In Everything I Used To Love Has Died, Bro Jackson’s Josh Klein review “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and along the way, he deconstructs the developmental cultural touchstones of his adolescence and gets sad.
Goddammit, you guys.
“A Good Day To Die Hard” is terrible.
I heard the rumblings. I read the reviews. I saw the Rotten Tomatoes score. I didn’t care. My girlfriend and I were going to see the newest iteration of my second favorite series of movies (you’ll always have my heart, Marty McFly) on Valentine’s Day and we were going to see it in beautiful, majestic IMAX. When we sat down, I was stoked. When the lights went down, my heart soared. The preview for the the terrible-looking-GI-Joe-Retaliation-are-you-kidding-The-Rock-C-Tates-AND-Bruce-Willis-are-all-in-this? got me stupid excited for what promised to be a snarky romp down Ridiculous Explosion Road. I had my large popcorn. I emptied my bladder. I was ready. 20th Century Fox Drumroll? LET’S DO THIS.
OK, now we get a little Russian prison action. That guy’s playing chess against himself. Cliched, but isn’t a Russian villain cliched in and of itself? Must be purposeful. I TRUST YOU, DIE HARD.
Are those Russian subtitles pink? Totally cool. Still deeply engaged.
How much movie are we going to watch before–YES. There he is! My favorite movie character of all time. John F. McClane! Shooting a gun in his first scene! This is aweso- … wait a second. He’s suddenly put the gun down and he’s saying some of the clunkiest exposition dialogue I’ve heard in a non-pornographic setting. Uh, okay. I’ll let this go. We’re just getting our “this is what a TV dinner feels like” appetizer out of the way before getting to the delicious main course, right?
But here’s the problem: said course doesn’t come until MUCH too late. And it is not delicious.
There are basically three action set pieces in “A Good Day To Die Hard”: (1) an incredibly poorly directed courtroom escape/car chase; (2) a slightly cooler shootout in a hotel; and (3) an admittedly awesome helicopter boss fight at Chernobyl. In between these set pieces are moments that are either trying to recreate the magic of earlier “Die Hards“ (the Frank Sinatra-singing Russian cab driver is a VERY poor substitute for Argyle), or entire scenes dedicated to beating us over the head with overused tropes.
McClane and his son don’t get along? Let’s make sure McClane, Jr. calls him “John” a million times–when he calls him “Dad” in the final scene it will totes tug at our heart strings!
Jack McClane is a (spoiler alert, unless you’ve seen a preview, or a commercial, or any movie ever) CIA spy that does everything by the book and always has a plan? Let’s pair him with John McClane, who never has a plan; it will make us introspect on our own intolerance for our well intentioned but bumbling parents!
NOTE TO HOLLYWOOD: WE DO NOT WANT OVERUSED MOVIE TROPES IN OUR DIE HARDS.
This is what happens when you give a gem of an American franchise to a novice director. He takes away the things we love and force feeds us things we hate. The reason John McClane was so compelling (even once he had become an indestructible video game character in the hilariously-named “Live Free Or Die Hard”) was that heroism wasn’t his natural inclination. It was thrust upon him. He didn’t want to have to save an increasingly higher number of innocent bystanders (“Die Hard”–his wife’s office; “Die Harder”–an airport full of people; “Die Hard With A Vengeance”–New York City; “Live Free Or Die Hard”–the whole fucking country). He just happened to be in the wrong damn place at the wrong damn time.
In John Moore’s version (or maybe we should blame the screenwriter Skip Woods), our hero literally chases down the action, yelling his son’s name the entire time. When he stands on the street corner yelling “Jack!” five times in a row before securing a huge truck to chase down the action, it’s cringe-worthy. When father and son exchange “I love yous,” you can viscerally feel the audience rolling their collective eyes.
I hung onto my nostalgia-driven McCLove (Die Heart?) until just before the final set piece–that included a somehow-not-radioactive Chernobyl, an attack helicopter, the iconic Yippee-Ki-Yay moment, and a triumphantly raised middle finger–when my girlfriend turned to me with a thumbs down and a fart noise. I had to admit, I couldn’t blame her. Even the raucous final twenty minutes couldn’t save this thing. I agreed. Fart noise.