Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Movie #386: A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard is the fifth installment in the Die Hard series starring Bruce Willis. Also in this particular mess we have Jai Courtney, Sebastien Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, and Cole Hauser.

Now, I haven't seen the fourth installment (Live Free or Die Hard), so maybe this movie is full of clever callbacks to that movie, but I can tell you that there are zero callbacks to anything in the first three movies (you know, the good ones) except that McClane (Willis) at one point half-heartedly says "yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The movie's set in Russia, with young Jack McClane (Courtney) working for the CIA and going through this really complicated exfiltration for an imprisoned billionaire (Koch) who's about to be put on trial, only he has a file that implicates his former partner Chagarin (Sergey Kolesnikov) in Bad Things, including causing the Chernobyl meltdown. Anyway, to do this, Jack goes undercover and gets arrested, McClane hears about this in New York and flies to Moscow to see if he can help, and immediately gets mixed up when the exfiltration goes sideways because there are bad guys led by said billionaire's daughter (Snigir). Only, of course, the billionaire (his name is Komarov, but let's just think of him as "Gruber lite") turns out to be in on it, so there's a rootin-tootin shootout at the Chernobyl plant, ending in helicopter crashes and father-son bonding.

So, I feel that we have to talk about the fact that what makes for a fun action movie has shifted in the, what, not quite 30 years since Die Hard. When you show scenes of crowded populated areas getting destroyed, some of us squirm in our seats a little because. The original Die Hard got around that because it was confined to a small area, but the 2010s grim, dour aesthetic feels strange applied to McClane, who is supposed to be quick with a one-liner.

But that's the other thing: McClane doesn't feel like McClane. He makes some jokes, sure, but they fall completely flat. He's out of element, yeah, but apart from a cab ride in which his inability to speak Russian gets highlighted, he never really feels like the fish out of water he did while walking around Nakatomi.

Plus, this movie just does not know how to build. It starts off with explosions and massive car chases and never lets up, so we never really get a sense of what the bad guy's plan is (even before the third act reveal, which is weak anyway) or why all of this is so important. Plus, the revelation that "OMG THE BAD GUYS DID CHERNOBYL" feels like a high school sophomore wrote it.

The other thing that bugged me was McClane laughing derisively when he discovers his son is in the CIA. Like...that's hard. You have to be smart and work hard for that shit. Inter-agency rivalry, sure, but he's a real dick about it.

I dunno. All in all, I kinda think this franchise needs to be left to die (hard), or we need to pass the torch. Hell, could we have McClane's daughter Lucy (Winstead) be the hero in the next one, while McClane takes on the Reginald Veljohnson role and watches from the sidelines.

My Grade: C-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: The Illusionist