Tuesday 21 January 2014
A Good Day to Die Hard
I love Die Hard. I love everything about it, from sets to music. I even love its sequels, although I've seen Die Harder far fewer times than Vengeance (I was a bit obsessed with that one for a while). I've done my very best to like Die Hard 4, even though it is, by all accounts, rather terrible. But Die Hard 5... I'll give it the action sequences. But that's all.
I mean, literally all. There's nothing to this movie save three big action scenes.
Since number four featured McClane's daughter, it's only right the fifth installment in this tired franchise should involved John's son, John. In a nod to its predecessor, Die Hard 5 includes a cameo for Lucy McClane which answers the question no one asked, "How's John's relationship with his daughter?"
It's good. His relationship with his son, not so much.
John Jr, otherwise known as Jack, has been arrested for murder. Worse still, he's in Moscow. So the elder John jumps a plane to Russia hoping to, I don't know, rescue his boy or something. What he doesn't know is that Jack's deep undercover and about to close a three-year op that involves liberating a political prisoner. McClane's "meddling" prevents Jack from making his extraction, and father, son, and hanger-on are all three of them trapped in Moscow.
The rest of the movie is less interesting but a great deal more convoluted than the beginning and involves a rather insulting re-telling of the Chernobyl disaster. At the heart of this mess lies a transparent MacGuffin and an alarming amount of back-stabbing. At least Live Free made an effort to stay on point with its preposterous heist, but A Good Day is convinced its double-cross will do Die Harder justice.
It doesn't. Or, there's simply not enough story to warrant ninety minutes of the Johns McClane running around blowing stuff up. So little happens in this film that I have a hard time believing I didn't miss something:
John McClane arrives in Moscow to save his son. Huge car chase ensues.
John, Jack, and Yuri go a to hotel to collect a key and Yuri's daughter. Action fight scene.
John and Jack go to Chernobyl to find Yuri. Explosions. Lots of them.
That's it. That's the whole movie. Don't get me wrong, the action scenes are amazing. The car chase in particular is astounding, but a movie needs some reason for its violence. And not even that much, Rambo 4--easily among the most violent action movies in recent years--was thin on story, but there was just enough of it to contextualize the violence on screen. Or take Taken. Guy's daughter is kidnapped, guy goes after her, punching and shooting his way to the grand finale.
A Good Day's problem is that what little story exists is too complex. It's overshadowed by the action. A great action movie is straightforward, either in terms of story or location. Die Hard the first was about thieves masquerading as terrorists, but all the action took place in one place. Die Hard 5 is about a guy who may or may not have orchestrated his own breakout and kidnapping and another guy who's trying to save the first guy, and a third guy who gets caught up in all this, and it takes place all over Moscow and then Chernobyl (which is in Ukrain, not Russia, and a long way from Moscow).
And there isn't even any down time. It's just one action sequence after another. Usually, downtime is reserved for story development, but because nothing else happens in the script, the action scenes are prolonged, drawn-out affairs.
Much like this review. Suffice it to say, A Good Day to Die Hard is bad. The action's spectacular but serves more as a test or demo reel for the stunt department. Bruce Willis looks good, though. So there's that.