Review – Die Already! (“A Good Day to Die Hard” et al.)

2007 is that last time we found our hero, NYC detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) risking his neck in some ridiculous and ultimately foolhardy attempt to stop bad guys from doing whatever the bad guys where doing.

Fast forward to 2013 and we catch-up with John as his son, John Jr.(aka Jack…played by Jai Courtney) who is now a CIA operative working in Russia. But Jack’s in big trouble: he’s arrested for killing a hood (we don’t know why. . .one of many plot holes) but, for a lighter sentence, agrees to testify against Yuri Komorov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner and keeper of a secret “file” that contains incriminating evidence against Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), a high-ranking but corrupt Russian official. Seems that Viktor was really behind Chernobyl’s meltdown and that wouldn’t look good to the Russian people!

Anyway, John goes to visit (okay, “help out”) his estranged son and finds himself smack dab in the middle of the same ol’ same ‘ol “villain bent on killing hundreds to make a point”. Sound familiar? The bad guy this time is a British baddie called Alik (Radivoje Bukvić) who (get this) always wanted to be a dancer! WTH?? Through a series of explosions and car chases and unbelievable and Houdini-worthy escapes Jack, John, and Yuri are all on the run as Alik and his henchmen track them down all over Russia to get that secret file.

Their trouble only gets worse when Yuri’s own daughter double-crosses her father and aligns with Alik, kidnapping her papa and sending the McClane’s hurtling towards certain death. But since this movie is about “dying hard”, the pair just can’t do that, can they? Nope! They simply brush off the shards of broken, jagged glass, pull out the impaled pieces of rebar sticking out of their bleeding sides, and carry on!

The scene then switches to Chernobyl itself for the third act. Here, double, even triple-crosses take place with explosions, bombs, bullets, and so much death-defying stunts that NO human could possibly survive ANY of the physicality put forth on these mere mortal men. Ha! You’ve obviously never seen a “Die Hard” movie before, have you?

There aren’t enough words in my Thesaurus to describe the ridiculousness of this last entry of the franchise. Writer Skip Woods doesn’t bother with plot and storyline, he just writes in lotsa cool stuff like car chases, explosions, and leaves dialogue and a coherent script secondary. It is absolutely impossible to watch this film and not giggle at the amount of mayhem that occurs and the ease at which the characters survive like it was walk in the park! There is some attempt to make John and Jack reconcile their mutual displeasure for each other, but it’s so strained and transparent that it was hardly worth creating the estrangement to begin with!

Director John Moore doesn’t help matters either with the use a steady-cam for most of his shots. It’s sad to see this last entry in the series be reduced to a such a cartoon with no real story or heart. “Yiipee-kii-yay, mother-f—-” should now be replaced with “Stick a fork in me, I’m done!”

“YIIPEE–KII–YAAYY, MOTHER-F—–R!!”, The “DIE HARD” Franchise

Let’s turn back the clocks to yesteryear (okay, make that 1988) and look at how it all began…

DIE HARD (1988)

A trifecta of movie making: a terrific screenplay by Steven E. deSouza and Jeb Stuart, direction by John McTiernan, and Bruce Willis (hot off the heels from his “Moonlighting” TV gig and wanting to prove himself). You couldn’t lose here. Add to this a super-cool evil villain, Alan Rickman as Professor Snape…uh, sorry…I mean, Hans Gruber, Bonnie Bedilia as John McClane’s estranged wife, Reginald VelJohnson as a portly L.A. cop who loves Twinkies and supports McClane’s actions inside the huge Nakatomi Tower, and finally a repulsive reporter (William Atherton) who gets cold-cocked by McClane at the end.

Suspenseful, funny, exciting, and photographed by future action director Jan deBont, this is a whiz-bang action movie that is the template to ALL action movies and made Bruce Willis and John McClane household names. Simple perfection all around…and they should have stopped there! But, as it is in Hollyweird, if a movie makes bank, the studio cries out, “SEQUEL!!”. And that’s exactly what they did…

DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER (1990)

Returning to co-write the script, Steven E. deSouza teamed with Doug Richardson and had our man, John McClane (Willis) waiting at Washington’s Dulles Airport on Christmas Eve for his wife. Unbeknownst to him, bad guys are planning to seize control of the airport! Oh no!!

The bad guy is William Sadler as Colonel Stuart, a rogue U.S. Army Colonel who ruthlessly stops at nothing to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord who is being flown in to stand trial. Naturally, McClane sees trouble a brewin’ and figures out what’s happening when no one around him believes him…until it’s too late and by that time there are plane crashes, hundreds of deaths, mass destructions, explosions, a torrent of bullets and, of course, John McClane saving the day in the end.

You even had some returning faces from the original picture (VelJohnson, Bedilia, Atherton) and the action was seriously cranked up several notches. The movie was directed by Renny Harlin and wasn’t bad, if a little silly in its content. It made a ton of money at the box office and that meant…

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995)

John McTiernan returned to the director’s helm with a tasty little script by Jonathan Hensleigh. Willis is back as John McClane in NYC this time suffering from job burnout and not looking so good. His wife left him and his life is about to get a whole lot worse.

Bringing back an old haunt, British baddie Jeremy Irons plays Simon Peter Gruber (aka “Simple Simon”) and who also happens to be Hans Gruber’s brother! His mission is a daring daylight robbery of $140 billion in gold bouillon carried away in 14 dump trucks, but to pull that off he’ll need a diversion: bombs! Lots of them!

And revenge! Playing dangerous games of “Simple Simon” with McClane and a reluctant local New York electrician named Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), the robbery is carried off , but not without McClane (of course) figuring it out and giving chase to stop them.

One of my favorite movies in the sequels with the exception of the third act, which gets bogged-down in its own silliness. Sometimes you just gotta END the movie, and not keep going and going like the freakin’ Energizer Bunny just because you want to put McClane in another impossible situation so he can get out of it. Geez Louise!

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007)

Personally, I thought this movie really made the Die Hard series “jump the shark”. A questionable director with an equally questionable screenwriter didn’t help matters with this ridiculous story of McClane (Willis) being asked by the F.B.I. to escort a computer hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long—remember him from those “I’m a PC, “I’m a MAC” commercials?) to Washington.

But, dang it, wouldn’tcha know it…cyber-terrorists are after Farrell and their evil hackers take control of the transportation grids and stock market, while nationally broadcasting a message threatening the United States. Boy, and I get upset when my home PC freezes up. McClane must get Farrell to safety from assassination attempts and takes him to a fellow hacker, Frederick “Warlock” Kaludis (director/writer/actor Kevin Smith).

The rest of the movie is comprised of McClane and Farrell getting into utterly impossible and dire situations and then getting out of them by means that defy logic and the laws of physics. The scene on the freeway with a jet plane has to be seen to be believed… and even then, I still didn’t believe it! I though for sure this would bury for good the “Die Hard” movie franchise. How wrong I was!

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