Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Unlike the previous films in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard was widely panned by critics. Based on 177 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 16% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 4/10. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating in the 0–100 range based on reviews from top mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 29 based on 39 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable" reaction. On both websites, the film ranked lowest among the Die Hard films. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the film was "B+" on an A+ to F scale, and that audiences skewed slightly male and older.


Warning! Spoilers ahead! This is not a drill!

Actually, I liked it. No, I didn't think the latest film in the Die Hard franchise was terrific or fabulous, but it's a pretty good way to kill 97 minutes and watch lots of chase scenes, shootouts, and explosions. In the opening scenes, Bruce Willis shows his age (he'll be 58 next month) with very visible grey in his beard and hair (both remarkably short but visible), which I suppose is to highlight the fact that he has just discovered that his estranged son Jack (played by Australian actor Jai Courtney) has been put in a Russian prison for murder. Of course, John has no way to know that his son is an operative for the CIA and this is all a clever plot to put him in the same Moscow courtroom as Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a former terrorist and former partner of corrupt Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) who "grew a conscience" in prison and is now going to testify against Chagarin, implicating him in some unmentioned (at the beginning of the film) chicanery.

John shows up in Moscow just as Jack is being taken into court. He manages to get to the outside of the courthouse, but the courtroom with Jack and Komarov is sealed, presumably to prevent another assassination attempt against Komarov.

John looks around and spies a rather unusual vehicle but doesn't put two and two together in time before the plot is hatched and a gang of Russian thugs led by Alik (Radivoje Bukvić) blows up a ton of parked cars, blasts a hole in the courtroom freeing Jack and Komarov, and kills just about everyone inside.

Jack manages to get out of the courthouse with Komarov, avoiding a hit squad that was sent in to make sure of Komarov's death and steal a van. The problem is, as Jack and Komarov are making their getaway, John steps in front of the van, thinking his son is a fugitive from justice, and stops them. During the delay, even though Jack and Komarov escape John, they miss their exit window and are stuck with "plan B," a safe house in Moscow.

The usually competant John McClaine gets egg on his face on multiple occasions early in the film as he realizes he's blundered into a scenario far outside his normal "cops and robbers" scope. This does nothing to help repair the already trashed relationship John has with Jack. Even after John manages to stop Jack's pursuers in a spectacular car chase that you'll have to see to believe, Jack still thinks his father is a total screw up. Thus the three of them arrive at the so-called "safe house," which is where John finally sees who and what his son really is...a CIA agent.

But Jack's partner is abruptly killed before getting "the file" from Komarov, so with no allies left in Moscow, John, Jack, and Kamarov go it alone in search of "the file" that Kamarov is supposed to have and will give to Jack in exchange for getting him and his daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir) out of Russia.

Of course, it's not that easy. One key acquired, one double-cross, one beating, one shootout, and one helecopter attack later, Komarov, Irina and the key to the file are gone, in the hands of the bad guys while Jack and John are left battered and bleeding with no "plan C" or any other letter of the alphabet left. Jack, who up until this point, has always played by the rules, is out of options, but this is where his "shoot from the hip" Dad feels right at home.

The film seems a little forced or awkward during the conversations where John and Jack are supposed to be trying to relate to each other as father and son, but then again, their relationship as father and son is forced and awkward, so it fits. Neither of them know what to say to each other and when John finally says, "I love you boy," you can feel the weight of his age and the long years that stand between them in his words and his voice.

But there's another double-cross. Komarov and Irina aren't the victims, they're the predators. The prize never was a file full of evidence, it was a crap-ton of weapons grade uranium hidden in a vault in the one place in the world no one in their right mind would want to go: Chernobyl.

The place should still be incredibly radioactive, but except for protection suits worn by Kamarov and his party while locating the vault, that doesn't seem to be a problem. Irina uses some sort of device to "neutralize" the radiation, then all protective gear is no longer required. Komarov caps Alik and has Chagarin's neck broken by his own masseuse.

Then the McClaine father and son team, who have providentially stolen a car loaded with body armor and weapons, drive the twelve hours it would take to go from Moscow to Chernobyl, Ukraine, and kick ass.

The good guys win but not until a series of death defying feats that should have put them bothin intensive care and lots and lots of bodies, bullets, and explosions happen, which is why we watch these types of films anyway.

There's a horrible hint that Jack might take over the "Die Hard" films, retiring Willis and replacing him with Courtney (and possibly Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing Jack's sister Lucy who was featured in the previous film and who briefly appeared in this one). I really hope I'm wrong.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this film is solid "OK." It was entertaining, but I really didn't need to see it on the big screen. It would have been just as good as a DVD and that's probably when I'll see it again.

I tend to think that the original film Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard with a Vengence (1995) were the best in the series. The fourth film was pretty good and certainly one, three, and four beat the current film, not to mention the terrible Die Hard 2 (1990), which was just a lame recycling of the first film.

Yeah, it was a good shooting, explosion, thrill rush film for guys and I'm not sorry I saw it, but if you don't want to blow your hard earned dough on seeing it in the theatre, I'm sure it'll look just as good on the small screen at home.

Oh, the one thing I would have liked a little more of is the "steamy" side of Irina. But her hottiness is revealed just in passing.

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