Hey, remember that hypocrisy I was talking about in the last post? Well last night I went to see Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard, or more accurately, 2013 Bruce Willis Action Movie. Much like Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard, it’s a good action film, but could barely be described as a Die Hard film. Let me say this now: if you don’t agree that the original Die Hard is one of the best action movies ever made – hell, one of the best movies ever made – then I don’t much care to know you, sir. But the last couple of them? I don’t see anyone’s lives being enriched by either of them. They were both generic attention filler – the only difference is that 5 is stupid where 4 was silly.
McClane… gets by on psychosis and invulnerability
The first thing to jump out at me was the opening credits, which disclosed that the film was written by someone called Skip Woods. Skip Woods!? That’s not the name of a screenwriter, it’s the name of a plucky reporter or possibly a buck-toothed neighbour kid in a family sitcom from the 50s. Maybe that’s just my prejudices at play. Moving on.
Now, I’m told that Die Hard 3 began life as a separate film, which was retrofitted with Bruce Willis and a Gruber to turn it into a Die Hard sequel – I’m assuming the same thing happened with 4 and 5, only they took even less care in doing it. The script for this one SKIP WOODS! SKIP FUCKING WOODS! THIS FILM WAS WRITTEN BY A GUY WHOSE NAME DOUBLES AS ADVICE YOU’D RECEIVE FROM A GOLF CADDY sorry, sorry my problem. Anyway, it bears as little resemblance to the original Die Hard as is possible while still remaining a moving picture. Intrigue in Moscow? Shootouts in Chernobyl? Bruce Willis’ character is much closer to a genetic hybrid of Rambo and the character he played in Unbreakable than John McClane.
In Die Hard, McClane gets by on wits and luck – here he gets by on psychosis and invulnerability, diving into city-wrecking car chases without pause and machine gunning death squads with workmanlike insouciance. (Not forgetting that he’s not even a cop here – that fact that he’s merely a tourist in a foreign country doesn’t stop him from assaulting strangers, stealing cars, destroying a motorway’s worth of civilian vehicles with their drivers in them and murdering bad guys by the dozen. And getting away with it.) Perhaps there’s something postmodern going on here, where McClane knows that he’s the star of an action franchise and is therefore unkillable, explaining his willingness to leap into what should be certain death, as well as his utter disregard for the safety or property of anyone around him – they’re only extras.
The plot makes little sense in retrospect. It has the requisite Die Hard twist, but when you look back knowing how things are going to turn out, a lot of the bad guy’s plan involved people he had no control over doing exactly what he wanted, and trusting that he would survive multiple gun battles with no proper protection.
They chuck some family bonding into the mix, as McClane teams up with his estranged son (played by a man who looks like he won some sort of Looks Least Likely to Be Genetically Related to Bruce Willis competition), having already won back his estranged wife and daughter in previous films (even if it was only temporary in his wife’s case). The Generro family name takes quite a hammering in this series – it’s constantly being denounced, every time Bruce murders his way back into a family member’s heart. “Yeah, fuck you, Mum – you may have done your best to provide a loving environment to raise us in for years, despite being hobbled by an absent and emotionally stunted husband, but Dad shot some Russians and jumped out of a building! I’m a fuckin’ McClane now!”
Like I said, as an action film, it’s good. There are some great sequences – trucks are overturned, buildings are shot to pieces, ‘splosions splode and people are turned into flesh confetti by helicopter rotors. There’s no reason why it couldn’t have been any generic action film starring any generic action star, though.
Other good things: it’s properly R-rated now, so they can say “fuck” as God intended. Also, it’s 98 minutes long, which is the proper length for this sort of actioner. If you can’t make an action film under two hours long, you are a Shit Director. Looking at you, Michael Bay and Late Period James Cameron.
And finally, of course, we have to consider the name. LIVE FREE AND DIE HARD, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD – are they going to just keep making films until they run out of shit puns on phrases with the word “die” in them? Where can they go next?
DO OR DIE HARD
DIE HARD A NATURAL DEATH
THIS FOOD IS TO DIE HARD FOR
IF ANYONE I KNOW SEES ME IN THIS OUTFIT I’LL JUST DIE HARD
LIVE AND LET DIE HARD – A Bond crossover, maybe?
TWENTY-SIDED DIE HARD – Oh shit, I would utterly watch that.
THE DIE-HARD-ARY OF ANNE FRANK – OK, that’s fucking gold, I’m scaring myself now.