A Good Day to Die Hard

After the disappointment that was Live Free or Die Hard, you can imagine that I had some reservations about yet another Die Hard sequel.  Then I found out it was going to be R-Rated, so some of my faith was restored.  But then the reviews started coming in for this thing, and it wasn’t looking too good for McClane and co.  But fuck it, I already bought the tickets and even a bad Die Hard movie is gonna be better than the sappy shit most husbands/boyfriends get dragged to on Valentine’s Day. It was.

But yeah, it wasn’t very good.  The funny thing is, I actually re-watched the uncut version of Live Free or Die Hard (which is still only available on DVD, what the fuck Fox!?), and I actually enjoyed it much more than I remembered.  And then after seeing part 5, it seemed like an even better movie.  As over the top as part 4 got (McClane rides an F-14 fighter jet and takes out a helicopter by ramping a police car into it...that kind of over the top), it wins out over part 5 in 2 crucial ways.

1. I can tell what is going on during the action scenes in part 4. 

A Good Day to Die Hard has some of the worst camera work I have seen in a modern movie.  In every single action sequence there is no cut ever lasts more than a couple of seconds (other than a couple of CG heavy slow motion shots) and that doesn’t feature excessive and unnecessary zooming and shaking. 

I get it, the car chase is intense, but it’s intense because they’re driving a huge fucking armored vehicle down a busy Moscow street destroying shit, not because you’re ultra fast zooming into the side of the drivers face while shaking the camera around like the earth’s crust is separating then quickly cutting to some indiscernible close up of vehicles smashing together. 

Not only that, but the camera often intentionally goes out of focus or has annoying JJ Abrams style lens flairs all over the place.  Combined with an excessively grainy look and some terrible hand held camera work this is probably the most ugly looking $100 million dollar movie in recent memory.  People bitch about Michael Bay’s movies and the Bourne Sequels for their piss poor editing, cinematography and complete lack of visual geography but this takes the cake. 

2. Part 5 is not a Die Hard movie.

Just hear me out on this one.  If this movie did not feature Bruce Willis as the John McClane character I challenge anyone to come up with any other trademark elements of Die Hard in this movie.  This could literally be any modern generic action film. 

In the Die Hard films we are always presented with the terrorists enacting their plan, causing some serious shit, and then McClane ends up, quite unintentionally, in the middle of the shit and has to constantly improvise to take the terrorists down. 

The movies are always over two hours, and always feature some unexpected twist in the terrorist plan that is not immediately apparent.  McClane is just a normal guy put into extra ordinary situations, and as such he usually gets the living shit kicked out of him in increasingly dangerous situations.  He’s far from invincible, but he can’t stand to lose because he’s driven to save the innocent, particularly his family, and is crushed when he fails to do so.  McClane constantly swears and gets pissed off while he’s fighting the villains ("Motherfucker" being the most common phrase uttered while shooting and fighting).  The violence is bloody and brutal.  When he’s not getting shot at or beating the shit out of someone, he’s is a wise ass that has problems with authority figures, but is always right while they end up being bungling, ignorant bureaucrats.  He always has one person who listens to him though, and they end up working together, either directly or indirectly, to stop the terrorists.

Part 4 lost it a bit and made McClane a bit too invincible with its WAY over the top action scenes, and the gore (even in the uncut version) is lacking, but all of the other elements are there. 

Part 5 contains none of these things.  McClane is a smug, invincible superman.  He gets banged up a bit, but you won’t see anything like his glass slashed up feet or cable lacerated torso here.  You won’t see ultra bloody squibs exploding with every gun blast, and you certainly won’t see anyone get sliced in half by a falling cable. Instead you’ll see McClane leap fearlessly out of windows, from helicopters and vehicles and sustain fewer injuries at 60 years of age than his younger CIA trained son while bloodlessly (despite the R rating) slaughtering legions of bad guys who apparently all skipped target practice. 

You don’t know who the actual villain is in the film and what their plan is until just before the final set piece, and the terrorists never actually accomplish anything other than to try and kill McClane and his son throughout the movie which is only a scant 90 minutes long.  McClane doesn’t really ever get terribly pissed off, you never see him really lose his cool or shouting “motherfucker” whilst serving up some hot lead or knuckle sandwhiches.

Remember in part 2 when he failed to stop the plane from crashing halfway through and was in mental anguish? Here he doesn’t seem to mind what would likely amount to hundreds of deaths in collateral damage during showdowns in busy Moscow streets.  But they’re just Russians, so I guess that’s OK because Russians aren’t real people right? 

Oh also, McClane is only capable of bonding with his son when he is put into situations of extreme peril or is brutally injured, basically making fun of him and telling him to man up when he has a piece of ri-bar jammed into his abdomen.  But doesn't that pretty much contradict McClane's motivations in the earlier films?

None of these elements would really be that big of a deal if this was some other generic action film, truth be told they likely already are elements in some other generic action film, but this is Die Hard, so there needs to be some fucking quality control with the screenplay here. Don't get me wrong, I'm OK with a sequel doing something different to break the "formula", but not if what they do instead is inferior.

Sorry, but no matter how many cars you smash, how big a gun McClane shoots, and how fucking incessantly loud this movie is, it is missing pretty much all of the things that elevate Die Hard above other action films. 

And enough with the “Yippie-Kay-Yay Motherfucker” already.  It only EVER made sense in the first movie, after that it was just stupid tacked on marketing slogan no real human being would ever say.  People don’t usually have “catch phrases”, at least not the ones I’ve met.

The guy who directed this is John Moore.  His stunning filmography pretty much tells you all you need to know: Max Payne, The Omen (remake), and Behind Enemy Lines.  I’ll admit this was better than all of those, but it wouldn’t take much.  At least McClane doesn’t fall backward in ultra slow motion shooting a shotgun at the ceiling for no apparent reason in this one…But what saddens me is that you know Willis saw the script before they went into production, and that is telling me that the guy just doesn’t fucking care anymore.  This movie was nothing but a big fat pay cheque.

OK, it probably isn't as bad as I'm making out here. I did still have a good time at the movies, I didn't hate it by any stretch, but the first three Die Hard movies are classics, and this is pretty much forgettable. Save your money, Bruce has enough already, watch it on video.