150 Movies in 90 Days: Done With Die Hard

June 12: #13, Live Free or Die Hard
June 13: #14, A Good Day to Die Hard

Now with more annoying hacker hipster types and twice the family drama!

So, when you think to yourself, “What’s missing in the Die Hard franchise?” do you come to the conclusion that the answer is definitely “that cocky prick from the ‘I’m a Mac’ commercials”? Of course you don’t, because you're a rational human being with a functioning brain, not an overpaid suit sitting in a board room somewhere trying to figure out how to unnecessarily make a classic franchise “cool to kids nowadays”.

I’ve long had a theory about aging music acts. One reason why they fail in the long run is that twenty years after they were last relevant, they try to “update” their sound. They either go full-blown adult contemporary or worse yet, try to go with whatever is popular in the current era. News flash, aging rockers- your fans want you to do more shit that’s JUST LIKE the shit that they liked in the first place! If you’re a hair metal band, MAKE MORE HAIR METAL. If you’re a 70s rock band, MAKE MORE 70s ROCK.

And if you’re making a new Die Hard movie, just MAKE ANOTHER DIE HARD MOVIE. Let’s not complicate things.

The fourth film in the franchise, Live Free or Die Hard, does okay in that regard. John McClane shoots lots of people, and Timothy Olyphant, though he spends nearly the entire movie in a control room, is a good (if slightly plain) villain. Though it pains me to admit it, Justin Long (as Matt Farrell) is even tolerable much of the time. Kevin Smith makes an appearance, and he’s great. So what’s wrong with Live Free or Die Hard (besides the title which seems like a phrase that should be tattooed below an image of a bald eagle tearing through an American flag)?

- McClane’s daughter, Lucy McClane (sorry, I mean “Gennero”…yes, the same thing her mother pulled back in the first film) is an annoying character played annoyingly by an annoying actress.

- About 40% of the film is spent watching somebody hurriedly type on a keyboard because HACKING.

- Longtime staples of the franchise are just plain gone, such as McClane teaming up with everyday blue collar folks (no, computer hackers don’t count), and where’s the obligatory black guy for McClane to team up with? THESE THINGS MATTER.

- At one point, when Farrell would literally seem to serve no further purpose, McClane is about to leave him behind and I literally yelled, “FINALLY!” at my TV, only for Farrell to apparently hear me and go, “No, I’m coming along.”

Like almost every other Die Hard film, this one’s about twenty minutes too long. However, it also has an action scene set in a tunnel that is absolutely amazing and worth the price of admission, even if that price is watching the Die Hard franchise limp towards a slow death. Grade: C+

If Live Free or Die Hard is an awkward title, A Good Day to Die Hard is the one where the series finally lives up to its potential of a title that sounds like a Hugh Hefner biopic. It’s also the movie where the series goes full blown 24 on us and finally overloads on shots of people scurrying around in a control room, hurriedly speaking in code while being filmed with a shaky hand-held camera.

The story wants to be intelligent, but it doesn’t need to be. A Good Day to Die Hard tries to appeal to its aging fan base with a story of political intrigue when truthfully, that’s not why any of us choose to watch a Die Hard movie. Like the aging rock bands from earlier, this film misses the point and therefore, loses its audience.

Ditto with the shoehorned family drama, as we watch McClane and his son, who is a secret agent, bicker at one another incessantly throughout the entire film. It was like being in a room with my dad and my older brother for more than five minutes, honestly. When they’re not trading sarcastic comments, McClane’s son is whining about McClane not being a good dad. Meanwhile, McClane as a father is still not a good look. He alternates being annoying with simply being a total prick.

So, they’ve replaced McClane’s quips with family bickering. Fun! And to top it off, you get the least charismatic, least interesting set of villains in the franchise’s history, along with a totally obvious plot twist to go with it. Does McClane even exchange barbs with the villain? No, not really. Again, that would have taken valuable screen time away from McClane and son awkwardly working out their issues in front of us.

I've taken the liberty of writing my own original dialogue for A Good Day to Die Hard, just to show how easy it is to write awful scenes full of unnecessary, poorly-scribed father/son drama.

OLD MCCLANE watches as MCCLANE'S BORING SON fumbles with wires, not knowing which wire to cut.

OLD MCCLANE: Would you stop being such a complete disappointment and cut the fucking wire already?!? No wonder I never paid attention to you when you were a kid!

MCCLANE'S BORING SON: Oh, should I cut the wire? Like how you cut me out of your life, "John"?

Then, later on:

OLD MCCLANE and MCCLANE'S BORING SON burst into a room to rescue a hostage...that isn't there. Instead, there's a bomb and the door locks behind them.

OLD MCCLANE: Where the hell's the hostage?

MCCLANE'S BORING SON: He's not here...just like you weren't at any of my birthday parties, baseball games, or graduations.


MCCLANE'S BORING SON: And look- there's a bomb! It's a trap!

OLD MCCLANE: I haven't felt trapped like this since your mom told me she was pregnant with your worthless ass.

See? It's easy.

Another issue is that with the new emphasis on realism and gritty authenticity, some of the head-scratching moments that wouldn’t have bothered me in earlier Die Hard films stick out like a sore thumb. For instance, when the McClanes work their way out of their handcuffs with their hands behind their backs and in full view of the armed henchmen behind them, or when John McClane suddenly realizes something is up at a key moment of the film when literally nothing suspicious is happening whatsoever. Also, as Taken 2 showed us, countries without “United States” in their names are automatically uncivilized and have little to no police presence, so you can blow up all the shit you want, no biggie.

You know what, though? There's a pretty amazing chase scene in the film. The scene even succeeds despite director John Moore's attempts to undermine it with a jarring tendency to cut to a zoomed-out camera that looks like it's being shot from a TV news helicopter, then abruptly zoom in on the vehicles. It's an absolutely ridiculous scene, but it's fun, unlike the rest of the movie. And it's early in the film, so when the chase is over, you can just turn it off! Grade: D+

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