Rated R, which I'm sure some studio exec who probably thinks like me, means "a better movie." Nah, but there is a lot of violence and John McClane isn't limited by his use of the f-word. There's no sex, but apparently there's a supermodel who gets in her underwear in this movie. I don't actually remember that scene. Am I losing my mind? Am I allowed to write about a movie when I don't remember a girl getting in her underwear? Maybe I'm just broken. Regardless, it's an R-Rated Die Hard movie...technically.
DIRECTOR: John Moore
Completely unrelated to A Good Day to Die Hard, my readership just jumped through the roof. They all can't be bots. Um...welcome everyone. I don't know why I expect to make this blog better. I mean, it's pretty great for a first draft. I'm pretty great. You know what? I'm just going to act natural. (STOP LOOKING AT ME!) Anyway, was anyone expecting me to really rant and rave and really get introspective about A Good Day to Die Hard. See, I was addicted to Die Hard at a certain time in my life. It was right before Live Free or Die Hard was announced. The first three movies made a perfect trilogy and Live Free or Die Hard didn't look great. When Live Free or Die Hard was better than it should have been, but not good, that kind of cooled the fires of my Die Hard obsession. Then I found out that A Good Day to Die Hard was coming out and it was going to be R-rated and all was forgiven...until the reviews. Yeah, I shouldn't listen to reviews, but the trailer didn't look that great. The reviews really made it seem bad. The movie's best reviews advertised it as mediocre. That's...that's no good. Going out to see a movie at the theaters as a married man with kids is a big ask. It's not like I can risk getting a sitter for a movie that wouldn't actually be a good time.
Yeah, A Good Day to Die Hard is actually pretty bad. I don't love that about a franchise. I wanted to be the guy who loved this movie and stood up for it when no one else would. I don't know what it is about the Die Hard movies. They may be the representatives of an era gone by of ultraviolence free of CGI. We now have movies like Underworld and Transformers that have satisfied much of the same crowd as the Die Hard films. But they spiritually feel as different as night and day. The mindless action movie is actually really hard to make. The reason that the OG Die Hard works is because it is meticulously crafted. John McClane makes such an interesting protagonist. His baggage is on his shoulders and we know everything that we need to in the first few minutes of the film. Yeah, there's some info-dumping in the first movie. I'm okay with that. But John is one thing: he's put upon. Yeah, he's a guy who makes a lot of drama himself. If he was more woke and more open to change, he wouldn't feel so put upon. When Nakatomi Tower is seized, he's literally put upon. It is a physical manifestation of his problems with his wife. He goes to support her and the problems are way bigger than he thought. Everyone is upset at him for trying to make things better until he crosses a minefield full of issues and comes across ahead. But A Good Day to Die Hard kind of forgets that. There's almost nothing the movie that really makes this a specifically Die Hard movie. It's a Bruce Willis action movie where he's called John McClane. Yeah, we get to meet his son. But that relationship is really poorly developed. Die Hard movies are, first and foremost, fun. We relate to everyman John McClane because he's an average joe over his head. But by the time we get to the fifth entry in the franchise, is that really the case here? Honestly, he saved America in the last one. The bad guys came to him in the first few entries. In Four and Five, he's putting himself in dumb positions. I know that this isn't entirely accurate. After all, he's just there to get his son back. The movie is really obsessed with making a joke work (that really doesn't) about John just being on vacation. The weird Kevin Smith connection keeps coming back with "I'm not even supposed to be here today", but I don't want to settle on that. John McClane is someone who fights terrorists when he's not supposed to. But the filmmakers literally had to make his son a spy to make John McClane inside a spy genre. Big reveal: John McClane and super-spy plots don't really work that well. We're supposed to be able to relate to a guy who has stopped four previous terrorist plots and has a super-spy son? It's a really hard sell.
I don't want to put John Moore on the stand for this one. I mean, I kind of do. I found myself rolling my eyes when McClane was pancaking cars with his van. (New moral trope I'm working on: You aren't the good guys when you are causing mass casualties with your actions. This usually happens with car chases. ) But a lot of this falls into the category of Bruce Willis seeming more and more unlikable. I know that people have their own lives. I know that some people are naturally grumpy people. But there seems to be a line between that persona being someone's personal life and it creeping into their characters. Look at how high energy Bruce Willis is in the first movie. Yeah, he's put upon, but he's all over the place in terms of how he reacts to that burden that he carries. He yells. He gets all over the place in terms of delivery. Yeah, some of those deliveries were outright annoyance. But a lot of those deliveries were yelling and getting in people's faces. John McClane now just seems annoyed by everything. He never gets into that upper register. He never gesticulates. He just looks at things that bother him in a flat affect. Based on the Kevin Smith talk, apparently Bruce Willis hates being directed. How dare anyone question how to deliver something for a movie, let alone for a character that he's been doing for most of his life. But John McClane has slowly morphed into every other Bruce Willis character. He has zero charisma in this movie. If the character keeps screaming "I'm just supposed to be on vacation", it feels like Bruce Willis really believes that. He doesn't want to be here for the movie. I had ten minutes on the treadmill before I was done, so I popped in the special features. Do you know who was doing the heavy lifting for the special features interviews? Everyone but Bruce Willis. This movie is a real bummer because it feels completely unloved by the star of the film. If you don't want to be here, don't be here. Maybe I'm reading into that way too much. Bruce Willis has to have all of the money. There almost feels like a spite to his filmmaking now. He hates his audience, but keeps saying, "There, I made what you wanted. Are you happy?" No. Not really. I wanted a fun movie, not just something that you felt necessary to dole out to me. I don't want cheery John McClane. I just want a John McClane that you found fun playing. Harrison Ford is a plenty grumpy old man, but his performances still work.
Which leads to a father / son thing. The father / son thing actually has a lot of unrealized potential. I give John Moore credit for one thing. A common thread within the Die Hard movies is the idea that a spy-type know-it-all (this is any government agent) thinks that he knows better than man-on-the-street John McClane. I like how Moore plays up that his son has become the very character he hates to hang out with. I don't know if Bruce Willis necessarily sells this, but Jai Courtney actually does a pretty good job of it. After recently watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I know that there is a temptation to replace an aging actor with the character's son. I don't know if A Good Day to Die Hard is really doing that. Jai Courtney is fine. The thing is, the movie is so vapid. It is so very, very empty. There are connections that are trying to be made that just aren't really coming together. So we're supposed to treat A Good Day to Die Hard as a trial run for the new kid. While Jai Courtney is technically doing his job, we don't get any emotional connection from him. He's already a spy. He's closed off. The first time we get both John and Jack in the same shot, Jack is pointing a gun in John's face. He's already closed off. Compare that to John McClane on the plane. He's making small talk on a jumbo jet and being kind of polite about it. There's something to relate to. I'm going to keep referring to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when it comes to talking about making father / son action duos work. It has to be the best one, right? It's the only one that I can think of that works. The beginning of that movie has young Indy trying to tell Henry Jones, Sr. about the problems he's encountered and he's forced to count to ten in Latin or Greek by his father. That moment tells us so much. Indy acknowledges that he didn't have a regular childhood and that he never really bonded with his dad because of moments like these. But we still know plenty about Indiana Jones and he's very relatable. We never really get to know Jack in any context. Live Free or Die Hard brings in John's daughter, but even with her brief character, we get more personality. That stress is between them because we get to see her without John there and then her with John there. Jack is completely cold and removed the entire time. The movie tried telling us about moments in Jack's childhood to compensate for that, but none of that ever resonates. It's a really solid example of why showing instead of telling is important. Seeing young Indy get frustrated with his father explained a lot. Instead, we only hear that Jack used to get in trouble a lot, but we never saw how John handled those situations. We see that both characters had the best intentions, but miscommunication was their big problem. Instead, we don't know how good or bad of a dad John was. We know that he's a bad husband because we see how pleasant he is with strangers and how Holly just gets under his skin a lot.
The plot can jump in a lake. I don't think I've been less invested in a big heist from moment one. The twist is not even a twist. John has run into this story before. This time it is in Russia. I like the mirroring of the family dynamic throughout the film. (THE SUPERMODEL WAS THE DAUGHTER! Okay, I remember her. I don't remember her in her underwear. Again, I wasn't exactly captured by this movie.) A Good Day to Die Hard ends in the worst way a franchise can end: it's blah. There's nothing much here. It doesn't really feel like a Die Hard movie. I don't think I laughed once. I was annoyed by the action. The story was not inaccessible so much as it was just boring. Spy spoof movies tend to have really weak stories because the stakes seem low. The same thing is happening here. It is really a loosey-goosey spy plot about selling uranium. It's hackneyed. I hear that the guy who directed Live Free or Die Hard and the Underworld movies is doing a prequel named McClane. That sounds terrible. Let it die...hard.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.