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.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Don't close the book, just write a new chapter: Part 2

In the spirit of the last article, we'd be remiss not to offer you an insight to cinema - Norn Irish style. What follows are mere glimpses of a dream, one we can allow ourselves to ponder on and think "what if?" What if it was Belfast, not Hollywoodland that pulled the strings...

Clint acknowledges the contentious fleg issue.

Imagine...Bruce delivering knuckle sandwiches up and down the Lagan.

Tom shows us what its like to be the most patriotic man in East Belfast.

All those years wondering what was under that suit at UTV? Now you know.

Robbins' and Freeman's take on how two Belfast men survive one of the cities most famous streets. 

Theres a storm coming. Will Marty and Peter help George and Marky-Mark to save the day?
See, Belfast would've had some major hits with these - who wouldn't want to see Enter The Lagan?!

Don't close the book, just write a new chapter: Part 1

I watched Shadow Dancer a short while ago. This is the story of an IRA informant and her MI5 handler, a tale set in Belfast in the 1990's. The main thing I felt after watching it was disappointment - this wasn't a reflection on the quality of the film (it was OK), nor was it because not once did it feature a ninja accompanied by his dog - but because of how miserable a picture it painted of Belfast.

Now, for those of you who are reading this who happen to live in Belfast, I don't have to tell you how unremarkable it was in the 1990's. Over the last decade or so the landscape has changed immensely - from both a commerce and a business perspective, again, both literally and figuratively. So admittedly, if we were to look back at pictures of Belfast from about twenty years ago, things were kinda drab. But not as drab as it was portrayed in Shadow Dancer. The locations in the movie were relentlessly grim and sparse when it came to Northern Ireland - it bugged me to the point where I refused to believe it ever looked that way. So I checked it out on and sure enough, it wasn't actually filmed in Northern Ireland.

Of course, this is fine - using one location to double for another is pretty standard - but my point is that one of the main things people will be left with after having watched the movie will be to think how grim Northern Ireland is - yet again. You can check out just how many movies have used Northern Ireland's violent history as a backdrop here.

I think Northern Ireland needs a change. I know this place has had a tragic history. There are stories that needed to be told and audiences that needed to be reached. But, lets see what else we can do.

We have the talent and the enthusiasm. You need to look no further than the Film Devour Festival to see that. NI Screen and Invest NI are actively supporting local production companies (and if you fancy yourself as the  next Terry George or Seamus McGarvey, check out some funding direction here).

This is just the tip of the iceberg - my point is, Northern Ireland is very capable of making something that people won't see coming. Instead of The Devil's Own, Resurrection Man, Fifty Dead Men Walking and Hunger - lets make our own Grabbers, lets have our own version of The Guard, lets see our own Commitments! Maybe this is the time when things just might change - Ridley Scott (Sir / Lord / Der F├╝hrer himself) will be producing 6 feature films based in Northern Ireland. Don't ask how this divine gift was bestowed upon us, just go with it. The movies will be "focused primarily on horror, thriller and science fiction" and "potentially provides an outlet for developing Northern Ireland creative talent".

The timing is right and theres a sense of a shift of aspirations here. There's finally a real chance for us to throw off that old cloak and put on a hip leather biker jacket that we found for a fiver in Rusty Zip. If you have the skill, the passion or even just the interest - Norn Iron needs you, right now. Write that script you thought was too far fetched, sketch out that monster design you've been thinking of, take a camera and go rip off Predator in Ormeau Park - get invovled!

We cannot WAIT to see what everyone comes up with.