Every Friday night, Movies.com sends cinephiles (and newlyweds) Sarah and Joe Piccirillo to see a film. Afterwards, they answer a few questions about it. Below is their discussion.
A Good Day to Die Hard
Synopsis: Estranged father and son John and Jack McClane (Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney) reunite in Russia to save a political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) from assassination.
How Does This Measure Up Against Other Die Hard Movies?
Joe: First of all, I think it’s pretty amazing that they released this on Valentine’s Day.
Sarah: As a fan of the Die Hard movies, I was happy to spend our night at the theater.
Joe: Thank God. I didn’t have anything else planned for us.
Sarah: So… do you even feel like this is a Die Hard movie? The Die Hard plot has always been that John McClane is the reluctant hero who can save the day. The stakes are high and the bad guys make threats on a short timeline, so that if he doesn’t act quickly, people will die. This time around, the pressure is off and the whole thing could be worked out later by the CIA. So, where’s the suspense?
Joe: Well, there is that file that needed saving. It’s not as sexy as his wife or lower Manhattan, but the pressure was immediate.
Sarah: [Laughs] Slightly lower stakes. To be fair, he is there to help his son but because his son is a mini-McClane CIA agent, it doesn’t feel the same.
Joe: Exactly. So now instead of a reluctant hero, we have two main characters that have voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way. If they don’t care about their own lives, why should we?
How Is the Villain?
Sarah: This is a little confusing. There’s a wisecracking, carrot-eating(!), tap-dancing(!!) monologuer who echoes Javier Bardem’s bizarre Bond villain in Skyfall. But he’s so odd and benign that he’s not hateable, and that’s a really important thing for the bad guy to be.
Joe: Well, I had no problem hating a tap dancer. My beef is that so much time has passed since the Cold War that the notion of Russians as villains is almost laughable. I mean who cares about Russia? It’s boring.
Sarah: I kinda think that John McClane might be the villain in this movie. It seems like more civilians are killed by McClane than by the bad guys. During a high-speed chase he doesn’t need to be part of, he drives over cars stuck in traffic, smashing their tops as he goes. We hear a woman scream and McClane yells, “Sorry, ma’am.” It’s played for humor but I’m pretty sure that woman is dead.
What Drove You Nuts?
Joe: Willis plays the character apathetically – nothing bothers him. I can appreciate stoicism but there are circumstances that warrant a little emotion. Whether it’s seeing your bloodied son on the floor or jumping out of a high rise, you can get a little worked up without appearing weak.
Sarah: It was really hard to invest in any of the characters; they didn’t even seem invested in each other. When the movie doesn’t spend enough time making us love the heroes and hate the bad guys, there’s no payoff. I want payoff!
Joe: Payoff, I’d settle for a decent joke once in a while.
What Will You Be Thinking About Tomorrow?
Sarah: The close-up of a key opening a vault in Chernobyl has got to be the most suggestive opening of a door I’ve ever seen.
Joe: [Laughs] That you can sexualize a key is impressive.
Sarah: [Laughs] It’s not even key shaped! It’s a giant phallus! They cut away and then go back to show it being shoved in further!
Joe: We can get one for the house. I’ve come to expect certain things from an action movie. When you introduce a Sinatra-singing Russian cab driver in the first act, you expect him to show up in the third act to shuttle the heroes to safety while singing "I Did It My Way." But here, we never see that Russian cabbie again and, dammit, that’s not that way it’s supposed to happen. It’s a bad sign when a movie makes you miss cliché.
Sarah: If you’ve seen all the other Die Hard movies, you’re gonna see this one anyway, but it’s not going to blow your socks off. It might even make you a little sad and nostalgic for the good old days. Either way, by the time he says, “yippee-ki-yay,” you’re going to need a drink.
Joe: Blow your socks off?
Sarah: Oops. That’s not the expression, is it?
Joe: No, no. It’s fine. A movie is like a date. I want to be taken with her intelligence, her wit and her style. The original Die Hard was a great date. This is like going out with Die Hard’s cousin. Out of respect for the first one, I’ll sit politely while she prattles on, but I’ll be thinking about the original and counting down the minutes until I can leave.
Sarah: What a burn for Die Hard’s cousin.
Joe: Well, she didn’t blow my socks off.
Sarah: [Laughs]: Shut up.