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A Good Day to Die Hard Has Completely Lost What Die Hard Was

A Good Day to Die Hard
Directed by John Moore
Written by Skip Woods
Fox, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard comes in as mega counter-programming to the usual Valentine’s Day female-centric films, which is a bold stroke considering that it’s the female-driven movies that usually act as counter-programming.  This is the 5th Die Hard movie, a series which started back in 1988 and the original is still one of the best action films of all time.

Something started happening with Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance, movies in the series I still actually like, where they took the exaggerated parts of John McClane’s character and started turning him more and more into a comic book superhero.  Those movies still basically stuck to the formula, until Die Hard with a Vengeance decided to go for one of the most ridiculous stunts in a movie ever, as McClane and his new sidekick Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) try to climb ropes down to a boat from a bridge and the ropes break and somehow they survive the fall.  In the original Die Hard, sure, there’s that fire hose bungee jump while the roof explodes, but as crazy as that was, at least it looked like it might be plausible.

Then came Live Free or Die Hard, which came 12 years after Vengeance and 5 years ago, rebooting the series, which destroyed all the common sense possible in the world and made McClane into a full-fledged cyborg capable of surviving practically anything, with no regard to the logic of it all.  It was a huge hit back in 2007, and therefore, common sense once again took a huge beating, and the new Die Hard didn’t need to follow any rules anymore.

McClane (Bruce Willis) now is going to Russia to find his son Jack (Jai Courtney), who is a CIA operative trying to extract a former Russian gangster Komarav (Sebastian Koch) who has access to a file that can incriminate a bad guy politician Chagarin (Sergey Kolesnikov).  As usual, there are bad guys who don’t want that to happen, led by carrot-chomping Alik (Radivoje Bukvic).  The reunion of John and Jack is not a happy one, but of course they will bond over their mutual badassery.

And that’s about it.  There are a couple of twists and turns, kind of like a Die Hard, and the Michael Kamen theme from Die Hard is still there, but absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, of the original Die Hard in the way of action is here.  Action has become “what kind of crazy shit can we pull off with digital effects and other movie magic.”  Early on, McClane drives a vehicle through a bridge onto a street below, over a bunch of cars, smashing everything in sight, probably killing or injuring people in the process, and the vehicle just drives like, “What other cars?” and never gets damaged, never slows him down.  I never knew your typical Jeep/Land Rover type vehicle doubles as a tank, but it does here.  There’s an impossible escape from death towards the end that is so stupefying, I had to think whether or not that or the highway scene from the last movie was the Most Ridiculous Action Stunt of All Time.

What Die Hard officially got away from in the last couple of movies is the “confined space” aspect of the action, where McClane had to use his brains to get out of tight jams, where the hero and the villain could strategize against each other and the action that would take place afterwards made sense.  Vengeance got away from that, and Live Free definitely did.  At the very least, Live Free had a villain.  This movie has no main villain at all.  That’s one of the most particularly unsatisfying aspects of this movie.  There’s not a bad guy who has a plan here.  Well, I guess there is, but no one you can latch onto throughout the movie where you say, “I want that guy stopped at all costs.”

A Good Day to Die Hard will end up doing some pretty nifty business this weekend, and I hope that’s where it ends.

Follows: Live Free or Die Hard

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