ABOUT 40 minutes into the
A Good Day To Die Hard, I thought of Kevin Smith.
The bearded director has his place in Die Hard lore, portraying Warlock in Die Hard 4 (or Live Free or Die Hard, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on).
But that’s not why my mind drifted to the Clerks director.
In his quasi-standup DVDs, Smith waxes lyrical on all manner of subjects and in the third instalment gets onto the subject of shooting Die Hard.
In the anecdote, Smith talks about how much toll shooting the fourth instalment took on Willis and director Len Wiseman.
In explaining why he took the film so seriously, Willis explains to Smith that he is the “gatekeeper” of the Die Hard franchise, the only link from film to film.
It is odd to think, then, that at no point in the filming of AGDTDH, did any alarm bells sound about what an abomination the film was turning out to be.
First of all, moving the film out of America felt from the earliest days like a mis-step. But, this is Die Hard, it can, like John McClane, survive just about anything, right?
Still on board after that, the complete lack of recognisable faces in the cast was a worrying sign, but then again, nothing that the presence of Bruce Willis can’t overcome.
Then, came the appointment of John Moore as director.
The Dundalk native’s output thus far has been mediocre (The Omen, Flight of The Phoenix, Max Payne), but Len Wiseman’s CV was not too impressive before LFODH and that was an enjoyable romp, so nothing to fear, right?
Moore is a talented director when it comes to shooting set-pieces, but his handle on subtlety, nuance and characterisation is weak in a muddle of explosions, bad jokes and cardboard bad guys.
Watching John McClane take down faceless goons is great fun at any time, but when there is no sense that the bad guys could win, there’s a hollowness to the whole exercise of watching the lo-tech cowboy McClane go toe-to-toe with a relentless and well-resourced enemy.
The triumph of the smirking, ever-so likable McClane is made all the more sweet when the villain has access to a cadre of poorly trained henchmen or to all of the technological advantages on the planet.
Here, the faceless Russians pose no real threat and while no Die Hard ever convinces you that McClane is really going to lose, Moore doesn’t even try.
He instead fills the time between set-pieces with sub-80s Cold War humour and an attempt at building a relationship between McClane and his son, played by Jai Courtney.
Whereas the introduction of McClane’s daughter in LFODH was a refreshing move with a charming performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, this is nothing of the like.
While this is poor; very, very poor, Willis should take a leaf out of fellow Expendable Sly Stallone’s Rocky book and go out on top after six films.