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Movie trailers are all about puffery–all about showing the best and hiding the worst and finding that right calculation that will get viewers into the theater.  Typically studios won’t lie to viewers, and if you see a movie that isn’t stellar you can often go back and see that a closer study of the trailer would have informed you of precisely what you were getting.  You might end up with a good movie despite bad trailer, but more often good trailers point us to a movie whose best scenes were in that trailer–and not much else.  A Good Day to Die Hard is one of those movies whose trailers pretty much pointed out that there would be a problem with the movie.  Like last year’s Total Recall remake, this fifth movie in the franchise of Bruce Willis as John McClane, ultimately just suffers from a poor script.  How hard is it to give fans what they want with these popular franchises?

Take a look at the RED series, also starring Bruce Willis, whose second movie was released a few weeks ago.  RED 2 was as solid and interesting as the original Die Hard.  See our earlier review here.  Even though RED 2 featured Willis as a retired character, the writers kept the dialogue and action exciting.  A Good Day to Die Hard develops its story so slowly that you may forget what you’re watching and move on to do something else.  The dialogue is tremendously poor, with Willis’s son’s character using one of three lines over and over, either exclaiming “Christ!” or shouting the F-bomb or calling his dad John to his face.  Willis’s dialogue is no better.  Overabundance of expletives typically means the story is only about the action and there’s no story to support any dialogue.  Overuse of names in dialogue just shows amateurish writing.  Take a test for yourself if you don’t know what I mean:

Count how many times you speak to your family and use a name in a sentence when you’re in the same room.  You might shout someone’s name when they are in another room, or you’re trying to get someone’s attention, but you’ll probably find you never say your family members’ names out loud most of the time.  When movie scripts (or TV scripts for that matter) make this mistake, it’s a pretty good indication the whole script is bad so you might turn it off, send back the Netflix, and hope for something better next time.

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You can also just look at A Good Day to Die Hard and see that the story was as bad as Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard.  It’s about McClane going to Russia to find his son in a Russian jail, a son we never heard much about before this movie.  He had a daughter we’d seen before, however, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  Why not focus on her instead, since we had some reason to care about her?  Instead we have Jai Courtney as Willis’s son, who looks nothing like Willis in any physical way and has no chemistry with Willis on-screen.  And we learn he’s a CIA operative with no communication with the CIA and he’s trying to pluck a Russian political prisoner out of the country.  And that Russian is a baddie because he caused the Chernobyl disaster.  So this is all about two Americans trying to get the bad guys who were responsible for Chernobyl.  That’s pretty much it.

Action scenes in Die Hard I, II and III all followed the story and were basically exciting.  The James Bond movies have some pretty crazy scenes, but when they go over-the-top they do so in some comedic way or they show some real-world skill Bond has.  The action scenes in A Good Day to Die Hard show characters acting in ways no human under any amount of pressure would do.  Driving a truck off a bridge.  Jumping out a window without looking.  These are just minor sequences that don’t cut it.

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This weekend you might have spotted a classic action movie on cable TV: the original Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy.  Beverly Hills Cop, surprisingly, holds up where it counts.  It’s exciting, the plot has a developing detective story, and the lead is equal to Willis in popularity and acting skill.  Good stories were written in the 1980s and good stories are written in the 2010s.  How hard is it to get a good Die Hard movie?

Maybe it’s franchises in general that tend to slide downhill the more sequels you add.  Dirty Harry never had a sequel that came close to the original.  The Jack Ryan movies were never better than The Hunt for Red October.  Same for the Indiana Jones films, although Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a welcome exception.  As much as we want to see sequels with our favorite action heroes, maybe it’s for the best that we just stick with the classics.  RED 2 proves this has nothing to do with Bruce Willis, although we assume he signed off on the script at some point.  Yet RED 2 shows the kind of movie we want to see is still possible.

A Good Day to Die Hard?  Maybe a good time to kill the franchise.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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