Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Good Day To Die Hard (12A)

Stretching a franchise into a fifth episode is akin to juggling with dynamite - sure, it might look good, but it could blow up in your face at any moment.

Going to Moscow is also problematic. Police Academy did that.

Having a car chase in Moscow is also tricky. Bond did that - and did it damn well.

Still, John McClane's never been one to let history affect his decision making...

Fortunately the Academy ghost lays undisturbed, and car chase sequences are different enough to step out of the shadow of Brosnan and his tank - even if they don't quite outshine him.

The only other potential problem A Good Day To Die Hard had was the lunking beast that was Live Free Or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0) that lies in the background, lurking like an unpleasant smell. After three slick, sharp, sassy action flicks, part 4 fell a bit short of expectations.

So it's something of a relief that part 5 is a return to form.

Not a full-on, as good as the first one, return to form, but the action sequences have boyish fun about them, the dialogue - while not sharp - has at least a bit of a cutting edge, and it happily references the past. Almost to the point of plagiarism.

The story is a simple one. John is off to Russia to help a kid who's got into a bit of bother. Turns out the kid is his son (played well by Jai Courtney), and the bother is his job with the CIA.

Apples never fall far from the tree, it seems, even if you shoot at them. From there, you can park your brain in neutral, sit back and enjoy the ride.

There is a plot, of sorts, but to be honest it's only there to link the action sequences. And it doesn't do that very well, because the second half of the film (with TWISTS and SURPRISES no less) is pretty much one long action sequence.

But things go bang, things go boom, McClane hangs out the back of a helicopter (not a euphemism), it's a lot of loud fun.

Just don't look too far below the surface.

Sure, there are touching moments of estranged father and son finally bonding, but the fact writer Skip Woods felt the need to mirror this with Sebastian Koch's Yuri Komarov and his daughter Irina (Yulia Snigir in her first non-Russian film) tells you that subtlety isn't a watchword here.

And subtle it isn't.

By the end of the film, there's not a car or building that hasn't been smashed, shot at, blown-up, driven over or crashed into. And the same goes for Chernobyl. Sure, the building they're mucking about in is a hollow shell left abandoned after the nuclear meltdown, but it's a palace compared to how it's left after the McClane and Komarov families have finished with it.

Even the score - used to tell us which bits are the emotional heart of the film - is shovelled on rather than being used with a deft touch.

And that's where the problem lies.

Take away the explosions and car chases, and there's not a lot left. The villains aren't villainy enough, apart from the daddy issues we know and learn nothing about Jack, without the other four films we'd know feck all about John.

It's like a Russian doll, only without all the other dolls inside it. And comparisons between Snigir and Megan Fox (might look great, but has all the depth of a puddle) are hard to shake. And there are other issues.

When you go and see A Good Day To Die Hard (and you should, because even with all its problems, it's still good dumb fun), watch carefully and ask yourself these questions:

How does John get his hands free?

How come the minister speaks in Russian, yet his villainous lacky answers him in English?

Where does Jack get the binoculars from?

How, when the kidnap party left in a helicopter, do Jack and John manage to get there so soon after?

When did the iPad get a geiger counter app?

I don't even think the film has suffered from Fox's much-maligned cuts to secure a 12A rating - the only real victim is an abrupt shortening of THAT catchphrase (which seems meaningless when earlier John bangs on about being on "fucking vacation". Couldn't that swear word have been cut instead?) and a couple of punches to a couple of heads.

And it knows its history and heritage. It knows what makes a Die Hard film.

I'm not sure recreating a famous scene from the first film was a wise idea, but hey, maybe there's a feeling of completing a circle.

There may be things wrong with this film, but what it gets right it gets right.

Sure there's a lack of plausibility and realism about A Good Day To Die Hard, but wasn't it ever so? John always survived more than any normal human being could endure, that's his thing. And now two of them are doing it.

Just don't think too much about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment