A bad day for an action franchise: “A Good Day to Die Hard”

February 17, 2013

DieHard5-jpg_183654Good effing Lord, what the hell did I just see? Because it sure as hell couldn’t have been a Die Hard movie. Look, I know the quality of the movies have declined since…well, the first one, but these have never been cheap, action-movie knockoffs. Well, not until now, I guess.  And that’s sad, because Die Hard is basically the perfect action film. Every time you make a lousy sequel to it, some of the luster is rubbed off of it. And a unicorn dies. Truly. That’s what happens when you make a bad sequel. So, what is so wrong with this movie? Let’s have a look…

John McClane: The franchise has always had trouble recalling the character of McClane, but here they’ve really dumbed him down. They make a point of saying over and over again that his modus operandi is just to rush in and make it up he goes along. The problem is, this is precisely who John McClane isn’t—particularly in the first film, when he matches wits with Hans Gruber. The movie was fun and fresh because it was a corrective to the muscle-headed action juggernauts headlined by Schwarzenegger and Stallone. McClane is a savvy, street-smart NYPD detective, not a mindless action figure. In this movie he literally picks up a belt-fed, man-portable, light machine-gun and mows down bad guys. How does an NYPD detective know how to work a foreign military weapon?

When did John McClane become a simp?

When did John McClane become a simp?

John McClane (II): Hey, while we’re at it, how cool would an original cop-thriller featuring John McClane be? Not an action-extravaganza, but a French Connection/To Live and Die in LA-type movie? Something like the Die Hard: Year One graphic novel series. But I digress…

Jai Courtney: Oh man, he’s bad. He’s so bad he made me wish for Sam Worthington. Holy crap, that’s like one of the seven signs of the apocalypse right there. He doesn’t just not look like a member of Bruce Willis’s family, he doesn’t even look like he’s the same species.

He's like a lemur or something...

He’s like a lemur or something…

The Direction: Five minutes into this movie had me wondering if director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne) had ever seen a Die Hard movie. Ten minutes in had me wondering if he’d ever seen any movie, of if he’d simply wrapped The Omen or Flight of the Phoenix and immediately gone out drinking and betting on cockfights. Holy shit, this movie is utterly incomprehensible. It looks like it was shot by a drunk monkey with Parkinson’s and edited by an ADD-afflicted cuttlefish. A scene set inside a CIA command post is so jumpy it looks like a parody of an action movie. The action sequences are so frenetic they make the opening car chase in Quantum of Solace look like the opening of Lawrence of Arabia. I just watched Die Hard on Blu-Ray, and guess what? Those action scenes? The ones without insane camera movements and snap-zooms? They’re still effective.

The Direction (II): Did I mention that during the first big action scene, Bruce Willis appears to be talking to nobody? I mean, you see him speaking, and then a blur which…I guess is another person? Or maybe he’s followed by an anthropomorphic rabbit in this movie? I don’t know, but he keeps talking to whoever that is—invisible friend, anthropomorphic rabbit, Mission Control? That’s some good direction, Moore.

The Story: Part of the perfection of Die Hard was the fact that it had a great, one-sentence hook: cop is trapped in a building with terrorists. This movie? There’s a Russian oligarch and a…government dude who hates him…and then…uh, Chernobyl’s in their somewhere. Holy shit, it’s like a couple of screenwriting hacks got halfway through writing a Bourne sequel, and then just said “screw it” and began pounding Monster and punching each other in the junk. And while we’re on the topic…

Don't...don't do that.

Don’t…don’t do that.

The Villain: Of course, the strength of the first movie was the endlessly-engaging performance of Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. I’m not sure who the bad guy is in this movie. Every scene seems to have a new one. One dude chews a carrot and kind of does a soft-shoe routine…that’s about as close as he gets to being interesting.

Jai Courtney straight-up executes a guy: Yeah, one of our heroes just kills somebody. No pretext to it, no self-defense, he just murders him. Man, Die Hard was never sadistic.

This movie doesn’t know how radiation works: Okay, so 1) it blames the Chernobyl  disaster on uranium being smuggled out of that reactor. Which strikes me as the opposite of what happened with Chernobyl. 2) “Radiation has been pooling in this room for years.” Okay, radiation doesn’t do that. It’s not like water. 3) After the bad guys use a Chewbacca bowcaster to “neutralize” the radiation that’s been “pooling” (because, I guess, we can do that), the bad guy (of the moment) takes off her radiation suit and then pauses pensively before taking a breath. Yeah, radiation doesn’t work that way, either.

No Ode to Joy: Seriously movie, why do you hate us?

The ending is damn near surreal: Seriously, aside from being a CGI phantasmagoria, it’s a total mess. Granted, it’s not as bad as the cobbled-together replacement of Die Hard with a Vengeance (which is still better than the original one), or the underwhelming finale of Live Free or Die Hard. This ending seems to understand that it needs to be climactic. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing it does right. There is nothing exciting, tense, or cathartic about it. Except that the damn movie is finally over.

Ah, Die Hard, you really should have been a one-and-done. Oh well, maybe John McTiernan will be out of federal prison in time for Die Hard 6.

[Also: If you liked Die Hard, you really should read the book it was based upon, Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorpe. It’s every bit as thrilling as the movie. Available on Amazon Kindle.]



  1. I also thought so! What the hell was the radiation “cleaner” thing about? Like in seconds? well, chernobyl would be a famous playground for kids if it ever happened ~__~

    However, I have to disagree with you on Jai Courtney. Yes, he didn’t look like Bruce Willis and he kinda turned me off by plainly killing the enemy.. but he is HOT! totally far from lemur, hahahaha 😀

    • Yeah, there was a lot wrong with this movie. And, I’m sorry, but Jai Courtney looks like a lemur. A lemur with big muscles.

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

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