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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

A Good Day to Die Hard (review)

A Good Day to Die Hard red light Bruce Willis Jai Courtney

I’m “biast” (pro): love Bruce Willis, love the early Die Hard flicks…

I’m “biast” (con): …but the last one left a lot to be desired

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This is the worst Jason Bourne movie yet. What were they thinking?

Wait, what? This is supposed to be a Die Hard movie? That can’t be. It starts out all, like, CIA crap, shaky zooms on worried wonks in supertech control rooms on one side of the planet and an opening gambit that I swear is swiped directly — if inexpertly — from the infinitely superior Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, with a field agent getting himself thrown into a Moscow prison in order to help rescue a political prisoner–

Wait, what? Moscow? That’s even farther outside John McClane’s jurisdiction than Nakatomi Tower.

So that’s it, then? They’ve given up on any feeling of Die Hard-ness and just gone for a bland generic action pudding. Well, bland pudding that manages to be sociopathic at the same time. Like with the demolition-derby car chase through Moscow that, among other outrages, totals every parked car in the city. It’s a prolonged orgy of automobile destruction — it’s car-crash porn that’s not in the least bit erotic. Director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen) demolishes with all the rage of a petulant toddler and none of the panache of, say, Godzilla.

This is the sort of dumbed-down junk in which former NYPD cop John McClane (Bruce Willis: The Expendables 2, The Cold Light of Day) can arrive in Moscow expecting to visit his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney: Jack Reacher), in prison only to screw up Jack’s CIA extraction (which leads to that demolition orgy). And then as the McClane boys continue to run around shooting scumbags and getting in some good — read: awkward and unconvincing — father-son bonding, the elder can complain to the scumbags ruining his day, “I’m on vacation.” That he’s not, in fact, on vacation is bad enough, and makes this pathetic wheeze of a would-be one-liner inexcusable. Screenwriter Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) should be ashamed. But contrast it with the original Die Hard’s “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” which dripped with sarcastic wit and self-deprecation.

There’s no wit here. Instead of the charming wiseass New Yorker McClane once was, now he’s an ugly American abroad; the film invites us to be ugly right along with him, since we’re intended to laugh with him, not at him, as he insults random non-scumbag Muscovites. Instead of the clever play on cultural fears and the predictability of police playbooks that Die Hard gave us — Hans Gruber’s phone call to the FBI demanding the release of random terrorists he read about in Time magazine as a distraction is a brilliant bit of cinema — Good Day unironically indulges anxieties over terrorism with its sliding scale of nefarious badness that starts out cartoonish — blowing up the main courthouse in Moscow — and ends at a place that is downright science fictional on a level with Marvin the Martian (and without any indication that the movie realizes this).

There are two lines of dialogue here — one spoken by Courtney, the other by a lady scumbag (Yuliya Snigir) — that are so ludicrous that they could well be something Marvin would have intoned. I can’t imagine how the actors did not bust out in guffaws delivering them in much the same way that the crowd I endured this with did when we heard them.

The Idiocracy has descended, and shit is all fucked up.

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A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
US/Can release: Feb 14 2013
UK/Ire release: Feb 14 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated DHD: it died hardest, and now it’s dead
MPAA: rated R for violence and language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains strong language and moderate action violence)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Dana Caldone

    my god… it’s that bad.

  • Oh, goodness. When I read the title, I *really* expected this to be a parody. I guess in some ways it unintentionally is.

  • Dana Caldone

    I’ve red 25 reviews on RT since this morning and i have to say. I’ve never seen reviews this bad for an episode in a franchise of this caliber before. Even “attack of the clones” was better received(and that movie was lousy). this must be an epic fail. Cause critics are savaging this movie like a pack of wild animals. this reviewer ain’t lying. everyone’s saying the – exact same things.

    From a fan who thinks the original is the pinnacle of action excellence i knew this day would eventually come. you hang around long enough and you’ll see the mighty fall. Mark your calender. this looks like the day Die Hard kicked the bucket. and went out like a sucker.

    … 25 years was a nice run… Although there was a 12 year gap at one point.

  • I fully agree. It felt like a DTV sequel at times, and the script is shit. Willis had the clout to not make this movie happen — he could’ve waited for a better script or decided to retire John McClane after “Live Free or Die Hard”.

    I hope the word-of-mouth is toxic enough to sink any hope of a sixth movie at the box office. Just terrible.

  • RogerBW

    Again, darn – I wasn’t expecting much of this, and it seems to have delivered. Bourne is now, I guess, the strange attractor of decaying action franchises…

  • The first *Die Hard* is probably the best action movie ever. For it to come to this is a cryin’ shame.

  • PJK

    I had my fears when I saw that the running time was 1 hour and 37 minutes. This kind of running time in a big box office action movie usually means that they’ve squeezed out all the non-action elements and made it into a wall to wall orgy of gunfire/explosions/car chases etc.

    While I have nothing per se against gunfire/explosions/car chases etc in action movies, I do like them to contain something more, like for instance character development or decent plotting, you know just to make the movie more interesting.

    Ah well, maybe we’ll get something more interesting during the rest of the year.

  • Dana Caldone

    When i found out this movie was being released in February i knew too. Die Hard is in the neighborhood of jaws(the original). The ultimate summer movie. The strange thing is they made good money with “Live free,” why they decided to reduce the time and go cheap is bizarre.

  • Dana Caldone

    i’d say opening weekend will be very interesting to observe the numbers cause i expect a “pearl harbor” drop off sometime soon.

  • Thanks to the warning, I convinced my brother and his wife to see Silver Linings Playbook instead. A good time was had by all. :)

  • I think Fox wanted to see how the movie would do in a ‘dead’ month — and they probably thought they landed a great spot when “Safe House” cleaned up in the same spot last year.

    Had the movie been good, the release date wouldn’t have mattered.

  • RogerBW

    It must be tricky as an exec, knowing that you have to keep the release pipeline full but sometimes only having garbage to fill it with…

  • mdm

    I actually saw an interesting theory in reaction to this movie: that it was, in fact, a non-Die Hard movie that was a script by a producer’s son or whatever and then someone in the company realized, “Oh god, this is complete shit and we will lose all of the monies.” So they scrambled to rebrand it as Die Hard, did Find->Replace for names and added a line of dialogue and back-reference or two, banking (ahem) on opening weekend to at least break even.

    It is disgusting and terrifying how plausible I find this.

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