A Good Day to Die Hard

(2013)  1/2 R
98 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: John Moore. Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Rasha Bukvic, Cole Hauser.

/content/films/4517/1.jpgTrue story: A Good Day to Die Hard did worldwide box office amounting to upwards of $304 million. Like most movies, it made a major cash grab in its opening weekend, then steadily declined, but obviously hope springs eternal for Die Hard fans—despite all evidence to the contrary. Cassandra-like, reviewers were ignored in their warnings. For those, like me, who found the fourth entry a disspiriting mediocrity unworthy of its predecessors, Die Hard was already all but dead when the fifth film came around. Catching up with it on home video is to understand that Die Hard is dead, reanimated only as a rotting zombie shade of its former self. Die Hard director John McTiernan languishes in jail (yes, literally: look it up), while director John Moore freely commits the atrocity of A Good Day to Die Hard? Is there no justice?

So this time, John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies to Russia to try to get his son Jack (the charisma-free Jai Courtney) out of trouble—specifically, standing trial for his apparent involvement in an assassination. So, actually, Jack is an undercover CIA agent tasked with securing a secret file in the possession of co-defendant Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). So when corrupt Russian official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) bombs the courthouse, John is there to get in the way of his son's plans and those of the bad guys. Oh, yes, there will be father-son bonding. It's a "very special episode" of Die Hard. Except that it isn't. The first third of the movie is little more than a bit of foreplay and one big clanging car chase, prefiguring the movie's disinterest in its own plot. That the chase—and, indeed, the entire movie—is poorly shot and edited does no one any favors; the action geography is unclear, and worse, there's no motivation to try to follow what's going on, as the characters are anonymous action figures or, at best, assholes.

And therein is the rub of A Good Day to Die Hard. Setting aside its utter narrative indifference, dull ineptitude, numbing lack of wit and creativity, and generic and lazy style (all CGI and sickly green, yellow, and blue filtering), this movie manages to turn McClane from a mouthy hero into a mouthy asshole. Maybe he was always an asshole, but he was our asshole. Here, he just acts like a jerk: getting in the way, piling macho horseshit on his son, and acting condescending at best and xenophobic at worst to every Russian he meets. "Do you think I understand a word you're saying?!" he hollers at one (to be fair, there's only one good Russian in the movie, so one might say screenwriter Skip Woods is the real asshat). Once blithely acceptable as American id, McClane's become the archetypal American idiot. On its own merits, the movie sucks, but as a sequel, it's a tragic comedown. And no amount of lame callbacks to the original film ("Yipee-ki-yay..." or "When's it not about money?") can mask the stench of failure.

A plot twist here, a plot twist there (none of them surprising or of any import), endless machine-gunning and explosions, waves of stupid dialogue ("We need this file!"), and you get off the ride nauseous. Woods and Moore wouldn't know a funny joke if it exploded in their face (their best effort hasn't been funny in at least a decade: the old cliché of an elevator that's piping in "The Girl from Ipanema," indifferent to the supposedly high-stakes circumstances). The only gag the movie comes close to making work is the subtext of blowing up Russia—and, specifically, in the climactic stretch, Chernobyl—being like a game of catch for this meathead father and son. More than once, McClane tells John McClane Jr. "Attaboy." There might have been some amusing social satire in the notion, but instead, Moore plays it for tough-guy heart. Swing and a miss.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Street date: 6/4/2013

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Fox gives its lucrative franchise white-glove treatment with its Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy special edition of A Good Day to Die Hard. The Blu-ray includes two cuts of the film in hi-def: the R-rated "Theatrical Version" (98 minutes) and "Unrated Extended Cut" (102 minutes). With the sole exception of a bit of alisasing on a Moscow building, the transfer is excellent, with bold color and a faithful rendering of the film's somewhat grainy aesthetic. Detail is somewhat compromised by that grain, but only in the manner intended by the filmmakers and seen on theatrical screens. Accurate contrast and sharp blacks go a long way to helping the image retain its proper look. Easily the best thing going for the movie is its sound. If you want to show off your home theater, you could do worse than this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. surround mix, which will definitely wake the neighbors during the action scenes. LFE is killer, and the discrete separation of barking machine guns, breaking glass and the like sings the praises of the new Dolby Atmos surround system, from which this presentation was "mixed down."

Fox doesn't skimp on the bonus features here, either. We get a cheerily jokey audio commentary with director John Moore and first assistant director Mark Cotone, who kid like survivors of a vacation gone wrong while recounting the nitty-gritty of production.

Seven "Deleted Scenes" (14:28, HD) include an alternate John McClane introduction.

The most sizeable extra is the fifteen-part behind-the-scenes doc "Making It Hard To Die" (1:00:22, HD), which looks at the film's making from top (Moore) to bottom (food truck).

"Anatomy of a Car Chase" (26:12, HD) delivers on its promise, while "Two of a Kind" (8:00, HD) looks at the two McClanes. "Back in Action" (7:06, HD) is a sort of generic EPK touting the sequel, and "The New Face of Evil" (6:57, HD) profiles the film's three villains, as seen by the actors playing them.

Rounding out the disc are "Pre-Vis" (11:36, HD) animatics for three sequences, one of them cut from the film; sixteen quick breakdowns of "VFX Sequences" (5:35, HD); five "Storyboards" (7:12, HD), a "Concept Art Gallery" (10:47, HD) and "Theatrical Trailers" (3:30, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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