A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Having passed at the chance to see A Good Day to Die Hard during its theatrical I finally caught up with the movie recently. The version I saw was the US theatrical version and not the extended edition that includes three and a half minutes of additional material. It's a curious thing that in an age when blockbuster movies become ever longer and more bloated, frequently running over two and a half hours, that the latest instalment of Die Hard is a brief ninety-nine minutes. That's about an hour and a half once you remove ten minutes or so of CGI credits. Is such brevity to the benefit of the movie? In a nutshell, no. A Good Day to Die Hard is light on plot, character development and viewer engagement. Frankly it’s a caricature of its former self. The notion of the likeable every-man, out of his depth and fighting against incredible odds has given way to a loud-mouth, bullet proof xenophobic who effortlessly moves from one improbable CGI action sequence to another.
The movies first major action spectacle is a lengthy car chase through Moscow, involving an armoured car that destroys pretty much every vehicle that it encounters. The sequence quickly becomes tedious due to its excess and is further tainted by some rather unpleasant moral ambiguity. John McClane dodges an RPG which then destroys an innocent civilian’s vehicle. But of course, in Hollywood terms this doesn't matter at all, as it wasn't an US citizen. Once again, we see a sovereign nation treated with contempt as our hero simply swans around doing whatever he sees fit, irrespective of local law and authority. Well it's their own fault, they don't speak English.
For a movie that hinges on a father and son dynamic, there is no tangible chemistry between Jai Courtney and Bruce Willis. It's all rather perfunctory. I initially assumed that the theatrical version of the movie had been edited down to be low on dialogue high on action. When I heard that the Blu-ray release would include an extended edition I hoped that this would fill some of the narrative gaps. Unfortunately, the extra material is simply a few nominal dialogue scenes and an even longer version of the tiresome car chase. No further plot, or expositionary scenes. But I guess that's my fault for expecting anything more from director John Moore, who previously brought us the pointless remake of The Omen and the inextricable film adaptation of the video game Max Payne.
A Good Day to Die Hard has flashes of interest with villain Alik (Rasha Bukvic) who has a few curious quirks. Unfortunately, he is then effectively side-lined and removed from the narrative far too quickly. The denouement is both excessive and totally implausible, even by the standards of this particular genre. When will film makers learn that once you step over the line and the audience cease to suspend their sense of disbelief, then the battle to hold their attention is lost. We also happen to know by now that the most vulnerable part of a helicopter are both its rotors and that they are not the equivalent of industrial blenders. How dumb do you think we are? On mature reflection, perhaps it’s best not to answer that, as I was the one watching this movie through choice. Sometimes, brand loyalty is a double-edged sword.
There is little good to say about A Good Day to Die Hard. The only thing that made me sit up and take notice was the inclusion of some faux BBC new reports featuring real life news presenter Sophie Raworth. Remember in the nineties how it was always CNN or Sky News that were used in this way? However, overall the movie had nothing new to offer and even its R rating was disappointing. A few profanities and some minor bullet hits cannot recreate the hard edge and elegance of the original movie. Even Bruce Willis' signature kiss off line "Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker" is laboured. In all honesty Olympus Has Fallen is closer to the 1988 Die Hard than this shallow cinematic outing. I think it's time for this particular Cowboy to hang up his spurs and retire. Until the inevitable reboot.