Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

Directed by: John Moore.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, Cole Hauser, Sergei Kolesnikov.

Rating:   Running Time: 97 mins.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes a trip to Russia to try and see his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) who is being tried for murder after shooting a man in a nightclub. Lo and behold, as McClane arrives and makes his way to the courthouse, a group of mercenaries interrupt the proceedings, blowing up the courtroom to kidnap Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner who has been held without trial by Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), the corrupt leader of the government. Chagarin wants a file that contains proof of illegal activities that would topple him if exposed, and when the mercenaries chase Jack and Kimarov as they make their escape in the chaos, McClane intervenes in order to rescue his son, unaware that Jack is more involved in the events than initially thought.

This is the fifth in the Die Hard series, the first two of which had him being the everyday man who turns out to be the sole action hero ‘in the wrong time at the wrong place’ as has been said in the movies. Then for the third and fourth movies, it was decided to team him up with a partner to add a sort of ‘buddy’ aspect to the series, with Samuel L Jackson being added in Die Hard With A Vengeance, and then Justin Long in Die Hard 4.0 (originally titled Live Free Or Die Hard in the U.S.), both of which were essentially there to fill the ‘comedy sidekick’ role. Here the decision has been made to add a sidekick character which instead of being in that role, is another action role, which is one of the issues that this movie suffers from.

You can tell that this has been done partly to setup a potential spin off or continuation of the series with Jai Courtney as the new McClane, but by adding another action hero adds nothing to the movie that you don’t already get from Bruce Willis in his role. As a result of this, Willis is given more of the one liners that we have come to expect from the series, but unfortunately these feel more forced throughout, rather than feeling spontaneous and genuinely funny. One liners are a necessity, they’re needed to give the audience a way to relieve any tension that is built up throughout any tense dramatic or action scenes, of which there are plenty of the latter, though not as successfully composed as those in the previous movies.

One thing that has been done differently for this Die Hard movie that I noticed straight away is the framing of the movie. While it’s possible that this was poorly projected by the cinema that I saw the movie in, I believe it was projected correctly. It’s admittedly a nit-pick of someone who watches and notices details like this a lot more, but I suspect that people watching the movie will have picked up on this without even realising it. All of the previous Die Hard movies are framed at 2.35:1 aspect ratio – this for the uninitiated, means widescreen – real widescreen, which means that whatever size screen you watch the movie on the image is 2.35 times wider than it is high. Possible because they have released this Die Hard in Imax, this movie is instead 1.85:1, which is the same as any modern widescreen television. The critical word there is television. That’s how this change impacts the movie, instead of it feeling as big as the other movies have, at times this feels no better than a television movie, and even at some of the best sequences in the movie, the camera work is both so close up to the actors and the action, or suffers from poor handheld shakey cam that it’s downright embarrassing.

Right at the start of the movie, there’s a scene where McClane talks over the issue of Jack with another policeman back in the U.S. at a gun range, and in a scene with the two of them talking, and no need of cuts to different events going on in the room, when a standing camera should have been used, instead it feels like a child is behind the camera, struggling with the weight and straining to keep the actors heads in frame. It’s really awful amateur hour work – shakey cam in an action sequence is understandable, but in a silent dialogue scene where you should be focusing on the characters instead of being distracted by the top of their head bobbing out of frame is unacceptable. How this kind of shoddy camera work was allowed to make it into the final movie I do not know.

This is a shame, as when the movie starts there’s actually some attempts to setup a fairly decent Die Hard movie, with some plotting elements setting up the characters of Komarov and Chagarin, and an opening that establishes Jack in the Russian underworld, as well as the story of the all important file that everyone wants. Unfortunately, once the action sequences start though, that’s where the movie decides to basically drop the plot and just focus on the action. This might have at least made for a decent bit of action, if not for the headache inducing mix of awful camera work, extremely poor sound mix (dialogue and one liners are drowned out by an overpowering explosion biased audio track), and some absolutely terrible editing (at points during a lengthy car chase involving no less than four vehicles in the chase, the editing makes following the action a struggle).

Essentially what you have here is a movie that is to the Die Hard series what Quantum of Solace was to the Bond series, a movie stripped of any real story or plotting, poorly written, poorly edited, and streamlined to focus on action which as the movie progresses becomes boring. The only thing good I can say about it is it’s not as bad a sequel as Taken 2. If you absolutely have to see it, be sure to go in with low expectations and a pillow.

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Posted on February 15, 2013, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. don’t forget the really bad SFX in the big ending action scene and how bad the threat that both McClanes have to stop.

  2. This has not been a good year for aging action stars. First Arnold gets his ass kicked by Jessica Chastain in the box office for The Last Stand. Then Stallone’s Bullet to the Head can’t even break into the Top 5 the first week it’s released. Now Bruce Willis is going toe to toe with a Nicholas Sparks romantic drama. Die Hard should still make #1, but this should’ve been a slam dunk instead of a close race.

    • Of all 3 of those 80’s action star vehicles that have been release, i enjoyed The Last Stand most. Both it and Bullet To The Head had no pretence that they were anything other than a silly action movie.

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