Friday, February 15, 2013

Quick Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

One reason why I love my wife so much is because she's not always into the super romantic stuff. What I mean by that is that last night, Valentines Day, instead of going out for a fancy meal or a romantic outing we went to the movies. And the movie we went to wasn't whatever that new romance flick is that came out recently (go research!). No, we went to freaking Die Hard! And as a long time casual fan of the franchise I just wanted to express my quick impressions that I left the theatre with. This won't be as long as other reviews.

I actually have a few technical things I want to get off my chest. First off, this is the first Die Hard to be filmed in 1.85:1 instead of 2.35:1. This may not mean anything to most of you (or most of you may not even know what I'm referencing) but I felt it did damage the film a bit. What this does is it tones down the scope of the film. All the previous one had the wider image providing a stronger visual to go along with all the action on screen. Cramming all that action into a smaller aspect ratio makes it a slightly rougher experience. Not to say you can't make a great action flick in that aspect ratio, there are plenty of examples in recent years that proves that. However the problem is that this movie also suffers from very modern cinematography and editing.
What I mean by the cinematography and editing is that there's a lot of shaky cam, lots of fast cuts, and a lot of close ups. I don't know what it is about extreme close ups in modern cinema but the more "exciting" form of editing seems to love the shit out of it. Because of this there are a lot of moments where it's so far zoomed into a character it's hard to tell exactly what's going on and a sense of location. It's like watching the scene live, from a distance, with binoculars only not knowing what will happen next so you have to wing it.
Another complaint is the length. Every Die Hard before this was more than two hours long. It provided a lot of time for good character development, lots of action, and over all a very well fleshed out story that leaves you very satisfied. However this Die Hard came in at a mere 97 minutes. That's seems very short for the franchise that's come about. That's like (and this is an example that's not 100% on the ball) if J.K. Rowling was writing out the Harry Potter books, they all start cranking out with around 600-77 pages each. Each providing a lot of time for a lot of the same things I previously mentioned. Then all of a sudden Deathly Hallows gets sent out with a mere 300-450 pages. Not a drastically huge cut but a surprising cut in content in a franchise that otherwise had a lot of meat on it's bones. Well I guess it isn't all a loss because then I didn't have to put up with my other complaint for very long. How most action movies these days all want to be The Bourne Identity.
This is something I'm getting especially tired of. It seems like the hot ticket item is when there's an action packed movie that integrates different governments, secret agents, spies, the FBI, etc into it. Personally I'm not into those themes unless it's in a political drama/thriller, and the only spy I ever really got super into is James Bond but I think that goes without saying. So the fact that this franchise that was previously all about an every day cop taking down big bad terrorists is now on a greater global scale that deals with the previously mentioned items takes it a different direction that this franchise didn't need to go. It was fantastic when it was on a smaller, more condensed scale. Not when it incorporates the government and then makes things more complicated than it needs to be. I think this is more personal preference than anything because I'm a much bigger fan of a one man army taking down terrorists or a group of thugs without getting the FBI or secret agents involved, and at the most political them doing it at war ala Rambo. This is why I found Crank and Shoot 'em Up to be a couple of the best action movies in the past decade because they put aside all the bullshit and got down to what matters in these movies, as Bruce Willis stated in the new Die Hard "Let's go kill mother fuckers."
I think what I'm trying to say is that it may say Die Hard but it doesn't feel like a Die Hard. They said John McClane and it starred Bruce Willis but that doesn't automatically make it a Die Hard. It had this overall feeling that it was originally a script to a different movie that was eventually reworked so it can be justified to call it Die Hard. It felt like so many things that make the previous ones so great were missing here.

Now it may sound like I didn't even like this movie. That is far from the truth. I didn't like it as much as the last Die Hard but it was still a great action packed movie!
Despite moments of an overly complicated plot it does get things moving really fast. The first act was packed mostly with an exciting and very extensive car chase sequence. Cars are flying everywhere, Bruce Willis is shooting out those cheesy one liners we all love, it's just great. And the whole sequence finishes off with awesome end crash for the bad guys. It really got my blood pumping and ready for what comes next. And what comes next was also pretty bad ass. One of my favorite moments was still pretty early. The scene is in a safe house that is suddenly raided by what is essentially a Russian SWAT team. While the other characters all went hiding in other rooms or behind crates, Bruce Willis instead goes into the middle of the room, whips open a crate, grabs a machine gun and blows away the raiders because he had no fucks to give at that moment. It was so bad ass to see him just do that like it was nothing and added to the overall excitement of the movie.
Make no mistake that this is a very exciting movie. Most of the things I was talking about in the first large chunk of this review pertained to the franchise as a whole or personal pet peeves with the action genre as it is right now. The action sequences just get so wild as the film continues. One thing that does stay alive with this franchise is the unbelievable stunts the characters pull and over the top action. There are so many moments when the characters should not have survived an explosion, fall, etc etc but that's what makes this so exciting. I can't help but feel the Jason Bourne approach to a lot of modern action is a way to bring it into the real world, but some of the stunts throughout this movie shows that the world still wants over the top insanity as it should get.
I was definitely left wanting more when it ended but that's a good thing. It passed by quickly and I wanted to see more of the same of what I was given (for the most part). Especially during the "final showdown" in the third act which sent the insanity above and beyond what was already being done. It's certainly a fun popcorn flick that tries a little to hard to be smarter than it really is. I would say give it a shot if you like action flicks. I just don't see why this had to be called Die Hard. It could have just as easily been another Bruce Willis action flick with no connections to John McClane. But I guess it's a good way to sell easy tickets.

P.S. Some "quick" review, huh? I think I have Kevin Smith syndrome where when I get talking I can't quite stop.

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