Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

Grade: 28 (C-)

I didn’t walk out of A Good Day to Die Hard, but I had mentally and emotionally checked out of the film fairly quickly. It’s a bad film, but it’s hard to care about it beyond the fact that it sullies the name of the original 1988 action classic. A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t just the worst entry in the franchise: it’s the most pointless. It has no reason for being, no sense of investment on anyone’s part, and practically nothing of interest in its 97-minute running time. If this review sports a mood of weary resignation, it’s because it’s hard to care too much about a film where the collective amount of shits given by the people who made it add up to 0.0.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is once again the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time. John has reconnected with his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, reprising her role from the previous film in a cameo), but he remains on poor terms with his son, John “Jack” McClane, Jr. (Jai Courtney, winner of the Sam Worthington lookalike contest). When Jack is accused of assassinating a politician in Russia, John travels to Moscow to try to help his estranged son. It turns out that Jack is actually a CIA operative trying to save political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from the ruthless Russian official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Komarov, it turns out, has some dirt connecting Chagarin to some dirty deeds, and the CIA are ready to help spring him. But things go awry as Jack’s partner is killed, and now father and son reunite to help kick ass, save the day, and yell “yippee-ki-yay motherfucker” once again.

As one might expect from a Die Hard movie, not everything is what it seems. Yet none of the complications or twists register. Part of it comes from a deeply convoluted plot courtesy of screenwriter Skip Woods, the man behind such cinematic atrocities as Swordfish and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Part of it comes from director John Moore’s dull action scenes, all of which feel artificial and without any sense of stakes. Part of it comes from the fact that this is the only film in the series that feels so generic that it could have been made at any point in time by anyone. Die Hard 4.0/Live Free or Die Hard (whatever you want to call it) might have been hampered by Len Wiseman’s generic directing, but at least it had an idea of where to take the series (cyber terrorism). Badly executed as it might have been, there was still a sense of effort behind it.

The same can’t be said here. Everyone behind and in front of the camera feels like they’re going through the motions, particularly a sleepwalking Willis and the dull Courtney, both of whom come off less like McClane and son and more like cardboard macho assholes. What’s most distressing is that the film doesn’t even seem to know why audiences loved Die Hard in the first place. Where the original film had three or four memorable villains, this one has none. Where the original was outrageously funny, this one can barely bother to utter its one repetitive, unfunny joke (John McClane is on vacation…which he isn’t. Apparently the screenwriter didn’t bother to read the script). Where the original made McClane a put-upon, wisecracking  everyman with a sense of vulnerability, here he’s just a stuntman crashing through several panes of glass without any real damage. I can barely even dignify this thing with contempt. This isn’t Die Hard. It’s some other kind of crappy thriller.

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