Die Hard 5, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

It grieves my heart to write these words.

They should have stopped at four.

If you want John McLane to have a successor to pass the baton to, young, plucky, a chip off the old block; if you want the narrative complication to be that this kid is filled with resentment, not wanting to call the absentee cop dad Dad, or use his surname, but to end up embracing both after appreciating such a dad when the going gets tough; if you want all that, for Chrissakes, can someone please tell me how Die Hard 4.0 failed to tick all those boxes?

And did it impressively to boot. I’m going to stand up proudly and say I loved Die Hard 4.0. It had wit, charm and suspense as well as the basic requirement of awesomely, implausibly overblown action sequences. It had Young McResentful. It had a sexed-up modern plot, and Justin Long provided plenty of wit, balanced by sage old McLane.

Die Hard 4.0’sLucy McLane seemed more than capable of taking up the mantle. But being just a woman, it’s no surprise they put her in the backseat for this one so the guys could shoot their way home to her. Putting a woman in number five and making the most of that groundwork would be far too imaginative and risky for this play-it-safe movie.

A Good Day to Die Hard had no suspense, no charm, and the witty rejoinders were cringe-worthy. It wasn’t particularly funny the first time McLane said “I’m on vacation” (a la Clerks’ “I wasn’t even supposed to be here today, man” catchphrase). And the rest of the jokes were similarly tired. McLane’s not a complex guy, sure, but he’s not a dumbass, as calling all his ethnic antagonists things like “Papa Giuseppe” and “Nijinsky” makes him sound. You only need one or two wise-guy one-liners in a Die Hard movie, and this script turned his entire repertoire into no-effort one-liners.

I heard one reviewer say Bruce Willis “phoned it in” for this movie and didn’t give director John Moore more than two takes for anything. Whether or not this is true, I doubt the woodenness of this performance was all Willis’ fault. Two thousand takes can’t turn a hackneyed script into a good one.

And as for the plot: half the movie is a car chase, there’s a short interlude then the climax moves to Chernobyl, of all places. Years ago I saw, online, a joke “Tom Clancy Novel plot generator” where you plug in keywords and it turns them into a spy novel plot for you. This was just like that. Watching, I didn’t care a jot about the finer details or outcome of this Russian intrigue (or lack thereof) and so it’s unsurprising that the spectacle of the car chase is about as good as it gets. It’s satisfying to see hundreds of cars get crunched, but that’s about it.

Look, it’s not terrible. It’s an OK movie and entertaining enough for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t bother to pay for a ticket, however; I’d wait for the DVD if I were you, and perhaps sink a couple of beers during, to soften the pain of this all-too-familiar situation: the wrecking of an iconic series with a brainless one-too-many-sequel.

I didn’t expect anything more: but quietly, just quietly… I hoped for something more.

Turbo blog

Those with short attention spans rejoice! I’m low on time this week, so I’m keeping it snappy with a handful of snippets.

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  • 3rd Rock from the Sun (1990s)

Working through it all over again. As good as ever. Pluses: baby Joseph Joseph Joseph.

  • movie: Kid (Disney schmaltz), 2000

Watchable, harmless couch fluff. Pluses: Bruce Willis being suave, and a funny fat kid.

  • Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Funny and clever. Win. Have never liked Will Ferrell but he does a great job in this. Win. Also, movie has Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Win, win, win. Also, is about literature and baked goods. ALL THE WINS.

  • Hope Springs (2012)

Entirely watchable, but don’t bother seeing it at the movies. Funny but cringey. Would be worthless without Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones (who plays his usual crusty old bugger with an intimacy problem).

  • Easy A (2010)

I know, I’m so behind the rest of the world. Fun, with racy dialogue and a Mean Girls-ish flavour. Highlights: Emma Stone is nice to look at, and one of her adorably dotty parents is Stanley Tucci who even The Lovely Bones couldn’t stop me trusting.

  • Body Melt (1993)

My partner – let’s call him the Ministry of Magic – had a birthday so watched this as a gift to him, cause he’s been talking about it for ages. Worth watching just to see various Blue Heelers cast members and Harold from Neighbours being younger, but still wobbly-jowled. Also, of course, for the bodies melting. Would make a great drinking game.

Red (2010)

John Malkovich reportedly said somewhere he wanted to make an action movie for himself. I hope the idea of this excites you as much as it did me.

What Malkovich apparently wanted was pure adrenaline and fun, and Red has this in spades.

It’s a promising premise for a film – a bunch of retired secret agents join up for one last escapade – and it’s executed masterfully. The best comedy comes from Malkovich’s ultra-paranoid, twitchy and irrational character, but he’s perfectly complemented by the rest of his ‘old’ friends and the plot continues to generate and build on its own momentum and you find yourself genuinely emotionally engaged – when misfortune that seems insurmountable catches up with a certain character, you really, truly care!

Well, I did. The movie has heart, as well as brains, balls, bawdiness and funnies (I couldn’t be bothered thesaurusing till I found a humour-related b-word) and there’s never a boring moment.

It’s got a killer cast – Helen Mirren is dynamite, and her hapless Russian love interest provides her with the ideal comic foil. I’ve never found a sixty-something year old lady hot before, but there’s a first time for everything.

Mary-Louise Parker does some beautiful rubberfaced comedy and manages not to annoy me even once even as a helplesss female character.

Bruce Willis is as tough and cool as always (I sure hope he plans on being cryogenically frozen, because I don’t think I can stand to live in a world without Bruce Willis making action movies).

John Malkovich is worryingly good at being an LSD-addled, compulsively murderous conspiracy theorist.

Morgan Freeman as good as ever, and, somewhat worryingly, is wonderfully convincing as an infirm 84-year-old.

Love the cameo-type role of underground records officer played by Ernest Borgnine, who really should be cast as Mr Toad in a Wind in the Willows adaptation without delay.

The movie has great action sequences with stylish fighting – but the fighting remains visceral and not TOO stylish (If you don’t know what I mean by too stylish, think Angelina Jolie-type-action). To illustrate, Bruce Willis channels John McCain in a memorable running exit from a speeding car, emerging upright and shooting in an impossible stunt – but at no point does the movie sell itself short by relying on clever tricks like this. They add to the sense of pace and style but are used judiciously enough not to detract from the film’s main strengths, namely, characterisation and humour.

I hate describing things as ‘romps’ but this, if any movie does, deserves the old cliche. There is a sense of pure enjoyment and energy about it that is charming, but it keeps its edge with the perfectly choreographed action and acting clout that its veteran cast brings to the table.