A Good Day To Die Hard (DVD)

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A Good Day To Die Hard (DVD)

2013 film starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch. The fifth instalment of the "Die Hard" franchise, in which New York cop John McClane...

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Review of "A Good Day To Die Hard (DVD)"

published 21/02/2013 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Satisfactory
Pro Some decent action sequences.
Cons Incoherent direction, nonsensical writing and poor performances.
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"Everyone Has an Off-Day"

New York cop John McClane travels to Moscow to help his apparently wayward son, Jack, only to become embroiled in yet another terrorist plot. He and his son must work together to prevent some very bad people from getting their hands on a load of weapons-grade uranium.

I have a bit of a soft spot for the “Die Hard” franchise – I watched most of the movies with my dad when I was growing up. And although the franchise is flashy yet flawed, it is a great deal of fun. Or at least it was until the producers green-lit this nonsensical pile of codswallop. I think director John Moore could be politely described as a hack, as he has previously helmed “Max Payne” and the terrible remake of “The Omen”, neither of which can be noted for their narrative coherence. To be fair to him, he gives the viewer plenty of bang per buck, with some long, complex action sequences. There is a prolonged chase scene that sees an armoured vehicle laying waste to the streets of Moscow, which features some great stunt driving. There are also lots of big explosions, a massive body-count and lots of gunfights, not to mention stunt men (who bear only a passing resemblance to the stars they are doubling for) falling several floors. But the editing is so choppy, it can be hard to tell who is doing what to whom. In addition, the use of shaky, hand-held camerawork looks less like a strong visual choice and more like a pointless affectation. On top of that is some dodgy effects work, which removes any last shred of believability. There is way too much slow-motion; although it works well in the context of a multi-angle car pile-up, I couldn’t fathom why it was being used so frequently for entrances and exits and, most perplexingly, for a needless, muted, underwhelming, walk-into-the-sunset ending, making the film go out with a whimper rather than a bang. A slow-motion fall from a building (clearly meant to evoke memories of Hans Gruber’s demise in the original movie) does little other than draw unfavourable comparisons with the films that have gone before.

There is virtually no story to link the big set-pieces together. On one hand, this means the pacing is swift throughout, but on the other hand, the film simply doesn’t make sense. There are myriad plot holes and clumsy attempts at plugging them with dialogue info-dumps do little other than highlight the logic gaps. The initial set-up (one Russian threatening another over an upcoming criminal trial) makes precious little sense and it isn’t until about twenty minutes in that we learn the significance of the characters. The director doesn’t bother with character development, making even the well-known hero feel two-dimensional. The baddies are too vague to be frightening, while McClane Jr is largely a pointless plot device. So the odds of you caring about any of the characters lie somewhere between slim and none. Matters aren’t helped by indifferent performances from most of the cast. Thankfully the film is only ninety-eight minutes long, but as far as I was concerned, it outstayed its welcome.

The screenplay by Skip Woods is a mess that fails to build on the successful format used for all the other instalments of the “Die Hard” franchise. It’s usually a case of the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, who has nothing but his cunning and determination to fall back on when faced with a super-organised, infinitely better equipped and more intellectual band of international terrorists. John McClane is a blue-collar hero standing up for his country, its inhabitants and their way of life – but mainly it’s a man in a vest shooting bad guys and saving god-fearing Americans. Taking him out of America is the writer’s first mistake and smacks of a decision to keep production costs down by shooting in a cheaper location. Then, instead of pitting the hero against a group of well-defined (if hackneyed) terrorists, Woods drops him in the middle of a poorly explained conspiracy in which the role of chief villain is tossed around like a football. So it isn’t clear who McClane is up against or what he and his son are fighting for. The Russian setting and uranium heist make the film feel like a throwback to really bad 1980s action movies. And pairing the hero with a CIA agent makes him feel largely redundant within his own story, while making his partner appear ineffectual. The many crosses and double-crosses are apt to feel contrived. A late-game character reversal stretches credulity beyond breaking point. It feels as though the filmmakers realised they still had twenty minutes to fill, so threw it in to pad the running-time. The franchise’s trademark humour is also noticeable by its absence.

The characterisation is virtually non-existent. Although John McClane has previously been established as a blue-collar action hero willing to do whatever is necessary to protect his family and homeland, Woods hasn’t bothered to expand on the man we already know. In fact, he barely has any personality – simply showing up, shooting people and saying “I’m on vacation!” on a regular basis. His son Jack is a super-spy with access to all kinds of equipment and information. But he lacks initiative and frequently has to rely on his father to get him out of scrapes, so he’s hard to believe in. It’s difficult to know what to think about Russian scientist Komarov, whose status seems to change every five minutes, ending in a contrived character reversal. The bad guys are unmemorable – a corrupt Russian politician (what a cliché!), the cocky lead henchman, the token girl and lots of cannon fodder. The dialogue is awful and the quips in particular are dreadfully stilted.

Bruce Willis has played John McClane so many times he could do it in his sleep, which is unfortunately what he appears to be doing in this instalment. Shorn of his one-liners, he’s just some crinkly old geezer frowning and firing guns. The best I can say of Australian Jai Courtney, who plays Jack McClane, is that he handles the American accent well and he looks the part. But he’s bland and generally forgettable as the second-string hero. I really like German actor Sebastian Koch, who plays scientist Komarov, but he needs an agent who can get him better parts in American films. The script does him no favours because the character changes based on what the situation demands, but I suppose the actor gets to show some range. Yulia Snigir is the token eye-candy, flashing the flesh and playing bad as Komarov’s daughter, Irina. Sergei Kolesnikov is generic as corrupt Russian politician Viktor Chagarin. And Rasha Bukvic is clearly having fun as cocky henchman, Alik.

Marco Beltrami’s music has the unenviable task of creating a sense of tension and excitement. But as the film is so badly written and edited, it feels as though the composer is fighting a losing battle. Struggling against nonsensical plotting, he simply slathers the accompanying action with lots of sub-James Bond orchestrations. These generally comprise heavy percussion, tense strings, rising percussion and burring brass in various configurations. He occasionally adds some dark chimes and choruses. But he never takes his foot off the gas, so the film is swamped by the music, making the score ineffectual.

“A Good Day to Die Hard” is easily the weakest instalment in the franchise. It doesn’t have the same sense of fun or gung-ho action as the rest of the series. The direction is incoherent, the writing rarely makes sense and the majority of the performances are phoned-in by performers clearly at a loss over what to do with such badly written characters. A few decent action sequences aren’t enough to save the production from its many shortcomings. So unless you’re a massive fan of Bruce Willis, or you feel compelled to see the latest in the franchise, it’s one to miss. I went in with moderate expectations and came out sorely disappointed.

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Comments on this review

  • 80smusicreviewer published 28/02/2013
    Well reviewed. E.
  • brokenangelkisses published 28/02/2013
    Excellent review.
  • brokenangelkisses published 27/02/2013
    Ouch! I was looking forward to seeing this.
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Product Information : A Good Day To Die Hard (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

2013 film starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch. The fifth instalment of the "Die Hard" franchise, in which New York cop John McClane travels to Russia to help his apparently wayward son. Both father and son are soon embroiled in a conspiracy to steal weapons-grade uranium. Directed by John Moore and written by Skip Woods.

Product Details

Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Willis, Bruce

Classification: 12 years and over

Production Year: 2013

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Listed on Ciao since: 18/02/2013