A Good Day to Die Hard (d. John Moore USA 2013)

A Good Day to Die Hard (d. John Moore USA 2013)

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1988 brought us Die Hard (d. John McTiernan USA 1988). And 25 years later we get to a fifth instalment of the franchise. There has been a recent trend in cinema to bring out sequels to a franchise that has seen a large gap between films. Examples include, Indiana Jones and Rambo. They have all used the original actor despite these gaps in these films as well as the fifth Die Hard. The problem here is that they are recognisably a generation behind. All three films are self aware of this and do try to tackle it in their own ways. A Good Day to Die Hard (d. John Moore USA 2013) of course sees the inclusion of Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) son. Unfortunately this allows John McClane to be seen as useless in the film. The film visibly struggles to get the character of John McClane involved in what is going on. I wont go into specifics because I’m attempting to give an honest review without giving away spoilers. However my point is that the film could have survived ‘well’ without John McClane – perhaps better. Of course this would mean it couldn’t be a Die Hard and couldn’t cash in on a franchise and characters from the 1988 successful film.

 

The film also relies heavily on references to the original Die Hard, echoing scenes here and there to strengthen the nostalgic link. Making references isn’t a bad thing but the amount of references goes to show how much this instalment in the franchise is straining to be a Die Hard film. There are actual qualities to the characters that myself and my friends missed from John McClane that had nothing to do with these references. Perhaps it would be better for them to focus on characters rather than putting the same character into the same situations time and time again. All of these criticisms largely however stem from the continuation of a franchise and the film had problems outside of this area. But it is important to note the problems that often occurs in continuing a franchise just to cash in on success. Something that many films attempt to overcome and few actually do.

 

So what does the film try to do as a film itself? The film is understandably an action film so what does this mean? Explosions, guns/knives, car chases maybe, a betrayal or two, some heartfelt moments thrown in and if american the bad guys are foreign. The film is unfortunately very formulaic for its genre and exploits action sequences and over the top carnage to get from one scene to another. Over the top carnage isn’t actually a bad thing if done right, but the inconsistency that ruins it here is that it’s trying to be serious about it. Things will explode in a way that tries to say this would actually happening rather than being self aware that it’s ridiculous. It’s attempting to be serious and realistic and falls short of its mark.

 

Please skip this paragraph if you’d like to avoid spoilers, unfortunately the spoilers are integral to the point explored here. I would like to pick up on a key issue often addressed within american action films. The bad guys. Who are they? Never the americans. There is at the heart of this film the same racial fears that occur in many action films and in fact aren’t entirely absent from the first Die Hard. Although in Die Hard there is the American who acts like a salesman and attempts to selfishly exploit the situation at hand – Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner). Also there is the news reporter who also attempts to exploit the situation – Richard Thornburg (William Atherton). Ellis gets shot and Thornburg a bloody nose for their troubles. These characters by being american allow for a reading of the film to not be picking on any particular race. They provide an alternative to otherwise German ‘bad guys’. However here in A Good Day to Die Hard the film encourages a suspicion of the Russians as any who could be considered a ‘good guy’ ends up being a ‘bad guy’. But a worse example occurs when John McClane is hit by a car, the driver could have been nice about it but they decide to go with an angry reaction. Ok, not favourable, but ok, however one can’t help but notice John McClane hitting him and shouting at him (after he continues to shout at him in Russian) “Do you think I understand a word that you say?” Rather an unfortunate summing up of the racial stance of this film. It’s worth mentioning an inconsistency with the Russians as well, in calmer scenes they will speak to each other in Russian but in an action sequence they fall to shouting in English despite the lack of an American anywhere near them. I can’t say I’ve been in that situation but I wouldn’t have thought a Russian person would get angry and shout in English. In fact the driver previously mentioned didn’t. So why do the others?

 

All in all… there is a lot to criticise with this film. Characters are underdeveloped, plot is weak in areas, the film struggles to be a decent sequel and probably shouldn’t be one at all and the film lacks a racial depth required of its subject matter. However, the special effects were visibly expensive and very well done and I would say that it was interesting to start the film with moments of darkness whilst other things occurred – news report to black and to gunshots punching light in darkness. However the film can only be really enjoyed to a certain level. The film is for those who crave big explosions and gunfights irrelevant of the plot and characters that surround them. If you don’t care much for the latter this may be a film for you. Otherwise it’s a pretty weak film for what the franchise, especially, demands of it.

 

 

Further Reading

 

Bruce Willis

John McClane on Top 100 Characters by Empire

Die Hard on Rotten Tomatoes

A Good Day to Die Hard on Rotten Tomatoes

Yippie Kai Yay

Welcome to the Party Pal

Die Hard

Die Hard in 30 Seconds and Re-inacted by Bunnies



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