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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

OK, so I am apparently entirely unable to spell McLane correctly (see the review at Channel 24 for further details) but because the idea of having Senator John McCain in a Die Hard film is way more fun than anything in this abysmal sequel, I've decided to leave my original, uncorrected review up for your enjoyment.

What it's about

In this fifth instalment in the Die Hard franchise, John McClain travels to Russia to save his wayward son, Jack, from a murder charge, but Jack turns out to be a CIA operative, in the middle of a crucial rescue mission.

What we thought

The first Die Hard film, released way back in 1988 (yup, Die Hard is 25 years old this year, how quickly they grow up), is, very simply, the greatest action movie ever made. It has an airtight plot, tense and terse action scenes, plenty of humour and great characters. It's the film that launched Bruce Willis' screen career as an action hero and can lay claim to one of the silver screen's all time great bad guys in Alan Rickman's hilarious, ruthless and expectation-defying Hans Gruber.

Since then, we've had three sequels that, though enjoyable in their own right, never came close to capturing the sparky fun of the original. Sadly, the cumbersomely titled, A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth in the series, doesn't just fail to reverse this trend, it doesn't even manage to capture the admittedly guilty pleasures of its sanitized predecessor, Live Free and Die Hard (or Die Hard 4.0, as it is known in some territories).

Die Hard the fifth, isn't simply a disappointing Die Hard film – hell, it's a stretch to even call it a Die Hard film – but is so thoroughly mediocre that it barely even works as a by-the-numbers action film. It's too professionally produced to be truly bad and is served greatly by having a running time that clocks in at less than 100 minutes, but this leaden, ultimately boring action flick isn't just a far cry from previous Die Hard films, it also pales in comparison to recent genre offerings like Jack Reacher and the excellent (bite me, haters) James Bond reinvigoration of Skyfall.

It's true, Bruce Willis is undeniably watchable in this, as he always is, but his performance here continues to turn the loveable but flawed everyman that was John McClain in the first Die Hard film into a caricatured, invincible action hero. It's funny but Nicolas Cage's character in Con Air – an undeniable Die Hard rip-off – is closer to the original John McClain than the one we get this time around. Still, no matter how much of a disappointment he is here, Willis with his natural charm and undeniable acting chops is still far and away the best thing about A Good Day To Die Hard.

Die Hard With a Vengeance (aka Die Hard 3 – seriously what's wrong with numbering sequels?) is probably the best of the Die Hard sequels, thanks mainly to its terrific supporting cast that includes Samuel L Jackson as McCain's inevitable sidekick and, better still, Jeremy Irons as the franchise's second most memorable bad guy. Die Hard 5 may have a weak plot; unimaginative, over-long (if explosive and frenetic) action scenes and some seriously forced, cheesy one-liners, but what lets it down most is how faceless the rest of the cast is here.

Presumably, by introducing Jai Courtney as John McCain Jr, director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods hoped to capture some of the great father/ son interplay that made Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade such fun, but sadly they ended up with something closer to the latest Indy film's bland Ford/ LaBeouf team up. Courtney is fine in the role, but his character is so nondescript that it's hard not to wonder if perhaps teaming Willis up with Mary Elizabeth Winstead - again reprising the role of McCain's daughter – would have created a more enjoyable and interesting dynamic. But then, that might just be the Scott Pilgrim fan in me talking.

Worst of all though, is this instalments terrible excuse for a villain. Or villains – it's a surprise, though I doubt you'll care either way. Forget greats like Irons and Rickman, the entirely personality-free bad guys in A Good Day to Die Hard are sure to have you clamouring for even the underwhelming baddie that the usually rather good Timothy Olyphant played in the last film.

There has been some controversy regarding the very recent decision to release the film in edited, youngins-friendly 12A-rated form, but, as stupid as self-imposed censorship might be in this case, there's no real reason to get up in arms about it. 12A or 15; R or PG13, 16 or 13 – no matter what form you see it in, A Good Day to Die Hard is by far the worst Die Hard film to date.


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