Before it began its rapid box office slide, I went to see A Good Day to Die Hard with my sister.
There came a point when the Die Hard franchise started getting steadily more ridiculous with each passing film, and that’s okay. If you want high drama, watch Downton. If you want explosions and gun battles wrapped up in quips and catchphrases, watch Die Hard. The fifth film in the franchise sends John McClane to Moscow to collect his wayward son Jack, who seems to have gotten himself into some big trouble with the law. “McClane’s kids hate him” has been done before, most recently with daughter Lucy in Live Free or Die Hard, but that’s okay, too. Because McClane has had family issues going all the way back to 1988.
Of course, as the previews dutifully told us, Jack is really a CIA agent and he’ll reluctantly team up with his dad to stop some bad guys, but about a third of the movie passes before we get to that point. And really, those moments near the beginning, where John is assessing the situation, going to Russia and wanting desperately to help the child he sees going off the rails are some of the strongest bits the film has to offer. It’s a tiny reminder in what has become a one-trick series that Bruce Willis is no one-trick pony.
Granted, it’s tangled up in one of those car chases that would never happen in real life, but at least no helicopters are being taken out with police cars nor are jets being ridden like surfboards as they crash through a freeway exit. There’s a lot of running and a lot of fighting, a villain who really likes his carrots and good guys who pop back up like nothing’s happened after falls, crashes and wounds that should probably have ended in casts at best and body bags at worst. And no, it doesn’t pretend to be as serious as its forefathers pretended to be but it’s what I’ve come to expect, and I could most certainly enjoy it for what it was.
And then they went to Chernobyl and it all became deeply stupid.
Oh, they try to bring it back. There’s still plenty of action, and some big reveals — not to mention the line everybody is there to hear — but it’s all overshadowed by the fact that they’re at Chernobyl.
It’s overshadowed by the fact that, even though the bad guys showed up in full hazmat suits, John and Jack are rocking the T-shirts and leather jackets, and we’re supposed to believe it’s okay, because the bad guys had some super special top secret spray that *neutralizes the radiation* and turns the stealing of uranium into gratuitously shirtless work. And I tried. I really tried to just give it a facepalm and “whatever” my way through it, but some things are just too ridiculous, even for me.
But it was still good for some laughs, unintentional though they may have been. I know that’s not the highest of praise — “sometimes so bad I had to laugh” — but if its purpose was to entertain me, A Good Day to Die Hard did that in spades.
Okay, so apparently Chernobyl is not necessarily the death trap it once was, and there was a throw-away line about that after all the action. But maybe that line would have been more convincing and should have been used before, or even in place of, “radiation neutralizing” spray-down. Also, while doing a little bit of research to make sure I wasn’t just being entirely wrong all over the place, I stumbled across a new blog series dubbed Real Clear Science at the Movies. Sounds fun to me.