Film review: 'A Good Day to Die Hard'
MANILA, Philippines - When I told people that I was watching the new "Die Hard" flick they said, “What? They’re still making those?”
The disbelief is not misplaced. The franchise celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and we are very far from the original spirit and verve. Truth be told all that we’ve got left to remind us that this is a "Die Hard" movie is the aging, grizzled McClane still played by Bruce Willis.
The movie’s opening shots also prove unpromising. They threaten a jittery, shaky cam, supposedly modern update. In fact, the early and establishing shots made me worry that this was going to try to be Bourne or was going to try to emulate newer action flicks.
I have apprehensions because despite all of the camera trickery and CG updates and whatever else new movies have, the action movies of the '80s are still more powerful to me. That said, when you’re thrown these contemporary aesthetics within an established franchise (granted this franchise has dipped in quality) then you don’t exactly know where it will go.
As a person who has the entire first film, "Die Hard" (1988), burned into his memory (and will cite it as his favorite Christmas movie), I have hung with the franchise even as it has lost its way. The last movie had McClane as pretty much a superhero, capable of anything really, when his initial appeal had been his being a scrapper and having a wicked wit.
McClane’s still cast as an underdog against hordes, but his vulnerability is all but gone, and this bigger, brawnier, though older Willis makes him seem even more invincible.
While we had the marital struggles of the first two films, "A Good Day to Die Hard" and the last movie, "Live Free or Die Hard" deal with his kids. These lack the charm of the first two movies, which at least showed McClane working to make things right. Now everything’s too late and all he can do is try and make up for his terribleness.
I can’t help but wonder, sometimes, when your father is the kind of hero who has saved so many people, can you not cut him a little slack when he’s always out on the beat? The outright animosity he gets from both kids because “he wasn’t around” stretches believability. It makes the whole thing cliche. But then I guess there isn’t that much to add on.
What else can we expect in terms of character growth? Nothing, really. So what we have is the stereotypical father-son issues, which the characters have to work through. In the middle of firefights.
So let’s assume that in terms of narrative and character growth, "A Good Day to Die Hard" doesn’t really have much to offer. We’ve got a father estranged from his son. McClane heads to Russia to help sort out his son Jack, who’s in jail on a murder wrap. Turns out it’s a much bigger plot than that, with some predictable twists and turns. If you’ve watched the other flicks then you can predict ‘em anyway.
If we accept that there isn’t much to expect by way of story and character, then what can we expect? Why would we bother to watch this movie?
Because there is a lot of badass action in this flick.
When the logic of sequels is to go big, well, "A Good Day to Die Hard" doesn’t go big, it goes massive. It goes to epic proportions in terms of its action scenes. Sure, it does not and will never have the surprise or ingenuity of the first film. It knows that. It will just bludgeon you over the head with jaw-dropping action set-pieces.
I was watching the car chase that comes in the first few minutes of the film. The budget they dumped into that once scene would probably be enough to fund two or 3 medium-range action flicks. There was just destruction and mayhem and vehicular madness and everything going overboard like you wouldn’t believe.
Cars do not merely take to the skies and then barrel roll here. No, they go flying, then they barrel roll on top of layers of other cars. Then more cars get smashed and up and mangled and things blow up and smash and whatever. I am becoming inarticulate because the immensity of this film’s action scenes leaves me so.
The opening chase would be the climax for other movies. But we keep escalating as we go. Bigger, wilder, crazier. Shootouts and falling through buildings and then mad locations, and you know it ain’t a "Die Hard" flick without a helicopter.
The action is handled with eye-popping power. It kept me in my seat and more often than not had me giggling in glee just at the pomp and audacity of it all.
"A Good Day to Die Hard" is not a movie that the world needs. The world would be fine without it. It adds nothing to our understanding of father-son relationships, to the human condition, or other important things.
But gosh, am I glad that it is here, because it raises the bar in terms of big budget, balls to the wall, extreme action scenes. Don’t like "Die Hard"? Skip it. Don’t like action flicks? Forget it.
If you do like action movies though, watch it on the big screen. It is a treat. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games... Then again, those people could be right.