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A Good Day to Die Hard
In the 1980s the political climate started to become one that it once was. The Cold War was becoming fiercer than ever with the election of- one time Hollywood actor- Ronald Reagan. His politics included heavy tax cuts and heavy spending on military to keep up the arms race. The attitude across the nation was that The United States is unstoppable and no one could beat them. Not since the 50s and 60s had the Cold War been so fierce. As always many of the films and books began to reflect the era. Some were satirical in its approach while other completely embraced the new attitude of America, one that was heavy in politics and fitness. In this era the modern day action hero was born. The action hero became an unstoppable force of nature with amazingly well fit bodies. “Commando,” “Terminator,” and the later “Rambo” films completely encompassed this. These characters would shoot and fight their way to the ending credits killing endless amounts of people with little to no injuries. Action films continued to be this way until one film came onto the big screen, a film with a rather unknown actor at the time. The film was “Die Hard” (1989) and the star was Bruce Willis.
The picture involved an off-duty cop named John McClane waging a one man war against the terrorists that captured Nakatomi Plaza, where McClane’s wife was employed. What set this apart from other films was Bruce portrayed “the everyman.” John McClane was just a regular guy caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was reluctant; he didn’t want to be the hero and whose life was always near the edge of death. He got beaten; he bled and was limping badly at the end. The film was by far the most realistic action film in that decade and everything in that film could happen. The film was a huge hit and was both financially and critically successful.
Two more sequels followed in the 90s, “Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1992) and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” (1995). Each film kept the quality in the series where other action series faltered. Even after “Live Free or Die Hard” in 2007 with the controversial PG-13 rating the series still had an unbroken string of quality films. However “Live Free” saw the series going in a more unrealistic direction with its infamous F-35 scene.
Now we arrive at the 5th Die Hard film - “A Good Day to Die Hard” (2013) - and even with the understanding that fans were getting their R rating back, it was clear this film was doom to fail. Fans worst fears were realized on February 14th. This was by far the worst entry in the series, not even close to a level of achievement nor quality.
In this film, John McClane travels to Russia to help his son – Jack McClane- out of jail, only to learn that Jack is a CIA operative who is tasked with stopping a nuclear heist. Jack and John haven’t spoken in years and now unwillingly have to work together in order to track down the man who has evidence against Viktor Chagarin, a high-ranking but corrupt Russian official.
The story’s plot is useless in this film. The filmmakers and screenwriters clearly illuminate that they didn’t consider writing a story and just used the “Die Hard” brand name as a marketing title so they could fill the screen with endless amounts of gun fire and explosions. The story has many plot holes and many questionable plot devices inserted in the film. In previous entries in the series, there was a legitimate plot where the actions happened accordingly. In this film, the dialogue scenes are only used to set up the next action sequence so the Fox Executives can then later put in their ads so the film will look cool and make money. The story is thinner than the paper it was written on, audiences all around will be let down by the lack of story in this film.
As far as themes go within the story, there is none, with the exception of the father, son themes that are written in such heavy-handed manor. In “Live Free or Die Hard” John hasn’t spoken to his daughter in years and they have drifted apart, in this it deals with the same exact thing except it is his son. The difference is the way they handled it. In “Live Free” it is it is done casually and right along with the film’s pace and used at the right moments and even though it’s predictable, it’s effective. In this film that theme and message is literally in your face every second. It felt like someone was shoving it down my throat. Jack will constantly remind John, how bad of a father he was and every single time he does it gets more frustrating. We’ve seen the plot before and the re use of the plot doesn’t add anything to the film and in fact inhibits it.
The Die Hard series has had a great string of villains, from Hans and Simon Gruber played Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons to Colonel Stuart played by William Sadler. This film you’re never quite sure who the main bad guy is and frankly none of the possibilities are that appealing. Then at the end there is a big twist of who the villain is and the twist doesn’t work and making the villain show up at the end without any build up at all is a big waste.
The Star of the Die Hard Films has undoubtedly been Bruce Willis without question. He has always been strong actor and given us great performances. In this he is rather lackluster compared to past films. However I don’t believe that it is his fault at all. It is clear that Willis is trying to do something in the film but the screenplay is so poor that it’s hard for him to work with the material written and make a compelling performance.
Jai Courtney plays Jack McClane in the film. He is actually decent in the role. Nothing grand or spectacular but better than anyone else with the exception of Bruce. In time I think we’ll see more of him.
The film is about action. I didn’t know they could squeeze so much gun play, car crashes and violence into a 98 min film but they packed it fully to the limit. Director John Moore directs these scenes to a problematic and rambunctious effect. Many scenes run too long and become laughable and some become so ridicules that no one could survive. Having such scenes is a betrayal to the series. A series that was built around realism has collapsed in on itself and now Die Hard consists of action scenes that even Spider-Man would be killed by. Now some of the gun fights are pretty entertaining but the ludicrously in the other scenes really overshadow the good parts.
I am a movie fan first and foremost before a critic. I love films of all genres and that includes “the shoot em up” or dumb action films with little plot or direction. Those films need at least one thing to work, they have to be entertaining, and this film wasn’t. Born out of the action films of the 1980s political era, “Die hard “(1989) brought realism into action films, now it abandons it. Director John Moore is the man behind, the failed “Max Payne” (2008) adaptation, “The Omen” (2005) and “The Flight of the Phoenix” (2004) remakes, and now he can add one more film to that list of failures.