Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yippee Ki Y- Oh, Who Cares Anymore?

Directed by John Moore, written by Skip Woods, starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Cole Hauser - Rated R

The Die Hard franchise has been ripe for parody since the first sequel.  After Bruce Willis, as Detective John McClane, wondered in Die Hard 2, “How can the same [thing] happen to the same guy twice?” it was obvious that the audience should accept the ridiculousness of the franchise and just go with it.  I’m okay with that, but I have a couple issues.  First, you shouldn’t necessarily take any advice that comes from the script of Die Hard 2.  Second, and most important, John McClane needs to continue to be that “same guy.”  Also, how unfortunate is it that the sketch from “The Ben Stiller Show” called “Die Hard 12” is starting to seem like a possibility?  (Haven’t seen that sketch?  Watch it now.)


Yes, Bruce Willis is still cast as John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard (I would prefer something less stupid for a title, by the way, like Die the Most Hardest or something), but he is a mere shadow of himself.  Willis’s portrayal of McClane is what makes these films great.  His exasperated tone, his quick wit, and his laughter as he takes a beating.  That stuff sort of exists in this film, but it seems so forced that it doesn’t matter.  Not to mention McClane has changed over the years.  He went from a reluctant hero forced into a situation he wants to avoid into a kill-crazy vigilante who rushes into violent situations for little or no reason. 


Perhaps it’s the setting.  Moving John McClane to Russia just seems wrong.  For starters, this isn’t 1985 and McClane isn’t Rocky.  This plotline about Chernobyl and nuclear weapons would have felt lazy in the first Die Hard film, much less the fifth one.  The story felt more at home in a direct-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.  Wait…is this the plot to one of the Universal Soldier DTV sequels?  (Sadly, I’m not joking.  Check out Universal Soldier: Regeneration if you don’t believe me.) 


So the setting sucks.  There’s still a slightly interesting bad guy for McClane to banter with, right?  Nope.  The villain is vague to the point that I couldn’t tell which plain, middle-aged Russian man was “good” and which was “bad.”  Maybe that’s the point, but it made for a lame story.  McClane does cross paths with a dancing bad guy at one point, but their banter is more head-scratching than knee-slapping. 


But there must be a sidekick along for the ride, right?  Die Hard With a Vengeance set the bar high with the tumultuous team-up with Samuel L. Jackson, and Live Free or Die Hard gave us the timely and surprisingly amusing duo of Willis and Justin Long.  Good Day introduces the barely talked about son of John McClane played by Jai Courtney.  Courtney previously played a thug in Jack Reacher, and that’s pretty much all he’s good for at the moment.  There is just nothing interesting about this guy, whether that’s a character or acting fault is irrelevant.  I didn’t want to see these two teaming up for anything, especially since the new character is barely established and we’re given almost no explanation for their hatred for one another aside from the fact that it must be hard to be the kid of an action hero. 


The upset kid dynamic just makes no sense for a film like this.  The audience has almost no knowledge of this son character, so we’re with McClane all the way.  We’ve been through four movies with this character, so if we’re taking a side, guess which one we’re going with?  On top of that, we don’t know specifically what McClane did to upset the kid, so the son comes off as an ungrateful jerk.  Who thought it was a good idea to try to get the audience to hate the main character for being a dead beat dad?  I hope this duo isn’t the future of the franchise.  Actually, after this, I’m not sure I want a future for this franchise.


All of these major elements aside, this is still Die Hard, and that name has become synonymous with crazy action (whether or not that’s a good thing is beside the point now).  If the action holds up, then this film could be barely worth a watch.  The action is…crazy, sure, but it doesn’t save the film.  So much of it seemed like it was pointlessly trying to be insane.  Did you hate the sight of McClane on a fighter jet during the last film?  Then you won’t care for this one at all.  As for the style of it, I didn’t know what to think once it was over.  There were so many strange, extreme slo-mo moments.  Slow motion explosions?  How is that impressive?  And who wants to see two people falling in slow motion for what seems like five minutes?  Upon research, I found that director John Moore had also made the abysmal Max Payne, and then it all made sense. 


After all of this bashing, though, I can’t tell the die hard (pun totally intended) fans to skip this one.  It’s still Bruce Willis and he’s still John McClane, kind of.  Some fans are bound to like it.  I really wanted to, but I can’t ignore the utter disappoint I felt walking out of the theater.  If you’re on the fence, maybe this will help you: I am now going to re-watch Die Hard 2 because I think I might like that sequel more than this.  If you’re the same type of fan as I am, then that should tell you how much I disliked this movie.  Watch at your own risk.


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