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‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ action-packed but poorly made

File photo.
File photo.

John McClane is back. Well, sort of.  Bruce Willis is back though, and he’s packing all sorts of punches.  A lot of skepticism has surrounded “A Good Day To Die Hard,” the newest entry in the “Die Hard” franchise. Fans worried because the iconic action character, which has been loved since the ‘80s, went from your everyday man with a gun and a badge to a superhero that can destroy helicopters with cars.  In this film, McClain finds himself in unfamiliar territory: Moscow. He travels to Russia to find his son and bring him back home in order to protect him from all the trouble he’s been getting into. The story turned into a father/son bonding experience, where the son, Jack, wants nothing to do with his dad.

Anybody going into a “Die Hard” movie has one question on their mind. Does it deliver on the action? Yes, it surely does, but that alone doesn’t make for a great “Die Hard” film.  A lot of action movies today do their jobs by giving us fast-paced, breathtaking action, but their characters and stories are so thin that they could slip through the cracks on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, this franchise has gone from iconic and influential to a mindless action romp.

It is possible to have fun with the action this film has to offer. There is a fifteen-minute car chase through the streets of Moscow where cars are being flipped in every direction possible and John McClane gets to mow down everything in his path. Some of the action that took place inside of a deserted apartment building reminded me of the original “Die Hard” film where everything took place within one closed high rise building.

But in the end, the action scenes go nowhere. You never feel the tension you should feel watching these characters fight off terrorists. It just happens, they can easily defeat them, and that’s the end of it. You feel McClane and his son are in no danger. Ever. Maybe I could accept that John McClane is now a superhero with the supernatural ability to dodge bullets and stay alive after every action scene, if the action scenes were creative and clever, but they’re not. Objects are conveniently placed so that at any given moment, all the filmmaker has to chose to do is throw in a few CGI explosions to make up for their lack of thinking.

There is a reason all the other “Die Hard” films are more successful. They are told and stylized in an old school fashion. This just looks like Michael Bay’s latest bomb fest. Most of this is due to the lack of comprehensive direction from the film’s obviously incapable director, John Moore. Let’s take a look at what this man has made in the past. He’s directed “Behind Enemy Lines,” “The Omen” and the video game adaptation, “Max Payne.” Does this sound like the type of filmmaker you want taking control of your next installment in a mega-franchise?

Not only are the main characters thinly written and packed with a flimsy arc, but the villain is absolutely horrendous as well, which might be the biggest insult of them all. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) served as a fantastic villain in the first “Die Hard” and has gone down as one of the most iconic movie villains of all time. The rest of the movie’s villains don’t live up to that standard, but at least each one was memorable and had their own traits and visions in their evil schemes.

Here, various people acting as “the bad guy” come and go, leaving no lasting impression. Half the time, it doesn’t even feel like a villain is involved at all. The only remotely memorable thing a bad guy does in this movie is tap dance while eating a carrot — I’m not joking. As an audience member, you go through the movie seeing our two heroes being shot at over and over without knowing why until about an hour into the story.  Even at that point, you are still left scratching your head going “huh?”

At least a reasonably easy plot would have brought this movie up for me. I don’t mean action movies aren’t allowed to be smart, but the “Die Hard” movies shouldn’t have convoluted plots and storylines that viewers can barely follow. That is not what the franchise is about.

Some reviewers are hammering Willis with criticism, saying that he was only playing a tough version of himself, and not the John McClane fans have known and loved for all these years. Personally, I could see the John McClane character many times throughout the film. Willis was always making snide remarks and interjecting his sarcastic attitude upon everybody. He was funny and fearless and I think Willis did a great job in keeping this character so lovable, but also dangerous. His son on the other hand — I have no idea who he was trying to be. I thought the son of John McClane would have at least a few of same traits as his father. Instead, Jai Courtney plays him as a straight-faced jerk that never says a single clever thing or even cracks a measly smile.

“A Good Day To Die Hard” may please those who are only looking for mindless action in the style of a poorly developed video game. Fun can be found here, and a few scenes have proven that, but those scenes are too few and far between to make this the “Die Hard” film fans wanted.

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