Friday, February 22, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard - 1 star

A Good Day to Die Hard, the 5th Die Hard movie, is awful.  There is no other way to put it.  Just awful.  It was made by people who think they know what a Die Hard movie is, but have never actually seen one. 

The original Die Hard is one of the best action movies of all time, possibly the best.  There are several reasons for this.  For one thing, John McClane was a normal guy.  Yes, he was a cop, but he was human.  In the first movie, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When the bad guys show up and start shooting, he doesn't grab a gun a start shooting back.  Instead, he hides and calls the police.  Only when he has no other choice does he start fighting back. 

The character was well written.  He had a back story (he and his wife were 'separated'), and he was trying to rescue his wife.  The thiefs don't know she's his wife, and he is terrified they will find out.  The last time he and his wife spoke, they fought, so he is also concerned that if he is killed, he didn't get a chance to apologize. 

There are also other well written characters:  his wife Holly, Ellis, Sgt. Al Powell, the police chief, Dick Thornburg, and one of the all time best villains, Hans Gruber.  These characters are so well written and have such interesting dialogue that we never miss McClane much when he's off screen.

The action is great, but more importantly, it's believable.  Ok, maybe not 100% believable, but almost.  You know it's taking place in the real world.  McClane is beat to hell by the end of the movie, and he experiences pain (especially when he walks on broken glass).  There is also a lot of humor which feels like it organically comes from the characters, as opposed to forced humor.

Ok, enough about how great Die Hard is.  This new movie has none of those traits.  For one thing, John McClane is now an action hero.  He may be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but never for a second do we feel like he's in any danger.  When he's kneeling on the ground, hands tied behind his back with the bad guys sticking their guns in his face, he doesn't even flinch.  He says witty things to them like he's Arnold Schwartzenegger.  The real McClane would be scared for his life.  He would find a way out, but we'd be afraid for him. 

He's also a superman in this movie.  Several times he falls through windows and down several stories, and only walks away with a few more scratches.  This isn't uncommon in modern action movies unfortunately, but McClane's no longer a real guy.

The biggest problem is the movie is no fun.  There are very few laughs, and they feel forced.  The story is complicated and not very interesting, and there is no clear villain.  There are a few villains, but none of them are memorable.  The big action set piece early in the movie is a car chase with John's son Jack in one car, the bad guys in the second car, and McClane bringing up the rear, trying to help his son.  The problem with the car chase is it's filmed so badly that we have no idea where anyone is.  There is no sense of geography and I lost track of who was who. 

Oh, and his catch phrase is tossed in there so badly that I groaned when he uttered it.

The only thing I enjoyed about this movie is the way the last bad guy meets his death.  It involves a helicopter propeller.  That moment almost made me cheer, not just because it was actually done well, but because it was the first time in the entire movie I smiled. 

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