Bruce Willis is just great, isn’t he?
I’m tempted to say his films are a guilty pleasure but that would be doing him a bit of an injustice because he is a genuinely compelling screen presence. I say screen presence because despite 12 Monkeys, The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction, I still don’t comfortably feel as though I can call him a good actor. His range extends to a smirk and that slightly bemused yet quizzically amused facial expression he does. In fact the aforementioned films that display his ‘acting’ talents simply seem to involve him not doing the smirk and the slightly bemused yet quizzically amused facial expression for 100 minutes.
Nonetheless Bruce Willis is just great, isn’t he? Just think of films like last year’s Looper as well as Sin City, The Last Boy Scout, Unbreakable and Look Who’s Talking and tell me he isn’t great. Clearly sometimes the material doesn’t do him justice and he has an even share of hits and misses (How many people have heard of Fire With Fire, Catch .44 and Setup, all of which came out in the last 18 months?) but when the script and the set up is right, Bruce Willis is just excellent.
It is hard to put your finger on the precise nature of his appeal but he is highly likeable and no one has fired a gun as well since Connery so that’s a start.
Of course Mr Walter B. Willis’ career has been underpinned the whole way through by the Die Hard movies. The first one was released in 1988 and is arguably one of the best action films ever made. It is probably as influential as Star Wars and was a great career reinvention for Bruce. It is hard to think about it now that he is considered a proper Hollywood Hard Ass but Die Hard came out while the genius TV show Moonlighting was still airing and here was boyish but charming P.I David Addison suddenly covered in blood and machine gunning terrorists in a skyscraper. In fact that is probably part of the appeal, this guy isn’t inhumanly muscle bound like his contemporaries Schwarzenegger and Stallone so we have a slightly easier time identifying with him.
Similarly, now that Arnold and Sly have started to go a bit stringy there is something a little sad about their most recent outings as The Terminator or Rambo whereas Bruce still looks fine as John McClane. My expectations for Die Hard 4.0 (titled Live Free or Die Hard in the US) were not good after Lethal Weapon 4 and Rocky 6 but Bruce showed us that ageing action heroes could be cool (before Indiana Jones shattered our dreams in this respect a year later). Sure, there is no way a guy in his fifties could run around on the back of a moving fighter plane like Bruce does in Die Hard 4 but nor could he do so in his twenties so the age thing isn’t an issue. Also, the throwing a car at a helicopter stunt is possibly one of the most glorious things to be seen on a cinema screen in the last decade.
So then we come to A Good Day to Die Hard, Die Hard number 5. I’d not actually read any reviews before seeing the film but I knew the critical opinion wasn’t positive (17% on Rotten Tomatoes? Even Mama Mia! got 54%!). Nonetheless off I went to my local Odeon, my expectations suitably adjusted, hoping for an enjoyable action film with smirky Bruce that had probably just suffered in comparison with the four proceeding films in the pentrilogy(?).
Well that was just foolish of me because A Good Day to Die Hard is really really bad.
This is a big dumb action film that leans very heavily toward the dumb. The action sequences are fairly impressive but there is little else to engage you. The script is uninspired, the story is ridiculous and the stakes are stupidly high. It isn’t enough to put a building or a city under threat anymore, now there needs to be some suggestion that the bad guy is equipping himself to rain Nuclear weapons down on the world . The previous Die Hard movies worked because you could see the innocent victims Bruce was trying to save, the office workers or the passengers on the plane. The films worked because the threat was immediate and localised. In this film the general public are at risk but mostly from Bruce’s driving as cars are crushed and thrown around. You don’t see the victims but the opening car chase through Moscow would have killed and hospitalised a good 100 people. Once the protection of innocent civilians was what motivated our hero, now they are in the way and entirely disposable.
Despite the threat of the cold war supposedly returning with a vengeance it is fundamentally his son he is trying to save here and this brings us to the next problem. The last two Die Hard films centred around our hero teaming up with some unsuspecting member of the public but Jai Courtney is bland and certainly he is no Samuel L. Jackson. He is even a long way from being Jason Long and besides, he’s not a member of the public, he’s a CIA agent so where is the fun in that? He seems to be able to look after himself, where is the peril?
You know when some unknown author arrogantly decides to write a sequel to some classic work of fiction only to highlight how they really are no Jane Austen, J.M Barrie or Margaret Mitchell. This is what has happened here, someone new has tried to write a Die Hard movie and failed dismally. They have the set up all wrong, John McClane has always been the reluctant hero, the right guy in the wrong place but here he is going looking for trouble and seems to be taking psychotic glee in blowing stuff up. This simply isn’t the same character from the other films. Similarly gone is the wit, there is no humour and don’t even get me started on the boring villains (compare that to the original). Skip Woods the screenwriter really should be ashamed of himself having now authored a terrible Die Hard film, a terrible X-Men film and The A-Team.
So what of the great Bruce Willis? I’m afraid he holds some responsibility too because he let this happen and I’d have thought he would have greater ownership over what is his signature role. This is lazy film making and it is obscene that someone has been given $92 million to make it.
Is this one for the kids?
Oddly yes, it is a 12A and there is nothing here that is too violent but its a Die Hard film so there really should be. I originally thought the tag ‘Yippee Ki Yay Mother Russia’ was a clever play on words, I didn’t realise it was just trying to avoid swearing in front of the children. Apparently the film has actually been cut to get the lower certificate in the UK which just sounds like a cynical money making exercise. Still I don’t think creative sensibilities have informed any of the decisions behind this film so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.