18 February 2013

Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

(Dir: John Moore, 2013)

"Yippee-ki-yay motherf-----!" Yeah that's the way it is now. Over the past week so much has been written online about Fox's decision to neuter A Good Day To Die Hard in the UK by releasing a 12A cut of the film, rather than the unedited R rated version being shown in the US. Now I'll hold my hands up, I'm part of both the problem and the solution behind this. 

Problem: back in October Fox badly edited Taken 2 to secure the 12A rating and despite my better judgment (considering I didn't like the first film) I went to see it. It was fucking awful (read my full review here). It went on to make an obscene amount of money at the UK box office (over £23m), vindicating Fox from a business perspective. By going to see A Good Day To Die Hard I'm clearly helping exacerbate the problem, but this is the sort of film you want to see on the big screen. 

Solution: six weeks into 2013 and we'd already seen new Schwarzenegger and Stallone films released in the shape of The Last Stand and Bullet To the Head. Now neither film is a patch on either actors classic work but both still offered solid adult orientated entertainment. I supported them at the box office because I want to watch films like this, but relatively speaking hardly anyone else did - we're talking £538k / £429k opening weekends, which is pretty poor. This begs the question where the audience for such films has gone? 

Now lest we forget, the Die Hard level of movie making is about business and not art, so Fox's decision makes perfect sense. However that's not to condone it because we're talking about a Die Hard film here, something that is resolutely adult in theme and nature. Any fan of film should find it very difficult to approve of the artistic integrity of a piece of work being compromised in such a manner. So how much is A Good Day To Die Hard actually compromised?

The answer is somewhat but not totally. Linking back to my opening statement, Die Hard is responsible for one of the most famous film catchphrases of recent decades and it seems thoroughly weird that this can't be properly uttered in the fifth Die Hard film. Now of course swearing isn't the be all and end of all of a film, but when the word 'fuck' is uttered three times and 'shit' almost as many, the inability to allow us to hear the word 'motherfucker' is just plain fucking stupid, as at least that one has more context. The other affected area is the violence, which feels a little more mindless if anything. A huge plethora of guns are fired in the film with bullets continuously flying everywhere, yet rarely do you ever feel the true impact of these. It only serves to make the film feel as if it's lacking something.

In reality A Good Day To Die Hard is lacking a lot more than the impact of its violence. It's lacking the spirit and essence of a Die Hard film. The masterful first two films (I'm a big fan of Die Hard 2 even if some find it derivative) had John McClane stumbling into a situation, which this fifth film tries to emulate, but it's done in such an awfully contrived way that it's no longer about McClane saving the day, it's about him unnecessarily falling into something that has no real bearing. It's a bland plot. Add onto this the introduction of McClane's son Jack (Jai Courtney) and we get thickly ladled on paternal bullshit and awkward attempts at comedy. None of this is helped by Courtney who is such a wooden actor. He fits the part physically but that's it, and was a lot better playing silently menacing in Jack Reacher. Here any attempts at expressiveness fall flat.

As action films go A Good Day To Die Hard is extremely brash and noisy. It's also bordering on the superhuman with some of the craziness we're expected to believe the McClane's survive. It's ironic that this series started out offering a more realistic angle than the over the top action movies of the eighties, but now audiences seem to want the realistic Bourne style action, the Die Hard franchise has transitioned itself further into overblown nonsense. The action here is bland but not entirely without enjoyment, such as the decent and destructive car chase early on. But despite being a fairly short film it lacks the focus and tension that's come in the past from having a single primary setting. Even using the wider confines of an entire city Die Hard: With A Vengeance wholly succeeds at this by proving it's all about the story.

A Good Day To Die Hard is adequate as big budget modern blockbusters go, meaning it’s more than content to blow shit up, story be damned. But that alone does not make a good Die Hard film, despite offering some level of fun. The story is inconsequential here and the lack of a compelling villain or any real threat, something integral to all four previous films, is a major issue. This isn’t even a result of the tamer UK rating, despite the limiting impact it has on some of the action; it’s just not a particularly good film. Sadly it seems the final quarter of Die Hard 4.0 / Live Free or Die Hard (depending on which regional naming you prefer), easily the worst part of that film, has served as the biggest inspiration for A Good Day To Die Hard. It’s a shame really, especially when both Stallone's and Schwarznegger’s most recent efforts have proven more enjoyable than a new Die Hard film and a weary seeming Bruce Willis, who of the three is arguably the one whose definitely still got it. Disappointing really.

No comments:

Post a Comment