A lot of people don’t like to talk about A Good Day To Die Hard, and I don’t blame them. It was a godawful, insulting, soul-poisoning mess.
Walking out of the theater was like lurching across a vast, miserable desert and then having a refrigerator land in front of you with Indiana Jones in it. Oh, dear – old friend. What have they done to you?
Hopefully you didn’t see it. I need to tell you some things about it anyway, though, because time marches on and the day will come when you see it staring at you on Netflix or something and you’ll say, what the hell, might as well watch John McClane kick some ass even if it’s shitty, right? Any John McClane asskicking is a decent asskicking to behold, yes?
No. In point of fact, John McClane kicks very little ass in this movie. Here’s what happens.
He gets some information from a guy on his Police Squad that his son is in Russia and has just shot some kind of Russian Gangster. They can’t even spring for Sam Jackson or Al Powell or anyone from any previous movies to be the one to get him the information, it’s just some guy.
So John McClane gets on an airplane and heads on over to the obviously existing, non-Die Hard script he’s been grafted on to. In order to make it Die Hardy, they use bullet points from the first movie like a template, reasoning that Action Movie Plus Die Hard Plot Template will equal Awesome.
Goodness. An incredibly painful scene right at the beginning in which McClane bonds with a Russian version of Argyle The Limo Driver. This time it’s a taxi driver who talks like Yakov Smirnoff and who I swear to God sings a song to John after John’s sort of a dick to him. You see, John McClane has come to Moscow speaking not one word of Russian, so when people speak Russian, he smirks and rolls his eyes like when the Californians were freaking him out in the first one. Heh? HEH? See – it’s Die Hard!
That’s okay, says Yakov Argyle – I love Americans and I will sing you a song.
And. Then. He. Does.
Holy shit, I started crying. I understood that very basic screenplay structure dictated that Yakov Argyle would be back later to give John a convenient ride at some point when he needed it, but no. No, we never see Yakov Argyle again. John gets out of the taxi and then runs the rest of the way to the new, Russian screenplay on foot.
Then John McClane arrives at the Courthouse where they’re about to try his son in Russian Court. John notices some military vehicles, and says Hmmmmm. Then there’s either an attempt to rescue his son or an attempt to kill him, and no less than a couple hours after landing in Moscow with no plan at all, John McClane’s son trots right out in front of him.
Let’s have a big car chase, they all agree. And although it’s real mayhem, it’s not exciting and it’s stupid. John McClane Dies Easily in it a half dozen times, but they’re counting on the fact that since John McClane is always surviving ridiculous things, we’ll all be cool with him being totally indestructible. Did you know that there are very few Russian law enforcement officers? If you want to grab random, huge, unattended vehicles and then crash them all over Moscow, they don’t really have much of a system in place to address that.
Then they agree the car chase is over and head over to some building to wait for the rest of the movie to happen. A hilarious turn of character exposition puts them in the bad guys hands, at gunpoint, outnumbered, and although John McClane has not been talking all night by walkie talkie to the bad guys or hiding their detonators or saying “Yippe Ki-Yay, Motherfucker” to them, the head thug behaves as if he and John have a long and bitter rivalry.
One so long and bitter that instead of putting a bullet in the McClanes’ heads, he instead has to prance about in front of them going, “Welllllll, at last we have the mighty Chewbacca, you are not so tough, Mister American Cowboy, etc” while kicking and punching and whatnot. Meanwhile, John and his asshole son exchange knowing smirks, because they’re sneakily untying their ropes, freeing up their hands to kick some poorly choreographed ass.
It turns out that even though his father is world-renowned for saving literally millions of lives and publicly thwarting four elaborate terrorist attacks, his son doesn’t understand why he wasn’t around very much growing up, and makes a series of hilarious little girl noises about his rough upbringing, and then it turns out he’s CIA and McClane didn’t know that either. He notices if you’re smoking your cigarette like a European as opposed to an American, but nothing ever tipped him off over the years that his son was training for the CIA.
McClane’s not a fly in the ointment this time. He’s not a monkey in the wrench. He’s not an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. He’s a doddering old pain in his son’s ass.
Then it’s off to Chernobyl, where it turns out the Russian guy who took them there wasn’t really trying to do whatever the hell he said he was, he was trying to do something sinister. This is a big, huge surprise to everyone at the end of the movie, even though that’s always what happens at the end of the movie.
Then they shoot everybody and jump into a pool and don’t worry, because right away his super smart son tells us it’s just Chernobyl Rain Water, it’s not radioactive. In fact, there are virtually no radiation concerns at Chernobyl at all – Yay!!
Also, I’m not certain but Bruce Willis is either drunk the entire time he’s filming the movie, or he’s got early onset Alzheimer’s. And it’s an NRA commercial too, if that does anything for you. At the end of the movie is a ninety second scene of divorced John McClane bonding with his son and daughter, in case you were wondering what demographic they were shooting for.
Pretty easy to get upset with Die Hard at this point, because the other sequels are all pretty good by my notoriously low standards. I’m very, very easy to please when it comes with this stuff. For instance, would you like to watch Con Air with me? I swear to God, I’ll drop what I’m doing and watch Con Air with you right now if you want. That’s how low the bar is.
As I’ve said before, the original Die Hard is a near perfect movie, with some truly hilarious-but-not-meant-to-be-hilarious character arcs, like how McClane’s wife learns that her career is dumb and she should have John’s name stamped on her head, and how Al Powell, through his friendship with McClane, learns to kill again.
We owe this franchise a mulligan. And we owe it to our children to see that they watch the first four all in one sitting and then go to Chuck E. Cheese or anyplace with a bouncy ball pit, see what happens. And we owe it to Die Hard to go and spend money seeing the next one, which if I’m not mistaken is going to be called Die Peacefully At Home, Surrounded By Loved Ones.
Thanks blogosphere. I wasn’t blogging back when I saw that, and I needed the time between then and now to sort out my feelings. And remember – just because you shot a kid a while ago who had a toy ray gun that looked real enough, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot anybody else ever again. Shit happens. Get back on that horse.