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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » March 1, 2013
Film review
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A Good Day to Die Hard
March 1, 2013   
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John McTiernan’s Die Hard from 1988 started what would become one of the most popular movie franchises of the late 20th century.

Few action movie fans around the world are unfamiliar with detective John McClane, the character who turned Bruce Willis into one of the highest-paid actors of all time. It is sad, then, that 25 years on, the successful series is clearly going nowhere and getting worse with each installment. When back in 1990 Renny Harlin directed Die Hard 2, the sequel was almost as good as the first film, with the claustrophobic confines of a huge L.A. office tower replaced by a snow-covered airport in Washington, D.C., where the good guys fought the bad guys. In 1995, however, McTiernan returned to direct Die Hard: With a Vengeance and this time the result was a major letdown, and not only to, er, die-hard fans. Some blamed Willis, who reportedly had the producers radically re-edit scenes with the brilliant Jeremy Irons in order to prevent the British actor from stealing the show as the villain.

Having learned the hard way, the producers of Live Free or Die Hard directed by Len Wiseman 12 years later cast Willis against the bland Timothy Olyphant—who was but a pale shadow of Irons from the third movie, Alan Rickman and Alexander Godunov from Die Hard and even the little known William Sadler from Die Hard 2.

This strategy apparently continues in A Good Day to Die Hard by John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne). This time, John McClane has to embark on his first foreign mission ever in order to rescue his son Jack (Jai Courtney—Jack Reacher) who got himself into hot water in Moscow, no less. Totally unbeknownst to his daddy, McClane Jr. is a CIA operative whose mission in Moscow is to crack down on dealers in fissile materials. Most local bandits are played by actors whose names ring no bells with anyone; the one exception is Sebastian Koch. International audiences remember him as the neurotic playwright persecuted by East Germany’s communist regime in The Lives of Others, the 2006 foreign-language Academy Award winner directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The German actor evidently feels uncomfortable as an action-movie character and his performance is far from compelling.

Aside from the cast, which also includes a Russian female model, A Good Day to Die Hard has all the essential ingredients for a movie of this kind, from car chases and spectacular fight scenes to explosions and a cornucopia of technologies to eliminate enemies. In his earlier role, McClane demonstrated how it was possible to take down a helicopter by ramming it with a speeding car and beat a fully armed F-35 Lightning jet fighter, complete with missiles, with an 18-wheeler. There’s a helicopter in the closing scenes this time as well, but the screenwriter obviously needed to come up with something to outdo the previous movie.

The Internet Movie Database at www.imdb.com, one of the world’s most popular websites dealing with the movie industry, gives A Good Day to Die Hard a mere 5.9 out of 10 from 17,000 users. By contrast, Die Hard has a rating of 8.3, Die Hard 2 7.1, and Die Hard: With a Vengeance 7.5. Even Live Free or Die Hard has 7.3. The numbers are probably the most telling evidence of how disappointing the new movie is. Yet the producers are not unhappy. Despite poor ratings, bad reviews and rather average opening weekend results in the United States, Die Hard No. 5 topped the box office and is sure to rake in as much as all the previous films in the series. The question is whether the 58-year-old Willis will be strong enough and keen enough to carry on. If that’s the case, a sixth movie about the McClane family is a sure bet to pack movie theaters around the world once again.
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