A Good Day to Die Hard

By Jorge Figueiredo - May 24th, 2013


It is almost painful to admit that I have never seen a Die Hard movie before. That being said, this fact puts me in the unique position of impartial observer in regards to the fifth and latest film called A Good Day to Die Hard (Fox sent us a code for the DigitalHD™ version in advance of the Blu-ray release next week). It is my belief that sequels should be able to stand on their own. Sure, knowing the history of the characters is a bonus – but it shouldn’t be necessary. A sequel should definitely reward the faithful with references to previous adventures, as well as inside jokes; but it should also generate interest in the previous iterations of the series. The Die Hard saga must be a well-loved one to justify four sequels; however, based on this latest one, I’m hoping that there won’t be any more in the series.

The story begins with a high-ranking Russian government official named Viktor Chagarin (played by Sergei Kolesnikov) putting pressure on former billionaire and whistle-blower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), by forcing him to go through an unfair trial. Komarov knows the location of a file that holds evidence that would incriminate and ruin Chagarin. However, Yuri, seemingly atoning for something heinous, refuses to give into Viktor, even though the odds will be stacked against him in the courtroom. Shortly after this exchange, we see Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) assassinate a target in a night club and get arrested. He agrees to testify against Komarov in exchange for a shorter sentence.

Meanwhile, John McClane (Bruce Willis), goes on “vacation” to Russia to help his son. John hasn’t seen Jack in a few years, and the impression is given that their parting wasn’t on the ebst of terms. When John arrives in Russia and gets to the courthouse, a well-timed explosion causes chaos and Jack grabs Komarov and helps him escape from the courthouse. John ends up confronting Jack (at a very inopportune time) setting the stage for a crazy roller-coaster-ride of a movie that doesn’t always make sense.

Awkward moment: armed to the teeth but wanting to shake your hips to “The Girl From Ipanema”.

I understand that this is an action movie – but the insanity that commences once Bruce Willis steps out of the cab in front of the Courthouse in Russia is a little too over-the-top for me. In all seriousness, even superhero movies don’t have so much unjustified destruction. What makes it more frustrating is the odd sense of timing at the beginning of the movie. Several events take place seemingly in tandem – yet there is no sense of timing, leaving the viewer to try and create a virtual timeline in their head to try and make sense of the story. Don’t get me wrong; there are some great action sequences and touching scenes in the movie. Unfortunately, these moments were a rarity, and the bulk of your viewing time will be spent trying to figure out how Bruce Willis’ and Jai Courtney’s characters could possibly still be alive.

The acting is decent, for the most part. Jai Courtney does a good job as the estranged son, emotional outbursts and all. The main enemies do a pretty good job being sinister (except for one guy who keeps talking about how he should have been a dancer while kicking the crap out of the McClanes. When movies are set in other countries, I appreciate the authenticity of the language being spoken. There is a fair amount of Russian dialogue in the movie (pretty much all subtitled), and it sounds great (I studied Russian in University). This leaves Bruce himself, who is undeserving of both the repetitive dialogue written for him (“Jesus!”) as well as the odd audio touch-ups that seem to plague his voice (his “Jesus!” ends up sounding Wilhelm-ish). He does a great job portraying an aged, grizzled hero. He shuffles along for the most part, and expresses exasperation about the situations at hand – but he still kicks ass when he needs to.

With all of the disappointing plot holes and dialogue mishaps, it’s nice to see that the action is fairly good. Special effects are done quite well, with just the right amount of slo-mo to make things feel dire when they need to and adding some flair to the heroism. Even though there is a lot of wanton destruction, I completely appreciate the amount of work that went into making it look realistic. They even managed to make Budapest effectively look like Moscow.

Vacation insurance is their bread and butter.

It was interesting to watch the DigitalHD™ version of the film. I made sure to check it out both on my iPod Touch 5 and on my desktop PC. The video is presented in 1080p and looks very crisp. There are a few colour glitches at various points in the movie, but they aren’t too distracting. The sound mix of this downloadable version is encoded Dolby 5.1. While not quite as effective as some films that use DTS HD, it still got the job done. The sound in the movie leaned toward the lower end, with many thrumming explosions and crashes. Overall, the sound quality was great.

The upside to purchasing the DigitalHD™ version of the film was that it was released three weeks ahead of the Blu-ray. Of course, as the file is slightly over 4 Gigs, the quality sits around DVD quality mark. Another advantage is that the movie is cheaper to download than it is to own a physical copy. Of course, the downside to the DigitalHD™ version is that there are very limited extras (just some deleted scenes). It’s all about paying for what you get, though, so I wasn’t disappointed. I’m really curious to see how DigitalHD™ develops as our telecommunications infrastructure continues to evolve. It’s not far-fetched to think that downloadable movies will eventually catch up to Blu-ray in quality.

So, should you get this movie? It’s hard for me to say. I didn’t really like it all that much; the film was cheesy and predictable, but the action scenes and special effects were awesomely insane. Of course, great action cannot entirely make up for a weird story. If you are a fan, you might like this just for the benefit of knowing what happens to John McClane (he gets old and walks like a grandpa – but still kicks ass). Of course, if you are a fan there is an equal chance that you will feel betrayed. Frankly, I am a bit curious now about the previous chapters in John McClane’s story. I suppose the film did its job after all!

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