A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), directed by John Moore
How so many people, with so much talent and credit to their names, could get together and spend all this time making a sequel of an established, fan-favourite action franchise, and end up with a movie as bad as A Good Day to Die Hard boggles the mind.
I mean, at no point did anyone speak up and ask “is this really the way we want to go with this one?”
A Good Day to Die Hard has to be one of the laziest, most incoherent, incompetent, insulting messes of a movie I have seen in some time.
Now, I’m a Die Hard fan but I’m not a die hard Die Hard fan, if you know what I mean. The first one is, naturally, one of my favourite action movies. I’m sure we can all agree on that. The sequels vary in quality, and I might be alone in believing the fourth one is the best. But that’s not saying much.
As they’ve come along they’ve generally decreased in quality as they’ve increased in scope and a reliance on modern action movie pitfalls. You can appreciate them as fun cheesy action movies but none of them touch the legitimate quality of the original. Kind of like Rambo.
And that’s OK, it is what it is, but this latest one, part five over here, fails terribly in even that department.
There are a number of reasons. Broken record time here, but one of the main reasons is the action sequences are so horribly incoherent and obviously CGI-riddled that they’re impossible to follow and the exact opposite of fun. The fun of outrageous stunts is, well, for one thing, understanding what’s happening, but also having that “I can’t believe they did that!” reaction as an audience member.
I don’t care if it’s stunt doubles and fancy camera work, having some textile sense that in some way what you are watching actually happened is essential to enjoying a stunt. A blurry John McClane avatar hanging off a video game-looking helicopter, all in two-second cuts so you can’t tell how crappy it all looks, just doesn’t do it for me.
I don’t want to get all “it’s not like it used to be” but I re-watched Terminator 2: Judgement Day this weekend, and damn yo, that’s how you stage action scenes. Tripods, proper choreography, sensible editing, real-world stunts, all used to drive the story line forward and develop characters.
Hell, an action movie can even give viewers a thought or two to chew on. Imagine that. Something beyond cliches and tropes we are just meant to observe, ingest and then forget about as we get back to senseless action scenes.
And this shaky camera thing has just gone too far. About one scene into the film we get McClane talking to another cop in cliched old-age cop dialogue. Whatever, I don’t expect David Mamet here, but can we at least see this exchange without feeling like I’m going to get seasick? Use a damn tripod already. Using handheld adds nothing to the scene and is a pathetic attempt to add “immediacy” and something, anything interesting to a crap scene.
Remember when craftsmanship meant something in an action film? When a filmmaker was expected to have a coherent story, characters you care about, building action leading to an emotional climax and then the technical prowess and cinematic ingenuity to pull it all together? Me too, but barely.
Can we please take A Good Day to Die Hard and use it as an example of the worst it can get? Can we all watch this and realize we’ve gone to far and it’s time to rethink how we approach action movies? As moviegoers, can we demand more than this and quit putting up with action scenes that only deliver a sense of action, as opposed to actual coherent activity? Can we demand dialogue and characters that actually appeal to audiences and are not just references to action movies of days done by?
I mean, let’s work at this a little folks, put a little effort into our movies.
Because we deserve better than this.
A Good Day to Die Hard is in cinemas now. Don’t go see it.