Film review: A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard
2013
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment, Origo Film Group

STARRING Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
WRITTEN BY Skip Woods
PRODUCED BY Alex Young
DIRECTED BY John Moore

SHOT BY Jonathan Sela
EDITED BY Dan Zimmerman
MUSIC BY Marco Beltrami
DISTRIBUTED BY 20th Century Fox

Screened 2013-02-12

From its first moments Die Hard 5 begins to set things in motion between the sinister, hollow, lizard-like Russian suit Chagarin (Kolesnikov) and grizzly political prisoner Komarov (Koch). The credits play over the action like a television show, even the film’s arbitrary dumbass title inserted and removed, quite tiny, in the corner of the screen. Just keep moving. John “Americans Don’t Apologize” McClane (Willis) is headed to Moscow to retrieve his willful son Jack (Jai Courtney), a CIA plant in very hot water (I guess you’re born into franchises like families). McClane’s NY cop buddy warns him, “They do things differently over there” – to which McClane supplies the grammatically incorrect repartee, “Me too” – but what they do differently is anybody’s best guess, innumerable opportunities to cash in on the locale going untapped by 20th Century Fox’s team of boorish males.

There is a coordinated, very public courthouse strike by Chagarin’s right hand Alik (Snigir), and since McClane happens to be standing outside when Jack flees in a truck with Komarov, he really has nothing better to do than to steal the nearest vehicle and tag along – McClane continually, and bafflingly, grousing “I’m on vacation!” to anybody who will listen (his son’s mantra, virtually Courtney’s only lines for the first third of the film, are one-note whined asides about McClane’s shite fathering). Somehow this car chase involves an enormous tank cleaving a path through a center of a city of ten million without a single authority figure noticing, but this is where I am meant to “flip off the switch” of my critical faculties and just enjoy the senseless, thoughtless carnage. My guest during this screening noted to me that she was quite disturbed at the number of innocent civilians killed during this chase and – this is something nobody comments on – the wanton destruction of so many vehicles which “could’ve really made a difference in so many peoples’ lives!” I admit, I had not considered that.

There are two more action setpieces over the next 70 minutes – only two!! – before the film ends on a freeze frame of McClane, son and daughter, reunited, smiling and laughing, a happy family of complete assholes. In between the action, I was surprised to witness the momentum positively grind to a halt on scene after scene of lazy, predictable, shitty moralistic pablum where father and son grunt and look askance and take baby steps towards their renewed relationship. They move along on an irrelevant fetch quest for “the file,” the contents of which are quite forgotten by now. “Where is the file?!” “I need that file!” “Give me the file!” Midway through, McClane and son and forced to their knees at gunpoint and Alik is ordered to kill them. Alik takes this opportunity to munch on a carrot and tap dance. Moments later McClane has impossibly sliced through his flex cuffs and a room full of assault-weapon-toting henchman lie dead. Father and son then leap from the 20th story (at least) window and reach terra firma after their fall is cushioned by dozens of wooden and metal planks and platforms. Finally – spoiler alert – the penultimate money shot, the big audience cheer moment, involves the film’s villain being thrown from the top of a building into active propeller blades – and exploding.

Thanks, screenwriter Skip Woods (video game movie Hitman), for reminding me of the place of Americans abroad, as McClane answers his son’s inquiry of what their “thing” entails: “Go out there and kill all the scumbags.” Nice. Great. I see this is the best we can do, producer Alex Young (comic book movie Predators), you soulless shyster sellout, and you, director John Moore (video game movie Max Payne), smashing your way to Hollywood’s peak with a hammer. I missed the fucking State of the Union so I could function as a PR plant for your celebration of pompous imperialist brutality and be treated like an ignorant child along the way, amusement park thrills at amusement park prices. Thanks again for your creation of more throwaway fodder for the lowest common denominator of the public and their complicity in being treated like absolute suckers. Thanks.

written by David Ashley

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