Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Year: 2013
Director: John Moore
Screenplay: Skip Woods
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney 

Synopsis is Pointless

Certain friends of mine will know of my abnormal anger towards The Omen 666 (2006), in which I labelled at the time: "the worst film I've ever seen". I was so incensed that I launched into a torrid tirade of abuse about the film, it's sleepwalking characters, subpar scares and lack of any drama before storming out of the cinema fit of rage. Looking back, I overreacted for dramatic effect and looked like a bellend. If I had acted now as I did then, I reckon some clever dick would have filmed it on their phone, and I could have gone viral.   

Seven years have passed, and I've become older, wiser and slightly mellower (Although my podcast co-host may say otherwise). Over these years of further film viewing and reflection, I released that while John Moore's version of The Omen may not be the worst film in the entirety of cinema, that screening marked a point in where Hollywood's crass, cynical view on us as "consumers of product" hit a peak within me. I had seen through the looking glass and found a film with absolutely no heart behind it's conception. This was my Alien 3. A film only made because of a date (released on the 6th of June 2006), rather out of any shed of artistic value or integrity. There are many that will not agree with my opinion on the film, while there are others that will be quick to inform me of other such contemptuous cinematic products before or since. That's fine, but I'm sure every film viewer has their "moments" and this was one of mine. 

Such an act of competent yet soulless filmmaking has forever marred my view of the movies director. I have avoided John Moore movies for the simple fact that much like how many see the Len Wiseman's and Brett Ratners of the world, I see Moore as simply a "jobber" director. A man who can handle a crew, set and cast well enough to bring in whatever script is shoved in front of him. So what you get is an action film with Bruce Willis as lead and Die Hard in the title, but not a Die Hard film. 

You see, time is of the essence and the studio need something with Die Hard in the title to make money over the Valentine's Day weekend. Valentines Day? For Die Hard? Yes, for you see it looks clear to me that one or two people didn't have as much faith in this fifth entry as the original, which was of course a summer blockbuster. Like The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head, it seems that the golden oldies may not rake in what they used to when compared to the superhero kings of the present box office. If I'm correct, then it's very easy to see why this Die Hard film has been release in the cold harsh dead zone of February as opposed to challenging for the title of king of summer.

A Good Day to Die Hard is a mess of an action movie. A barrage of near pointless, unintelligible set-pieces melded together with little more of a dental floss thin amount of plot holding it together. Skip Wood's mangled screenplay has little to no care as to what makes it's lead character so appealing in the first place. We remember not only the action beats of the original film, but the affability of John McClane himself. A workaday cop in the wrong place at the wrong time, his intimate chats with fellow cop Al, and his strained but affectionate relationship with his wife displayed his vulnerability. The original film further highlighted this with its simple moment of having McClane walk barefooted on cracked glass. Much like Spielberg and Lucas' Indy, this man was just like us, we wanted him to get through this. That wasn't just "80's sensibilities" or the like; it was just decent building of character.

Now we have a John McClane who is more like a high street bank than your average Joe. This guy is simply too big fail. Watching Willis going through the motions, with no emotion, surviving everything like a bald Terminator is heartbreaking. There's little risk and the stakes are incredibly low this time round as the screenplay pathetically tries to tie everything together in a gabbled plot that cares just as much about it's ludicrous (and blatantly obvious) double crosses and dullard villains than making John McClane the unfortunate hero his once was.

So we come back to Moore, a hired gun who directs to do a job. In football terms he is a utility player of film maker. Here he works with the sketchy template give to him and does little to inject the same verve found in other action films let alone Die Hard movies. We are quickly shoved into a incomprehensible car chase sequence and the film never lets up. The crashes and bangs rapidly begin to bore because neither the film’s director nor screenplay care about any nuance towards its story or character, it merely wants us to see Willis survive near death experiences repeatedly while referencing unearned homage’s to not only Die Hard films, but other films in Willis body of work. 

But this is the issue with film-makers who don't seem to regard history with any importance. Standing on the shoulders of giants with disregard to the foundation, frequent hark backs to wittier films is one thing, but it's annoyingly inane handing of Russia also shows that Americas old enemy deserves more than this, even in films. This even lacks the camp get up found in the likes of Salt and Hanna. Then again despite how one may feel of those films, Directors Phillip Noyce and Joe Wright respect us enough to try and tell a story. John Moore's Die Hard has been created merely to show up on time. It's Alien 3 and The Omen 666 all over again.  

I decided to watch this instead of watching my football team (Arsenal) lose yet again against formidable opponents (Bayern Munich). This could be consider sacrilege, but as a fan, you know when your beat. You also know when you need a utility player, an ugly piece of work to is only there to fill a hold and do a job. They don't belong in this franchise. Die Hard started off as a star striker. Relegation may beckon.