A Good Day to Die Hard (2013, John Moore)

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Spoiler alert: these reviews reveal plot twists.

John McClane heads to Moscow when his son is arrested and thrown into prison…

Source material: This is the first Die Hard film that isn’t based on pre-existing material. Initially, the movie was going to be called Die Hard 24/7 and there were rumours it was to be a crossover with TV show 24. John McClane would have teamed up with Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. Surely that would have been more entertaining than what we ended up with…

John McClane: He’s still a cop in New York and still separated from ex-wife Holly. Hearing that his son is in trouble, John flies to Moscow, where everyone is either a criminal or a moron and the authorities show no interest in terrorists running amok. He makes idiotic quips as he blithely ignores huge destruction and untold deaths, and for the first time the character seems uncaring and arrogant. Bruce Willis gives the most dour, lifeless and bored performance of his career. Look into the actor’s eyes and you can see him daydreaming about the fee.

Regulars:
* Jack Gennero (Jai Courtney) is John McClane’s 30-ish son, who was known as John Jnr when we saw him as a small boy in the original Die Hard. Like his mother in that film and his sister in Die Hard 4.0, the character doesn’t want to use John’s surname; father and son also haven’t spoken for a few years, which explains why John is unaware that Jack is now a CIA operative working in Russia. But when news reaches New York that Jack has been imprisoned, John flies over to see what’s what… For a while, actor Jai Courtney seemed to be specialising in turgid franchise films: he’s also in Terminator Genisys and Suicide Squad. And he’s terrible here, turning a character we should care about into a petulant brat. Why the CIA would ever trust this whiny, quick-to-tantrum man-child with daddy issues is difficult to fathom.
* John’s daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), returns from the previous film for a cameo.

Villain: There’s a cack-handed plot about a Russian billionaire called Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has a secret file that could incriminate corrupt politician Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), so Chagarin’s henchman Aik (Radivoje Bukvić) breaks Komarov out of prison in order to get the file. If you manage to pay attention until the third act, you discover that the file never existed and Komarov is the real bad guy. Or something. Also involved in the story is Komarov’s daughter, Irina (Yulia Snigir), who’s there simply to provide a shot for the trailer when she unzips her motorcycle leathers to reveal her underwear.

Music: The score by Marco Beltrami is actually not that bad. It’s busy and powerful and steals the interest during many of the film’s 376 action scenes.

Review: A poster for this film contained the strapline ‘Yippie ki-yay, Mother Russia’. Not one single element in the movie itself even approaches that level of smartness or self-awareness. Watching A Good Day to Die Hard is a truly dreadful, depressing experience. It seems to want to be a Bourne film: urgent, visceral action; clipped, terse dialogue scenes; and driving incidental music. But it lacks the intelligence, panache and interesting characters that made those early Bourne adventures so engaging, and instead comes off more like a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal flick. There *is* a plot – we know this because there’s one scene after 55 minutes where Jack explains it to John. There’s also a plot twist – late on, one character kills another and we’re meant to be impressed by the script’s Usual Suspects-esque sleight of hand. However, the film is directed by John Moore (who’d previously made the appalling remake of The Omen). He’s not interested in wit or character development or depth or subtext or suspense. He prefers computer-game carnage carried off without any style or story logic or consequence. “It’s going to be loud,” smirks one of the bland villains just before the first of several thousand explosions – it’s also going to be sensationally dull. This is a crass, classless, joyless, artless sequel and the worst film ever made that comes from an otherwise decent series.

One… oh, I don’t know… thing that blows up out of 10

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The Omen (2006, John Moore)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

In this remake of the 1976 original, Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) is appointed deputy ambassador to Great Britain, so blah blah blah moves to England blah blah blah wife Katherine (Julia Stiles) blah blah blah son Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) blah blah blah strange deaths…

Best performance: In almost every main role is a decent actor, yet not one of them betters the first movie’s equivalent. Having said that, Pete Postlethwaite is appropriately troubled as Father Brennan; Mia Farrow is creepy as Mrs Baylock. (Harvey Stephens, who’d played Damien in 1976, has an unconvincing one-line cameo as a journalist.)

Best death: The beheading of photographer Keith Jennings (David Thewlis) is given a neat twist – rather than a sheet of glass flung sideways, it’s now a metal sign that falls loose of the wall, swings down and chops his head off as he stands.

Review: This mechanical remake was directed by John Moore, who later spunked up another film series with the abysmal A Good Day to Die Hard. As others have said, it’s more a release date than a movie – the temptation of The Omen coming out on 6 June 2006 (6/6/6, if you squint) was too strong to resist. And it comes off quite badly when compared to the original. For instance, see Robert Thorn’s first encounter with Father Brennan. In 1976, the scene was staged in a small, cramped office with its door locked; Thorn is backed into a corner and feels trapped and threatened. Now, the conversation is in the enormous, empty lobby of the embassy, so Robert is able to call for help from armed guards any time he likes. Also, check out the scene where Damien visits a zoo and the animals go, well, ape-shit. Originally, Damien and his mother are in a small car driving through a safari section – they get attacked from all sides and it’s terrifying. Now, the scene is in an unimpressive interior space and the primates are all behind thick glass. In short, the director’s staging choices have no relationship to the drama. There are also many more horror-movie clichés than in the original – especially in dream sequences that go very quiet then SUDDENLY THROW IN A LOUD SOUND. That superficial trick is emblematic of the whole film: it wants to jolt you, rather than *disturb* you. It’s perhaps telling that fun can be had in spotting how often the colour red is linked to Damien and his activities – it’s evident in Kate’s nightmares, Damien’s bedspread, a balloon at the zoo, the strawberries fed to the boy by Mrs Baylock, the flowers Kate is tending when she’s hit by Damien’s (red-wheeled) scooter, and at many other times. But you shouldn’t be consciously noticing this sort of thing if the film is doing its job.

Four sacrificial daggers out of 10