Reaction-Shot Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

When John Moore, the director of A Good Day to Die Hardwas asked what it was like to collaborate with Bruce Willis on the film, he had this to say:

“It’s like shooting Frank Sinatra. You got to get it right. You got to get the right angles. You got to make sure the cameras are where they need to be when he’s on, and that he’s flowing and he’s in that rhythm, that’s the collaboration. The collaboration isn’t, I have this idea, and can I get your opinion on that? That’s fucking horseshit man. That does not happen. That does not occur!”
That quote is the essence of everything that is wrong with A Good Day to Die Hard: It’s like Moore was completely satisfied with just having Bruce Willis walk around doing whatever, and as long as the cameras were rolling, he figured it was golden. Well, it isn’t, and Moore’s lazy attitude toward being the person in charge is solely to blame. If Moore honestly thinks a director’s job is to sit there and make sure the camera and sound are rolling while the actors are “in that rhythm,” then he has no business making any movie with a budget over five grand. The Expendables 3, I think I have a director that would be perfect for you.
For starters, a good director would never say that true collaborations don’t occur. That may be the case in the world of Moore – the man who helmed the Max Payne movie adaptation and the remake of The Omen – but outside of that little bubble of awful, directors take much more responsibility over their creations. Maybe if he had tried to bring something genuinely unique or interesting to the table, the latest Die Hard wouldn’t feel like a boring, unnecessary mess.
The lack of focus is my biggest issue with the movie. Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney share a lot of screen time, but Moore doesn’t know how to use that time wisely. More often than not, Willis’ witty banter occurs while a lot of background noise is taking place, and sometimes his lines barely escape his mouth while he’s still physically on-screen. Seriously? That’s unacceptable when – considering even Moore ineptly analogized Sinatra to Willis – John fucking McClane is supposed to be stealing the show with his nonchalant attitude and sarcasm.
A Good Day to Die Hard – Trailer

Having two leads isn’t necessarily a problem, but here, the way their time is divvied up doesn’t allow for either actor to shine. I think Courtney has a lot of potential and could conceivably carry an action flick, so I won’t go so far as to say his failure to do so in A Good Day to Die Hard has anything to do with his acting ability or screen presence. John Moore needed to figure out what the hell to do with him, and he simply wasn’t able to.

In every other Die Hard movie, the villains have been memorable. Some more so than others, but I think you’ll agree with me that they all have the ability to chew some serious scenery. Not so this time around. The bad guys are as generic as they come, and I’m still a little confused as to why one of them even exists. The big “twist” is horribly cliched and obvious, which makes the entire plot stupid and pointless. As a comparison, the script for Die Hard with a Vengeance had been floating around well before they decided to tack on John McClane, but did it show? No. McTiernan took the clever writing, inserted one of the most bad ass detectives in the action business, and ended up crafting a great scenario for my favorite dead-beat hero as he wore  a “I hate n****rs” sign while standing in front of Samuel L. Jackson, for example. All A Good Day to Die Hard has going for it is a pretty cool car chase, and the fact that characters get to say “fuck” due to regaining an R rating after the previous Die Hard went PG-13. Well, yippie-ki-yay.

How about this as a shining example of the creativity on display in A Good Day to Die Hard: There are two big action set pieces, both of which involve helicopters showering buildings with bullets as the McClanes save themselves by jumping out of a window. It was fine once, but why the hell does the movie repeat the exact same damn thing as its crescendo? The only difference is that the second time, it’s in uber-slow-motion, and the explosions are bigger. Again, the word “lazy” comes to mind. What a bunch of over-produced crap. And if McClane would have said “I’m on vacation” one more god damned time, I probably would have had a seizure as my eyes rolled too far back into my skull.

I might have lied earlier when I said the lack of focus is my biggest gripe. Think back to the first two Die Hard movies: John McClane was a lone voice of sanity among a sea of law enforcement stupidity. He was the one man who knew what was going on and how to win. Even in Live Free or Die Hard, McClane consistently made the right moves despite being out of his element. I guess John Moore doesn’t respect that notion, because in A Good Day to Die Hard, McClane is a bumbling fool for the most part. Not only that, but the way in which he gets himself into the situation to begin with makes him come off as a selfish, ignorant douchebag. Call me crazy, but I don’t recall that being a part of that character’s legacy for the past 25 years.

There is no possible world in which I would recommend A Good Day to Die Hard to anyone – fans or newcomers alike. The term “dumb fun” applies to many action movies, some of which I’m quite fond of. Die Hard was a smart action film, and while the series got more over-the-top as it went along, I never felt ashamed for watching or stupid for buying into any of the conceits. A Good Day to Die Hard has changed that, so if nothing else, this review is my attempt at saving you from the same fate.
– George Bell

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