There is a very odd effect that some films seem to have on people, and Bruce Willis’ fifth outing of former NYC police Detective John McClane appears to most indicative of the syndrome. We are calling it the Die As Hard As You Can Effect. It occurs in sequels where you are excited to see a favorite actor return to a favored role and then the film you see is exactly what you expect it to be, only you are disappointed it wasn’t something else. Point in fact, according to By Alex Pappademas writing about Willis for Grantland.com noted that the night before the film A Good Day to Die Hard opened, it had a 10% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 98% “Want to See” rating from its potential audience. After the film hit, it was fairly savaged by critics for being simply “more of the same.”
Seriously? What did you expect? Citizen Kane? Paddy Chayefsky? Dudes, if you couldn’t tell by a) the trailer or b) by the fact that it was another Die Hard movie featuring John McClane and starring Bruce Willis then you were clearly in the wrong theater. I mean what is it with people? Why can’t they accept that another film starring the same actor as the same character is mearly the same movie, only now he isn’t in a towering skyscraper in LA, a Washington airport, NYC, or DC, but in Mother Russia? What is so hard to accept? It is not as if you were somehow tricked into seeing this film thinking that it was going to be a Nicolas Sparks chick flick, or about sparkly vampires or something. It is John McClane shooting people, blowing the crap out of stuff, and shouting “Yippie-ki-yay, mother[F-WORD + MUFFLING EXPLOSION]”.
Justifiably, you might not get that Tears of the Sun is something different (existing somewhere between an Indie art film and a full-blown action/thriller), but that’s OK, it was something a bit off the beaten path for Willis. We don’t know about the rest of you zombies, but we went into A Good Day to Die Hard fully expecting to see what we saw, and were not the slightest bit disappointed that that’s what was there. This isn’t rocket science kids, this is exactly what we paid to see. The fact that people were surprised and/or disappointed is truly baffling.
Look, let’s take James Bond films as an example. Bond has been making the same, exact film for some 50 years, and it is the longest running film franchise in history (with some 25 +/- films). We can (and have been for quite some time) laying out the plot to every single Bond film in under 60 seconds.
- A bad guy does something bad
- Bond is called in to stop him
- He meets Moneypenny, they flirt
- He meets M who gives him the assignment
- He meets with Q who gives him weapons
- He chases the bad guy & winds up nailing some nailing some hot chick (or three)
- He meets his CIA friend, Felix (who is sometimes white and sometimes Black)
- He (spectacularly) catches the bad guy
- He heads back to England & MI6
Did I miss anything? Sure, sure the order of events and the actors playing the characters change, but that is essentially every Bond film ever made, and no one seems to care.
Needless to say, this Die Hard film is essentially the same as all of the others, as the always steady McClane heads out to Russia to help his “screw-up” son (whom McClane mistakenly believes has been arrested for drug-related issues) only to get himself caught up in yet another explosive event. As can be expected, this one is bigger, badder, and has more explosions and shootouts than those that went before them. Having said all of that, let’s get a few things straight. Yes we love watching these types of films, and no, we don’t for a moment believe that they are the least bit credible (but then again neither are Zombies, vampires, or invading aliens, but who cares, we knew that going in). So really, who is going to see a film like this and then complaining that it does all the things that you fully expected it to do? This is sort of like marrying and getting divorced from the same type of woman and not understanding why that keeps happening.
So, truthfully, if you go to see this latest McClane outing (or any other sequel) and are disappointed with what is up on the screen, then you only have yourself to blame. Oh, and by the way, during the “calm, quiet, expository moments of the film where the McClane father and son were getting all misty about the past or finally connecting with each other, we were all “Stop talking and shoot!” Yeah, because this is a popcorn flick it is meant to drawl folks in and sell popcorn. It isn’t some family-friendly, chick flick, rom-com. It is exactly what you think it is, and yet you are somehow surprised and disappointed. Go figure.
To be sure, Die Hard has become its own genre of film, Speed was Die Hard on a bus, Speed 2 was Die Hard on a boat, The Rock was Die Hard on Alcatraz, Air Force One was Die Hard on a plane, Under Siege was Die Hard on a battleship, Under Siege 2 was Die Hard on a train, even the upcoming Olympus has Fallen is simply Die Hard in the White House. We could go on, but we think you get the picture.
And as long as we are on the subject, we are not the only ones to thoroughly enjoy John McClane shooting stuff up and all, as these films have been the subject of much fan love and no small amount of parody. First up is this music video by the band Guyz Nite (now with a new, fourth verse) that celebrates the first four films (initially it came out prior to the fourth film, with the new verse added afterwards, hopefully, the band will add a new, fifth verse Warning lyrics NSFW). And then there is this equally entertaining claymation film. Then of course there was the comicbook published by Boom Studios that chronicled the early days of John as a uniformed Beat cop in NYC.
In the finally analysis, the film is delightfully fun, and thoroughly entertaining. Further, there is no real reason that you should take the film seriously because it is crystal clear that the actors really aren’t taking the film seriously. You can see on-screen that Bruce Willis still has that smartass, Moonlighting gleam in his eye indicating that he is having the time of his life, and needless to say, so should you. So go, get your tub popcorn, sit in the dark facing forwards, and enjoy yourself for an hour-and-a-half of truly spectacular CGI explosions, unbelievable car crashes, and overly-testosteroned men shooting (faux) automatic weapons at each other and John McClane shouting “Yippie-ki-yay, mother…”
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.