce Willis) to hop on the first Aeroflot to Russia.

From there the movie is too eager to dive into the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang of things. Theres no build up before it all kicks off. I felt a kind of awkwardness as McClane casually steals a truck to pursue the heavies chasing his son. Then again as he "commandeers" another vehicle to continue the pursuit (are we really supposed to cheer along McClane when he smacks the mouth of a civilian whose car he just landed on, then steals?!). To give credit to director John Moore, the street chase does have certain moments and shots of real energy and impact. But I couldn't help thinking that McClane likely killed more innocent civilians in this Moscow car chase than terrorists in all of the Die Hard movies combined.

And this is part of the problem with A Good Day to Die Hard; its reckless. Not in a good risk taking way but in a lazy way. Examples? McClane emerges from otherwise traumatic accidents with no real physical or emotional consequences. Cars and weapons are to be found whenever they're needed - not earned through ingenuity or wit. "I always have a machine gun LOL". McClane senior wanders from one situation to the next looking worryingly like a bewildered old man, tagging along at times. The dialogue does little to crank up the tension or define anything interesting  about anyone. I really missed the McClane that uses an office chair, monitor and C4 to take out a floor of terrorists. The inconsolable McClane that watched a plane full of passengers perish despite his best efforts. The McClane that was made to jump through hoops to find the bomb in the New York school.

Dude, we totally fucked up Russia!
Another thing the film suffers from is not having a clear villain. It needed (as more and more action films are begging for) a villain thats engaging, darkly humorous, wicked and a credible threat to the hero. When the "twist" came (those of you who have seen the film will know what I'm talking about), I felt a little robbed and underwhelmed. So much so that for me the most effective surprise was offloaded in the first few minutes when the BBC's Sophie Raworth turned up to deliver some plot points.

But its not all negative. Jai Courtney was fairly decent as Jack McClane. It was a nice notion to see more of the McClane / Gennaro clan (surely we can work Holly into the next one?!). Bruce Willis shows no signs of slowing down (and why should he?) and with talk of a sixth Die Hard, I'm looking forward to see him continue to feature in more action movies.

" got anyone in mind for the sixth one? Bruce?"
So ultimately, A Good Day to Die Hard wasn't just disappointing, it was frustrating. I was thinking of what it needed - not what it had. Den of Geek compiled a list of things they reckon the franchise needs to get back on track here. I agree with most of them.

John Moore's recent Empire interview had a lot of aggressive machismo, sadly this manifested itself in the film when it needed needed more than that. If its going to call itself a Die Hard movie, then it has to meet the standard. The standard it meets instead is that of too many mainstream action movies today, loud and obnoxious with little regard for an audience that expects better.

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