Recycling the 80s (badly): A Good Day to Die Hard

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Everything old is new again, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. The latest installment of the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard, reads as if someone from a foreign country was following a template for the original Die Hard, or perhaps a badly prepared checklist.

As with all the other movies in this franchise, the audience finds John McClane as a fish out of water, this time in Russia. Why is he in Russia? Because for some reason director John Moore and writers Skip Woods, Roderick Thorp decided that a little nostalgia for the 1980s was in order. McClane is in Russia to check up on his son, Jack, who is in a Russian prison. It is revealed that Jack is actually a spy on a mission, and throughout the course of the movie, father and son team up, spread mayhem, bury the hatchet of resentment for the elder McClane ignoring his son, and “beat up some scumbags”.

I went into this, wanting desperately to enjoy some fun. But it was just too hard. I knew there was going to be a problem from the opening sequence- a vague scene between two characters that we don’t know, making vague references to something we have no idea of. What follows is a necessary plot-hole-filler scene where we see McClane meeting with another NYC policeman just so he can learn his son is in prison, and so the audience can learn that McClane still loves his son.

Once McClane reaches Russia, we have some classic McClane scenes, like when he yells at a Russian driver “Do you think I understand anything you’re saying?” and then steals his car for a seemingly uselesss, but very long car chase on a Moscow interstate. Again, it was as though someone in production KNEW that McClane should have a funny one liner, and KNEW there should be a car chase, but was less concerned with doing it right, and more concerned with checking these items off his Die Hard Sequel To Do List.

The bad nostalgia continues with the climatic scene, set at Chernobyl, circling back to our bad guys who are recycled Russian villains straight out of the 1980s. Even by the end of the movie, I had no idea why the production team felt the need to take this time-travel trip back to the Cold War and the 1980s. Perhaps they thought the remake of Red Dawn was epic and thought they’d cash in on new wave of 1980s fun. If so, they’re in for some bad news- there is no revival of the 1980s. And if you don’t do something interesting, no one’s going to care.

The problem with this film is not the template, as many movies have been able to use it and do something new with it. The problem is it’s boring. We never understand Jack McClane, and Courtney doesn’t help with his monosyllabic, flat portrayal. The Russian setting seems arbitrary, as if the production team decided John McClane had to do something new, so let’s have him leave the country! The appearance of McClane’s daughter, Lucy, who was entertaining in Live Free or Die Hard, is inexplicable, as she only bookends the movie, and serves no purpose.

The entire movie just seems as though it’s checking off items instead of caring about the audience being engaged.

 

 

 

About Karra Shimabukuro

I am a PhD student at University of New Mexico, my research focuses on medieval literature, folklore, and popular culture. My writing tends to focus on television and movies, but usually with a focus on how things are all connected.
I’m a reference snob.
I often consider myself a Geek by Proxy- the coolest people I ever met were geeks, and at a young age found myself devouring all the cool things they knew/saw/did.
In my days off I can be found on the Interweb spreading joy and enlightenment. And I can always be found in the company of my bebe puppy Nehi.
@khkshimabukuro
http://scholarlymedievalmadness.blogspot.com/

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