A Good Day To Die Hard, Through the Comic Book Brain

All Balls, No Brain: A Comic Geek’s Perspective on A Good Day to Die Hard.

We comic Geeks see the world differently. Our brains are wired in nine panel grids, bursting with Krackling Kirby energy. We are discerning and always, always looking for a good story. We have visceral responses to storie, and we have a lifetime of comics written by the masters to compare every film experience to. So welcome to the column that will filter movies Through the Comic Book Brain.

Things you will learn when you see A Good Day to Die Hard:

  1. John McClane is invulnerable.
  2. There are only, like, three policemen in all of Russia.
  3. Certain death can always be avoided by jumping off something high in slow motion.

The latest Die Hard installment delivers exactly what audiences want and expect, no more, no less. In the first Die Hard, a tried and true formula was established. Tough as nails cop John McLane finds himself trapped out of his element with only his wits and badassery with which to protect and serve. There has to be a villain who is a bit more than meets the eye and there has to be ‘splosions, lots and lots of ‘splosions.

John McLane is the everyman struggling to overcome impossible odds and vanquish evil. He is the human spirit given flesh, undaunted until the fight is won and according to the latest installment of the saga, he is evidently from Krypton. Nothing kills him and by this I don’t mean nothing or no one has the toughness to kill him, I mean the rules of physics and terminal velocity do not pertain to John McLane. During the film’s climatic battle, McClane is hanging from an out of control, spinning helicopter. He is flung off the helicopter, probably at the same speed needed to break the Earth’s orbit, smashes through a window and is instantly back on his feet. It’s impressive, awesome and stretches the well worn fabric of credibility so thin, that you really have to admire the balls of any filmmaker who would try to sell such a thing.

And that’s the movie, one action piece to the next at a breakneck pace, with a teeny bit of time between physics defying action pieces for John McClane to try and reconcile with his son Jack. At some point, I should probably recap the plot: John McClane gets word that his long lost son has been arrested in Russia. So the elder McClane heads to Russia to get his son out of prison. McClane arrives, has an encounter with the Russian version of limo driver Argile from the first film (this time, it’s a Sinatra singing Russian cabbie) and then wanders around Russia all forlorn until the ‘splosions. Meanwhile, Jack, who is secretly a member of the C.I.A., charged with protecting the former Russian criminal scientist, Kamarov. Of course, Kamarov’s former partner wants him dead and hires an elite hit squad to kill the scientist before he can testify in court. The hit squad includes Kamarov’s own hottie daughter and some feminine dude who dances and munches on carrots. It’s all just an excuse to let McClane kick ass, with the estranged son angle to give the whole potboiler coherency.

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Director John Moore paces the film nicely, but his action sequences, other than the sheer size of them, fail to impress structurally, although they hit the mark for scope and audacity. There’s just too much happening. The opening car chase, which lasts about three days, is a slapdash of quick cuts and questionable editing. It is almost impossible to follow who is in what vehicle, who is crashing and who is a bystander. It lasts forever, to a point where you completely lose track which vehicle the baddie is in and which one McClane is in. Cool moments during the chase lose their wow factor, because Moore chooses to linger on the cool moment to a point where it goes from being a cool idea to tedious. For example, McLane rides down a car carrier; the audience chuckled, chuckled again and then went silent because McClane was STILL driving down the car carrier. Yeah, the fire hose jump in the first movie did not last more than a minute because the cool bits in action movies need to be just bits, not lingering studies of action movie physics. These are the types of quirky style choices that keep the latest Die Hard from becoming an elite part of the saga.

So, it turns out the Russian scientist really is the baddie all along and his smoking hot daughter who betrays him didn’t really. The film never really makes it clear why, but the Russian dude was somehow responsible for the Chernobyl disaster, so the film’s climax takes place in Chernobyl. Oh, by the way, during the chase sequence and later, during a huge action piece set in a deserted hotel, no cops come. There is a huge military helicopter blowing holes in a hotel in the heart of Moscow and there isn’t one cop until the scene ends. You gotta love action movies, huh? Anyway, the kindly Russian scientist who was sharing parenting advice with McClane previously is really evil for some reason. The movie doesn’t tell you why because, y’know, ‘splosions. The good guys win, young McClane develops respect for older McClane, gravity is defied along with the limitations of the human anatomy, all the people who aren’t American are dead, including the hottie, which is a shame and John McClane gets cancer from the radiation of Chernobyl, but beats it by leaping out a hospital window in slow motion, jarring the malignant disease from his body at a cellular level. (That last part didn’t happen.)

Don’t get me wrong, the movie has such brass balls that it is a fun watch. The interactions between Jack and John are pretty funny, the movie is NEVER boring and the Russian setting adds awesome ambiance to the proceedings. If you can put aside how fundamentally ridiculous the film can be and the paper thin and unexplained plot, you will be in for another fun McClane ride.

The carrot dude is shot in the head, so there is no hope for a spinoff, shame really.

Den of Geek Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5



2.5 out of 5