Despite the bad reviews, I figured I should probably see A Good Day to Die Hard since I've seen all of the other Die Hard movies and liked at least one of them. Okay, maybe two of them. However, I went in with low expectations. This is the series in which the protagonist survives the explosion of a boat by jumping into the water next to the boat. Because, you know, being in the water totally protects you from explosions in the water. So, not only do we have that, but this one, the 5th (and I'd totally lost track, at this point, that this was the 5th one), was actually getting pretty horrible reviews.
It seems I did not lower my expectations far enough. Good Day fails at pretty much every level of story telling and movie making. Well, except for the explosions. It has plenty of those, which, in the Michael Bay theory of movie making, is all you need to make a good movie. I have to suppose John Moore and Skip Woods (the director and writer, respectively) are Bay disciples.
The first real mistake the movie makes is having the movie open with McClane's son instead of with McClane himself. It's Die Hard; we're here to see John McClane, not junior. To make it worse, they just throw the audience into the middle of a situation for which there is no context. This is one of the reasons I hate that whole "start in the middle of the action" "rule." They definitely did that with this movie. However, not knowing anything about the characters or the situation, there is no way real way to know whom we should be caring about, so we don't really care about anyone. Of course, this all ends, as we come to find out, with John Jr. (Jack) in a Russian prison. And, as my wife said, "What? I didn't even know he had a son."
[As a total aside, the plot arc includes the exposition for a reason. When you skip that part so that you can "start in the middle of the action," you skip the part where the audience gains empathy for the protagonist and comes to care for him or her. Without an exposition, you do not have a complete story, and that's just bad writing.]
The issue here is that there is an expectation that we will care about Jack because John cares about Jack. Except we don't have any context, really, for John caring about Jack since he's barely mentioned or seen in the other movies. Conveniently enough, John has suddenly chosen this moment to care about Jack, whom he has not spoken to in years, and has had one of his old cop buddies track Jack down for him just at the time that Jack is arrested and thrown into a Russian prison. Of course, there is no good reason why McClane's cop friend should be able to find out that undercover CIA agent Jack McClane has been thrown into a top Russian prison. Especially within what seems to be hours of it happening. Not that McClane even knows that his son is CIA.
Being John McClane, he just jumps on a plane to Russia with some vague expectation that he will be able to connect with his son when he gets there. His son that is in a top, possibly top secret, Russian prison. And, of course, without planning it, he happens to arrive on the day that his son is going to appear in Russian court as a witness against the guy that Jack is supposed to be saving. And, also of course, he stumbles into the middle of a prison break/abduction of the guy that Jack is supposed to be saving (and also testifying against).
This is where we expect, I guess, John McClane to become "yippee-ki-yay" John instead of old, tired John that we find at the beginning of the movie. But we don't get that. No, what we get is John chasing his son around during the middle of a fire fight trying to talk to him about how sorry he is that he wasn't there for him when he was a kid. I think it was supposed to be funny. I think. But it didn't even rise to the level of ludicrous as John meanders through the bullets and explosions and, eventually, when his son takes off in a vehicle without him, steals a truck to follow his son while yelling, "I'm not through talking to you!"
And through all of this we have been given no real reason as to why this guy Jack needs to save is so important other than that the CIA want him and that some muckety-muck Russian wants him dead. Or abducted. And the guy's daughter is involved, except we're not supposed to know that, but as soon as the dude tells McClane that he has a daughter, I knew it was his daughter that was the woman in the group trying to capture and/or kill the dude. And also of course no one turns out to be on the sides they're presented to be on except McClane, the sadist bad guy, and the dead people.
Possibly the worst bit, which is saying a lot considering how terribly the movie began, is when Jack overhears John telling the Russian dude about how bad a parent he was and how bad he feels about it and how all he wants to do is make everything right with Jack. But, since, Jack hears John saying this, we are spared any action or work on the part of John to repair his relationship with his son, because his son, now, understands that his dad worked all the time because of how much he loved Jack. And, then, of course, they bond over killing the bad guys and everything is okay.
I'm not making it out to be as bad as it really is. It was bad enough that, before the hour mark, my wife decided that she was through with the movie. I'm not actually sure why I finished watching it other than the fact that I have a hard time stopping something once I've started it no matter how bad it is. That this movie was bad wasn't even the worst part about it. It just felt completely inauthentic. McClane's actions didn't feel authentic (Who, really, just jumps in a plane and flies to Russia with the vague plan of getting in to see someone in a Russian prison? John was a cop; he, theoretically, knows how this stuff works and it's beyond far-fetched that he, even being John McClane, would just hop in a plane without contacting the State Department or something). The fact that Jack refers to his father as "McClane" didn't feel authentic (Seriously? "Damn you, McClane" is the best they could come up with for Jack to say? I buy him calling his father "John" but the whole "McClane was a stretch the rubber band couldn't take). The whole conflict of the movie involving Russia and nukes didn't feel authentic. It's not the 80s anymore.
So, yeah, give me more of escaping explosions by jumping into the water next to the boat that's exploding. At least that was just a brief moment of stupidity unlike the stupidity that was this movie from beginning to end. And that doesn't even cover how dumb the title is, because, if you're going to use the phrase "a good day to die," you need to actually have it be relevant to the movie, but no... no relation at all. Just a cool title. But, then, a cool title doesn't make a cool movie.
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Thursday, September 5, 2013
A Good Day For This Movie To Die Hard
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If there is one thing I hate about a movie or book is dialog that has been done time and time again. This thing where the Dad is sorry he wasn't there for the kid when the kid was growing up - well, it's as common as explosions in action movies. After I read the first few lines, I knew what you were going to say. I just didn't know how and the details. You did a good job and I enjoyed reading your review. I'm sure it is more interesting and fun than the movie.ReplyDelete
I watched this one two weeks ago, figuring I would at least enjoy it. (And my blogger buddy Ted Cross had a scene as an extra, so I wanted to catch it.) Yeah, I think you covered all the reason the movie failed. It was a mess.ReplyDelete
Next time will there be a long lost daughter or sister or someone we've never heard of that will show up like the son did?
Or can we only hope there will be no next time?
I might have to see it just because Bruce Willis still looks hot. You can't beat cheap thrills and a bucket of popcorn.ReplyDelete
Die Hard is in my top five list of movies. The one with Samuel L. Jackson was OK, and the one with Justin Long was actually pretty good (take down a helicopter with an exploding car you just caused to fly out of the tunnel at just the right moment - as unbelievable as jumping next to the boat, but MUCH cooler). I was warned not to see this one by several trusted friends, and now I can add your entertaining review to the reasons why those two hours will be spent doing something else. Despite how hot Bruce Willis is.ReplyDelete
Tina @ Life is Good
Yeah I don't think they'd shown his son since the first movie 25 years ago. The whole thing had a cheap vibe like one of those straight-to-DVD movies, of which Bruce Willis appears in many. As a fan of the series it was really disappointing. More disappointing is I think there's going to be a sixth one in 2015.ReplyDelete
Hmmm, I don't think I've ever seen a Die Hard movie. *ducksandruns*ReplyDelete
But I'd be with your wife. If a movie sucks I turn it off. Life is short.
My therapist said that the best way to strengthen the parent-child bond is to kill bad guys together.ReplyDelete
Ted Cross is an ambassador to the U.S. and was in this movie!ReplyDelete
You're right Andrew: always start with John. I'll probably never see this one. Number four was watchable, but this series should have ended with the first one.ReplyDelete
Don't say I didn't warn you. You cannot lower your expectations far enough. It would drop beneath the universe and probably tear it apart. Bruce Willis didn't even act. He just said lines. And you can't even blame it on him being too old because he was fine in RED 2. I'm actually wondering if this movie was cobbled together from pieces rejected from other movies because they were too crappy.ReplyDelete
David: Yeah, I think so, too.ReplyDelete
Alex: Well, Willis has said he wants to do a 6th one before retiring the character and the 5th one actually made quite a bit of money, so I would expect one more. Unfortunately. Or, maybe, they'll get it together and make the last one something really good. One can hope, at least, right?
JKIR,F!: Go rent GI Joe: Retaliation instead. It's a better movie and Willis is actually really good in it.
Tina: Yeah, I liked the 4th one, but, I have to say, it may have been because of Kevin Smith. I like the 1st one, but I don't think it even makes my top 10. In fact, I know it doesn't because it's not in my top 10 movie post.
PT: I was reading up on this one for this post, and, evidently, it was supposed to be done as a team-up with Jack Bauer and done in the style of 24. That fell apart, and it looks like they just threw something together to take its place.
L.G.: Well, they're not all that great on the whole. The first one is worth seeing, for sure, and was influential enough to be worth seeing.
Let me know how that goes.
Michael: It's too bad he couldn't have picked a better one to be in.
Maurice: I agree. It didn't need sequels. But I did enjoy 4.
Jeanne: Yeah, well... that's why I didn't see it at the theater. I figured it would be okay to rent. But, well, no.
I skipped Red 2 at the theater because of the bad reviews, but I love the first one.
Also, GI Joe: Retaliation. He was great as Joe in that.
I haven't seen the one you're talking about. My wife and I rewatched one of them a couple weeks--the one with the semi-truck on the collapsing bridge. The movie was ridiculously unrealistic, but it was fun. I don't watch those kinds of movies for the story but just for the fun silly stuff. And if a film keeps my wife awake then that's a plus.ReplyDelete
Wrote By Rote
Lee: So explosions keep your wife awake?ReplyDelete
The explosions are part of it, but mostly it's the action. Too much talking sometimes bores her. Keep in mind though that English is her second language so sometimes she doesn't follow some of the dialog.ReplyDelete
And forget most comedy. She just doesn't get a lot of it.
That leaves me watching comedies, dramas that are primarily dialog, many documentaries, and other such things on my own when she goes to bed early. And forget my favorite director Fellini. She hates Fellini movies and refuses to watch them with me. Come to think of it I can't get anyone to watch Fellini films with me.
Wrote By Rote
Lee: Well, I can't actually say I've seen much Fellini. Despite having a few film classes, I haven't seen more than, maybe, two, and that was long enough ago that I don't remember it. So I'd watch one.ReplyDelete
If you lived nearby I'd invite you over for a Fellini viewing and discussion. 8 1/2 is his most famous so that may have been the film you saw if you saw one. I still have several of his films yet to see before I see them all.ReplyDelete
Lee: I'd have to see it again to know. I went and looked over his film list, and none of the names jumped up and down at me saying "it was me." It may have been 8 1/2 or, maybe, The Clown. I think I remember talking about that one, at least.ReplyDelete
I came very close Thursday night to rewatching The Clowns since I have it on VHS. I first saw it at a university theater when I was in college in about 1973 or so. The film was originally made for TV. It's a delightful mockumentary that in my view states that we all are the clowns. One of my favorites since it deals with the circus.ReplyDelete
Wrote By Rote
If only parents around the world had known that the easiest way to fix a relationship is to kill a bad guy together! Those times that I've argued with my dad, instead of going there to talk things over in a mature and responsible manner, we should've just hopped on a plane to Russia -- or Iran, right? JUST AS EASY TO GO THERE, I imagine -- and shot us some Ahmebinijad.ReplyDelete
I can handle ludicrous physics in movies that are meant to be stupid; if you like explosion sounds in space in 'Star Wars' you ought to at least let John McClane avoid trouble by being 6" underwater as an oil rig explodes. But the stuff you complain about here is inexcusable.
The only part I really enjoyed was when for a moment I thought you were going to tell me that McClane wandered through the gunfight like Mr. Magoo, heedless of the many physical dangers and somehow surviving them. "OH, MCCLANE, YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN," he'd say, as he spies his lost Pomeranian. I would pay to go see that.
(And now I expect I will spend the day thinking of a gritty reboot of Mr Magoo.)
Hey Andrew, I will never ever watch this movie. If I was paid a lot of money I may consider it. I watched the first Die Hard movie way back when it came out on VHS...I bought it for my sons. I hated it. I feel about action movies the same way I feel about most fantasy/sci-fi films, which is not good.ReplyDelete
I liked Bruce Willis back when he had hair and was in Moonlighting with Cybil Shepard. Yeah, yeah, that's more than a few years ago, but I liked it.
I've never seen a Fellini movie and I went to film school! It's a travesty!
Lee: Okay, I think I did not see that one, but we did discuss it.ReplyDelete
Briane: I wonder if you would actually have to fly to a foreign country? I mean, couldn't you just go take care of some drug dealers or something?
It was Magoo-like except he wasn't looking for his glasses. And he started bashing the bad guys to get out of the way so that he could talk to his son.
I think it's time for a gritty, Frank Miller-style Magoo.
Eve: You should check out Moonrise Kingdom. Willis was great in that. He's not the star of it, though. I also loved him in The Kid, which is a bit older at this point.
It really is that bad, huh? *sigh* Okay. Thanks, Andrew. I have heard this news, but hoped it might be watchable. I really like this series, but perhaps it really is time to shut this thing down.ReplyDelete
James: Yeah, it's really that bad. Unfortunately, for me, it was the kind of bad I had experience for myself. It wasn't that I didn't believe people when they said it was bad; it's just that I didn't believe them enough.ReplyDelete
There is a 6th one in pre-production, right now.
Bad movie. Agreed. Did think the car chase early on was pretty cool though.ReplyDelete
Rusty: I couldn't even get behind the car chase because of all of the stupid things McClane kept shouting.ReplyDelete
That and I have a hard time imagining highways in Russia being all clogged up like highways in CA.
Gosh I haven't been to see a movie in over a year. I normally wait for the Red Box release but this movie is one that my hubby wants to see when it is released. I'll just tell him that it sucked at the theater!ReplyDelete
G_G: It sucked on the TV, too, which is where I watched it. It's currently available as a rental.ReplyDelete