Dead on arrival.
I think I have reached the evolutionary point in my movie reviewing career (yes I am starting to call it a career. Suck it if you can’t let me enjoy a little fantasy) where I will no longer allow myself to excuse a crap movie just because I am a fan of the star of the film. I am a Bruce Willis fan. Pulp Fiction, the Sixth Sense, the Fifth Element (what’s with him and number movies?), and the original Die Hard are among my favorite films and to date have carried enough credibility to forgive the occasional Hudson Hawk or Cop Out. Recent movies such as Moonrise Kingdom, Surrogates, and Looper continue to show his acting ability and general movie appeal.
However, as I watch more and more movies I have come to realize that each film is in and of itself a discrete particle that needs to be examined in isolation like lab rats to determine which one had the negative reaction to the massive overdose of hemorrhoid cream and which is just part of the control group. Taken as such A Good Day to Die Hard is the most disease ridden lab animal in the cruelest testing facility in history.
To beat another analogy into this review if a movie franchise could be likened to an aircraft either soaring sedately through the stratosphere or crashing and burning horrible than the maneuver that the Die Hard franchise has been executing for the last four films would best be called a death spiral. Each film in turn gets bigger, more elaborate, and stupider with more explosions and ridiculous plots. The first film was arguably one of the top ten best action films of all time with Bruce Willis playing John McClane, an ordinary cop fighting against a villain bent on robbing millions of dollars and destroying a building in LA. Die Hard 2: Die Harder decided the only way to make a better movie would be to have a bigger set and more evil plot so McClane is in a giant airport trying to stop some mercenaries from releasing a Latin American dictator. In Die Hard With a Vengeance the villain opts to blow up parts of New York as part of some kind of nefarious plot to destroy the US economy (hey, I earn money in the US! I should care about that!). Then, like a drug addict needing more and more smack we are given Live Free or Die Hard and the ultimate evil plot: some kind of computer virus that will disrupt all power, traffic, computers, and possibly even your own home computer (OMG save us!)
Which leads us to the latest installment where the bad guys plan to do…something? Honestly I’m not really clear on what the ultimate plan really was. There was something about killing the rival of some Russian political guy, and later on it turned out to be something about weapons grade uranium but I’m not sure what the deal was. I guess it was implied that they planned to build WMD’s but it’s not really clear (perhaps they left the nuke option out there in case they need an even bigger threat for Die Hard 6. This does not bode well for Die Hard 7. Once they have done nukes what is left? Destruction of the entire world? Perhaps by killing all the whales (which of you got that reference?)).
The vagueness of the dastardly plan is not what is bugging me about this film. In fact, I kind of liked it if only because it felt a little ramped back from the lameness in three of the four previous plots. No, what bugged me was the fact that the director really didn’t want to make a John McClane movie. You see, one of the greatest things about McClane is the fact that he is an ordinary guy prevailing in the face of horrific odds. In the first film every fight is a struggle and he has to use every resource he can to save his wife and her coworkers. He turns his feet into hamburger by running barefoot through broken glass, gets shot, beat up, blown up, and falls off the building. He starts off with his service gun and just improving his armament is a struggle. However as the series progresses he looks less like the lovable punching bag we saw in the first one and more like a T-800, except that even the Terminator could get crushed in a hydraulic press and John McClane is pretty much immune to everything including what should be radioactive water (at least he doesn’t have to worry about hair loss).
This trend is taken to the next level in A Good Day by making John McClane (and his son. More on that later) so indestructible that the combined military forces of the planet couldn’t take him out. This is why Superman sucks and Batman rules. There is no real struggle or bravery for a guy who is pretty much immune to everything on this planet except Krytonite (check out my article on how stupid the idea of Kryptonite on Earth really is) so we can’t care about his fight against 99.99999% of the villains out there. Meanwhile, Batman (comic book Batman, not movie Batman. Batman image courtesy of the Batman T Shirt category) is in constant danger from even the lowliest criminal. All it takes is for one punk to get lucky with a gun and it is all over. Thus is Batman the far superior hero (for other reasons too, but I don’t want to go too far off topic). So when you make it pretty apparent that John McClane (and his son) are never going to really have anything bad happen to them you drain away all the tension in the film and the biggest helicopter explosions, car wrecks, and flying stunts in the universe will not motivate the audience to really give a damn. Guns literally fall out of every cabinet and trunk they open, bad guys apparently trained at the Helen Keller School of Marksmenship and are all equipped with powerful bullet magnets, and injuries heal with nigh miraculous speed.
Sigh. 980 words in and I haven’t even started the story recap. I’m going to be pretty generous with the spoilers in a minute but honestly if you are going to this film to be astounded by the story why don’t you just slam you head in your refrigerator door for 98 minutes? (Incidentally, this film had a $92,000,000 budget and hired the guy who wrote the Wolverine movie. Are a million monkey banging on a million typewriters really that hard to find?) John McClane (Bruce Willis but if you didn’t know that what cave have you been living in?) has a grown son and daughter. Like most families the son (Jai Courtney-Jack Reacher, Sparticus: War of the Damned, Boys Grammer) is a huge disappointment and has been arrested in Russia for something(?). John flies to Russia to do something (really, what has that about? Is John McClane some kind of expert on Russian law? Was he going to go in guns blazing and bust his son out of the gulag? Hypnotize the judge with the spot of light reflected off his head? What?). Meanwhile Russian billionaire Komorov (Sebastion Koch I think. I might have these two guys reversed. If you see the movie you see why-Unknown, the Lives of Others, Suspension of Disbelief (ironic)) is in the same prison waiting for trial for something (?). He is the main rival of bigwig Anton (Roman Luknar-the Garden, Panelak, Lidice) who wants him killed because he has some file that will destroy him (again, very vague deals. Everyone kept banging on about this file and then later it meant nothing).
Here come the spoilers. I hope this doesn’t drain your excitement to the point you fall into a narcoleptic coma. Anton sends a hit team to kill Komorov in the middle of the courtroom where he and Jack McClane are sitting in glass boxes. Turns out Jack works for the CIA and is there to rescue Komorov. They escape in a truck and nearly run down John, who was on his way to the courthouse. Then we get the stupidest chase scene ever (I’m not kidding. It made the escape scene from 2012 look like Bullitt.) with McClane literally driving over other cars. They escape from the main henchman (Radivoje Bukvic-Taken, Three Worlds, Armed Hands). Kamorov has to pick up his daughter and the file before leaving the country.
You know, twists in a movie plot are like nuclear power; they can be used for both good and evil. In some films they greatly enhance the story and keep you really engaged, but in this one it seemed like they were throwing twists in whenever the writer got bored, which was like every 10 minutes. The daughter betrays the father and gets him captured. She then betrays the main evil dude and was secretly in league with her father all along, who instead of trying to atone for his sins and bring a bad man to justice had some secret plot to do something(?) with weapons grade uranium. The story thread ends up looking like the biggest string of Xmas lights all piled up in a big incoherent mess.
So stuff gets blown up. John and Jack kill about a million guys with each spray of their guns. The end.
The stars. I will give one for Bruce Willis doing his thing, but honestly since that is what I expected it’s like awarding a gold star to the best oxygen processor in 2nd grade. One star nevertheless. There was some attempt at character development between John and his son Jack, so I will award a star in the A for Effort category. One star. If you like guns, explosions, and pointless plot twists than you have found your Nirvana. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes. The plot could be considered a Crime Against Fiction. Two black holes. I think I have found a way to accurately describe the action in this film and that is it looked like Bruce and his buddy were playing a video game. Even they looked bored and nothing seemed a challenge (easy mode video game). Two black holes. The story was needlessly labyrinthine and hard to follow. If they had given me a reason to care I might not have resented the work it took to keep track of but they didn’t. One black hole. At no point did this film give me a real reason to give care other than it’s John McClane and my nostalgia should carry me through. One black hole. A chase scene that literally hurt my brain. One black hole. I’d say the explosions in this film rate 8/10 Micheal Beys. One black hole. I am going to hit them for drinking the “We must make things bigger in each film or else!” punch. One black hole. Crowbarring in a son and then have John show all the paternal instinct of Cronus (there’s a test of your education). Is there any father in the world who is OK with sending his son into a fight against trained mercenaries and his plan literally is to go in guns blazing? One black hole. Finally one more for being so wrapped up in the name Die Hard that they created one of the stupidest movie titles ever. One black hole. Total: eleven black holes.
A final total of eight black holes. It has been a while since I rained unholy hell on a film like this, but I feel justified doing it here. Die Hard was a masterpiece that should have been left to enjoy it’s success in the sun with a pina colada and a big umbrella. Instead they keep trotting it out of retirement to help move the furniture around and then then everyone acts surprised when it defecates on the carpet and dies. Who is to blame for this trend of exhuming corpses and using their bodies in puppet shows you ask? I am going to blame you, the audience. If you would only stop seeing this garbage then Hollywood would have no choice but to actually make something original and creative. Each Die Hard movie has made more money than the previous one, so why should Hollywood stop? Ugh. Should you see it? If you are a fan of John McClane or just want to kill 98 minutes than sure. If you are easily distracted by explosions and bright objects you will not feel any remorse. Date movie? Hell no. This film is an anti-date movie. Bathroom break? Since this film really only serves at an action delivery system (like the worlds stupidest t-shirt gun) then any of the non action scenes could be missed with ease. You might even enjoy the film more if you made up your own plot to connect the action sequences. If I had to be specific I’d say the scene where John starts off whining about how the whole opperation is blown before they head off to Chernobyl.
Thanks for reading. More to see soon. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com. Thanks and I will talk to you soon.