Monday, 18 February 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard (Film Review)

If you hated Die Hard 4.0 you’re going to absolutely loath this one. The film? It’s what you’d get if you mashed together a really bad version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with an extremely bad remake of Commando. One which took itself seriously.

The plot this time is that John McClane’s son Jack has been captured in Russia following the results of an assassination attempt and is standing trial for murder. To shorten his sentence he agrees to testify against a member of the government who has been alerting the public to illegal misconduct by leaking files. John McClane himself learns of this only through circumstance and heads to Russia to help him out, after which the plot starts to get a little hard to follow. Not just due to the fact the script doesn’t evolve so much as jack-knife from one plot to the next via an extremely badly handled twist, but the cinematography.

Guy Ritchie, I take everything back about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, because this this film displays some of the absolute worst cinematography I’ve seen to date. Making audiences aware of special distances between characters, the dimensions of their surroundings, establishing shots, nearly all are thrown out of the window in favour of some of the worst shakey-cam, fast-forwards then rewind, zoom-in/out, unfocus/focus, gimmicky footage I think I have ever seen. Michael bloody Bay was more conservative with the use of shakey-cam than this film and there were honestly times in which I had to look away to stop myself feeling ill.

It’s not hard to see why the film is such a failure. The director behind this Die Hard sequel was John Moore, last seen helping create the abomination which was the Max Payne film and he’s honestly getting worse. The story’s even worse similarly abandoning any basics in set-up, establishment or even a decent pacing beyond the action. For nearly all of the film’s first and second acts Bruce Willis is just a set-piece, barely a character of any sort and definitely not the protagonist. You remember his one moment of yelling “Jack!?” in the trailers? Have that repeated another six or seven times and you have the bulk of his dialogue for the entire first half of the film. This is Jai Courtney’s film more than it is his, and while he’s a hardly a bad action hero he’s not what we’re here to see.

Any link to what made the original Die Hard trilogy good is completely missing from this film. While 4.0 might have deviated a bit too much into the inhuman super-cop character he seemed more grounded than you’d get with Stallone or Arnie. He was clearly scared for his life most of the time and while he was surviving things which would otherwise just killed him he at least acknowledged them. Here he’s wading through gunfire without a second thought, casually picking off people with an assault rifle like he’s got bulletproof skin.

You remember that bit from Die Hard where it actually pointed out that running over broken glass while windows were exploding around him was a bad idea? Having McClane limping and pulling broken shards out of his skin after doing it? Bits like that are completely missing or openly ignored. If any influence from the previous films remain, it’s that the people working on this were using them as a How-Not-To-Do-It guide.

When A Good Day to Die Hard does remember its budget periodically and has something big happening, it can potentially be good. Usually only enough to break up the tedium and make you realise you came into the cinema to try and have fun though. Also the setting was horribly underused. Outside of one extremely dumb plot twist which had several people walking out of the cinema which it was revealed, Russia is a setting which seems arbitrary to the film. Unlike, again, the original trilogy where each location had its own differing aspects and helped to make each instalment stand out on its own.

Don’t waste your money on this one. Watch the original or find a screening of Last Stand, you’ll have a lot more fun.


A Good Day to Die Hard and all related characters and media are owned by 20th Century Fox and Giant Pictures.

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