‘Die Hard’ disappoints with new addition to saga
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
There is a scene in the original 1988 “Die Hard” (directed by John McTiernan) in which a barefoot John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes a break from stopping terrorists as they try to take over Nakatomi Plaza. His feet are bloody and covered with broken glass and you can feel his pain as he removes each piece from his feet.
This little moment of vulnerability presents one of the many elements that set “Die Hard” apart from other films and prove why John McClane was such a relatable and compelling character; he was just an ordinary guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sadly, nothing resembling those wonderful character moments are to be found in John Moore’s ridiculously cartoonish fifth entry in the Die Hard saga.
The fifth film takes McClane into Russia where he has to rescue his son Jack, a CIA agent (Jai Courtney from “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”) from Russian criminals. It doesn’t take long for the main plot to kick into gear and for the McClanes (father and son) to discover a massive government conspiracy involving nuclear weapons, the supposed truth behind Chernobyl, political secrets and betrayals.
The overtly convoluted and completely tension-less script by Skip Woods keeps the film from having any sense of energy or momentum. The plot seems completely preposterous and the inclusion that the McClanes are thrown into this huge conflict as a means to work out their relationship could be a good idea for a solid father/son connection story (a better execution of this could be something like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”).
Sadly, Moore and Woods are more interested in making action set piece after action set piece without any real moment to breathe and to connect with what’s going on.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest problems with the film is the action. Moore has no sense of stakes or visual coherence to make up a satisfying and thrilling action sequence; instead, he shoots everything up close and relies on moving the camera around with no sense of geography.
John McClane is also given the wrong characterization—a New York cop who started out in the first film being forced into situations that constantly tested him both physically and emotionally, is now essentially an invincible superhero.
It seems like Moore and Woods completely missed the point of McClane. He never was a superhero, but here, from the beginning, he never bleeds (although a little towards the end) and survives preposterous scenarios that are laughably ridiculous. Therefore, there are no stakes to the whole film, which sadly means that we no longer are able to experience how McClane will get out of a particular situation when relying upon his physical skills, his snarky dialogue and determination.
And while I feel angry and disappointed at the film, I must say that Courtney gives a solid performance with the material he is given. Even though Willis is nowhere near as strong as his 2012 year (“Looper” and “Moonrise Kingdom”), it is sometimes fun to see him bring that R-rated McClane attitude, even if at times his performance feels a bit detached from the more human McClane that we’re used to. Also the brief cameo by Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy McClane provides very brief moments of energy and warmth.
But one of the things that also characterizes the series is its villains and the standard that was set with Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is incredibly high (he is one of the best villains in the history of film). Even the latest portrayal of a “Die Hard” villain by Timothy Olyphant in “Live Free or Die Hard” was fun and threatening. However this movie doesn’t have any memorable villains or one-liners or even standout moments from the series.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” is an incredibly disappointing entry that manages to lack any tension, any satisfying action set pieces or even function as entertaining action film. Worst of all it detaches the audience from the character of McClane by making him an indestructible superhuman instead of a relatable cop who had this memorable attitude and charisma that all added to create one hell of a character.
Oscar Garza may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.