"A Good Day to Die Hard"
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2013
Running Time: 97 minutes
I can’t be the only one who wants a lean, mean Die Hard sequel. You know, one that goes back to basics and pits John McClane against the bad guys in a confined setting. I don’t want a de facto remake of Die Hard--Die Harder proved it’s possible to make a sequel in a single location and open up the action. So enough of a breathless McClane running around a city that’s supposedly under terrorist attack, as he does again in the fifth entry in the franchise, the Moscow-set A Good Day to Die Hard. It worked with Die Hard With a Vengeance because of the rapport Bruce Willis shared with Samuel L. Jackson. It didn’t work with Live Free or Die Hard, and not just because director Len Wiseman saddled McClane with an annoying computer hacker for the purpose of comic relief. Live Free or Die Hard went over the top in the life-or-death situations it placed McClane in. That “truck versus jet fighter” sequence—give me a break. Ultimately, McClane in Live Free or Die Hard wasn’t the McClane of old, and it had nothing to do with Willis going bald for the role for the first time. Gone was the likeable, wisecracking everyman hero we knew and loved. Instead, the New York cop was transformed into a superman, one who was impervious to pain and whose life never seemed in jeopardy. Sad to say that the cop Willis plays in the 2005 thriller Hostage has more in common with the McClane of Die Hard, whereas the McClane of Live Free or Die Hardand A Good Day to Die Hard doesn’t. Worse, Live Free or Die Hard failed to offer a memorable villain in Timothy Olyphant and it made the mistake of dragging one of McClane’s estranged kids (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) into the proceedings. A Good Day to Die Hard suffers from exactly the same problems as Live Free or Die Hard, despite being the first McClane adventure that is set overseas and is based on an original script, by Skip Woods, rather than a novel or an article. Sure, both sequels are entertaining in their own way, but to hammer home the point, the McClane of these sequels is not the McClane of the first three films. Heck, in A Good Day to Die Hard, McClane travels to and from Russia, and not once does he complain about or look uncomfortable flying. Strip McClane of his name and both these sequels could be generic buddy thrillers that pair Willis with a younger costar. How does McClane end up in Russia? His son Jack (Jack Reacher henchman Jai Courtney) is arrested and imprisoned after he assassinates a high-ranking Russian official. Why? It has something to do with a coup d’etat attempt by the Russian defense minister (Sergi Kolenikov) and the political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) whom he wants dead. Moscow turns into a war zone as McClane teams up with his reluctant son to right so many wrongs. Yes, like Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard is just an excuse for the old and boring McClane to bond with one of his two adult kids. There aren’t too many touchy-feely moments, but having McClane work with his son does add some unnecessary baggage to this sequel. OK, when it comes to McClane, we willingly accept that he’s always going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. But why does the same have to apply to his family? Isn’t it enough that his then-wife Holly Gennero was placed in harm’s way in two sequels? Imagine how much McClane’s paid over the years to the shrinks who have treated his family. The interaction between John and Jack is, to excruciating to watch. Courtney allows the anger Jack feels toward his neglectful father to constantly bubble to the surface, especially whenever McClane upstages him when they come under fire. Jack brings out a side of his father that’s just unpleasant to experience. Initially, McClane’s so disappointed in his son that he seems to enjoy baiting him. This continues long after all is revealed about Jack. This is odd because in Live Free or Die Hard, McClane was very contrite about not being there for his daughter Lucy while she was growing up. In general, though, McClane’s a jackass. I would like to think that Russia brings out the Ugly American in McClane but there’s more to it than him being a stranger in a strange land. There’s a smugness to McClane that we have not seen before. Remember in Die Hard With a Vengeance when McClane was ordered by Jeremy Iron’s villain to stand in Harlem wearing a sandwich board that boasted a racial epithet. That McClane was scared to death. This McClane would have been in the face of any African-American who dared to confront him. It’s unintentional, of course, but A Good Day to Die Hard does McClane no favors. Still, the father-son experience takes a backseat to the action. John Moore is a by-the-numbers director whom 20th Century Fox must have on speed dial. His uninspired body of work for the studio includesBehind Enemy Lines, Max Payne, and the remakes of Flight of the Phoenix and The Omen. Moore’s likely orders: blow up more stuff than Len Wiseman did in Live Free and Die Hard, which he does in serviceable fashion. He puts some real effort into a lengthy car chase that comes early in the film, but it’s more noticeable for the mayhem that is caused than the tension it generates. Beyond overseeing the death and destruction that follows the McClanes, Moore doesn’t seem interested in A Good Day to Die Hard making any sense, especially in regards to the setting of the final act, the location of which I will not spoil. All in all, Moore offers a fast-paced, big-budget popcorn spectacle that follows the recent Die Hard sequel template but never captures the thrill or wit of the film that started the franchise 25 years ago. If Willis is to return as McClane, he should insist on scaling things back. He does think in terms of two recent foreign films, The Raid Redemption and Sleepless Night, which paid homage to Die Hard. He must honor the spirit of Die Hard. He needs McClane to be the McClane of old. And he must leave the kids at home.
Aired: Feb. 14, 2013
Web site: http://www.diehardmovie.com/