Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Die Hard 5
Okay, before you get surprised that "Die Hard 5" sucked, let's first look at the people who made this thing. It was written by Skip Woods, who previously brought us such masterpieces as "Hitman" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", one of the most rushed and pathetically lazy superhero movies I've ever seen. And combine that level of incompetence with the directing talent of John Moore, who made "Max Payne". Together the writer and director have been responsible for some of the worst action movies of the last decade. Also, how many movie franchises have managed to remain entertaining by the fifth installment? I can think of "Godzilla", and that's it.
"Die Hard" once upon a time was one of the best action movies of all time, turning Bruce Willis into the movie icon that he is today. In basically every movie Bruce Willis made in the Nineties, he was playing John McClane, a medium-build sarcastic detective out of his element in the midsts of a huge disaster. I love Bruce Willis, I love his action movies, I love his cop movies: "Die Hard", "Die Hard With a Vengeance"*, "The Fifth Element", "Mercury Rising", "Sin City", "Sixteen Blocks" - all great, or at least decent. As the franchise of Die Hard moved on, the movies kept getting bigger and more ridiculous as time went on. "Die Hard 4" was even a bit of fun, it was bloated and ridiculous, turning John McClane into an indestructible superhero. But Bruce Willis was still a smart alack, he had his snarky lines, and the movie was generally well-made. A lot of people whined that "Die Hard 4" bleeped out the curses, but whatever, the movie was fine. Obviously though, that's where the franchise should have stopped, with John McClane saving all of America. You can't top that.
And they didn't. "Die Hard 5" is a mess. The movie isn't an abominable trainwreck like you might expect for one getting as much bad press as it is, but its still bad. Its depressing. Not because the movie is poorly made - which it is - its just not fun. Bruce Willis has to share the limelight with his idiot son with a weird face, the action scenes were preposterous, the characters go nowhere. Even the villains suck. Its miserable. Its not so good its good, its not so bad its good, its simply bland.
The main idea here is that John McClane is going to Moscow to visit his long lost son, who has finally surfaced in the middle of some poorly-explained Russian intrigue. There's one Russian guy who hates this other bearded Russian guy, and so he hires an entire army of mercenaries to kill the other Russian guy. Or get "a file". That's the only motivation we're given for why any of this is happening, they need "a file". What's on the file? Why does it matter? Who are these people? It doesn't matter. John McClane's son, who looks exactly like a generic First Person Shooter shave-head hero, is actually a member of the CIA, and is trying to save Bearded Russian Guy. Mercenary fights, chase scenes, whatever, bullshit ensue.
So the main relationship is between John McClane and his son, FPS guy. I get the sense that Skip Woods or somebody behind this movie has a really terrible relationship with either their son or father, because this whole movie is Bruce Willis and FPS guy yelling at each other. FPS guy is bitchy and hates his dad for no reason that's even explained, Bruce Willis just seems bitter. They were trying for the typical mismatched buddy cop relationship thing, and maybe some father-son banter, instead I get the sense that these characters have some very tense and dark history between them which has all happened off-camera years ago. And if McClane Jr. didn't want his dad meddling with his affairs, why couldn't he just call him every once in awhile? Come on! He came off as really entitled and bitchy, somehow worse than the Asian sidekick from "Bullet to the Head". Also, their miserable father-son bond is the only thing they ever talk about. There is no other topic of conversation other than "I'm your dad, you don't like me, what?"
The Die Hard movies over the course of their films have been getting more and more over the top and less realistic. Once upon John McClane was completely terrified by his stunts, and was taking real damage from the hits he was suffering. A lot of time in "Die Hard 1" was spent dealing with Bruce Willis' feet after he ran over some glass and tore them up. In "Die Hard 5", he has somehow grown a complete immunity to glass, he jumps through glass in basically every scene. And I know its an action movie, but come on! I think we all know by now what would happen if you actually jumped through a window, you would get cut to bits. In "Die Hard 5", they jump through about six windows. And then get into huge car crashes, the kind of stuff that just makes me say to myself "dead". You flip a truck over a concrete median, you're either a dead man or you're not getting up for a month. John McClane and the villains do this, and they're all fine. I would forgive this movie if it had any kind of sense of fun or entertainment. It could be a ridiculous action cartoon, but it isn't, its flat and boring.
I get the sense there were a lot of rewrites during this movie. They put a lot of trouble into setting up this one mercenary guy as the heir successor to Hans Gruber and Jeremy Irons, and he goes nowhere. He brings up cowboys for no reason other than to be a reference to the old Die Hard movies, realistically there's no reason on Earth a random Russian bad guy would make a cowboy joke. Then he dances while chewing on a carrot like Bugs Bunny. This villain sucks, for one, and he doesn't even get much screentime because a very predictable double-cross gets him killed quickly. There are no less than two fights against an attack helicopter tearing up a building! They put all this trouble into setting up a huge burly Russian guy with a "CCCP" tattoo who looks like he could might be a good Heavy, and he gets killed with no more trouble than anybody else. And again, I might not be so annoyed by these plotpoints if only the movie were shot well, which it isn't. Or if it weren't riddled with CG effects, which it is!
The final confrontation of the movie takes place in Chernobyl, as if Moscow were the only city in Russia the filmmakers knew of and couldn't think of any other well-known location to show. By the way, Chernobyl is actually in Ukraine, a separate country, I'm not sure how either an entire paramilitary Russian force and two Americans in a car full of guns managed to cross the border. Maybe its because the Russian Federation apparently has no police force or military presence of any kind, so people can blow up court houses and have car chases across the city without fear of any government interference. I was hoping this would be like "Die Hard 4" but in Russia, with John McClane in the midsts of a coup, but no. Its just stupid.
I didn't hate this movie while watching it, it was simply poorly-made. But an hour later, its such a blur. It left very little impression on me, and what feelings I have left are purely negative. This isn't the worst Bruce Willis movie, but it still sucks. I'd rather watch "The Expendables" than this. I'd rather watch a Twilight rip-off for preteens**. The people who made this have no love of film-making or storytelling or even just entertaining people, and you can tell. Please, Skips Woods, John Moore, retire. Because you make movies like this. Shitty movies.
All franchises inevitably end up here. I don't mourn Die Hard", it still has four perfectly decent movies that I can watch whenever I want. And I don't hate "Die Hard 5" for killing the franchise. At least now I know there won't be a "Die Hard 6" and it won't get worse. This is just what happens. Hollywood asks for too much out of its successful movies. Star Wars inevitably turned into "The Clone Wars" movie, Indiana Jones turned into "Crystal Skull", Saw became "Saw 3D", its just a fact of life. And remember, it could be worse. We could be watching a Die Hard remake/reboot starring Channing Tatum.
* I didn't much love "Die Hard 2". I thought it was kinda flat. Still, it was a lot better than this!
** "Beautiful Creatures" is the next review!!