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Good Day to Die Hard, A (Blu-ray Review)

14 Jun, 2013 By: John Latchem

Box Office $67.35 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch.

Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is obviously getting on in years, and yet time seems as incapable of stopping him as the megalomaniacal bad guys he ends up blowing away every few years. But there’s something odd about seeing the older McClane in action that makes it hard to reconcile these latest “Die Hard” movies with the earlier ones (not that waiting 12 years between the third and fourth movies did the franchise any favors).

A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth film in the 25-year old series, finds McClane trying to track down his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), in Russia, where junior is being held for murder. What daddy doesn’t know is Jack works for the CIA on a case that starts to go south once the elder McClane inadvertently interferes.

These early scenes make McClane seem erratic and wreckless, rather than the veteran action hero who always seems one step ahead of the bad guy. The movie wants to take advantage of the father-son story at the heart of its set-up, but doesn’t quite benefit from the dynamic until the end. There are times where Willis comes close to sliding into the Sean Connery role from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which makes you wonder just whose movie this is supposed to be.

The fifth installment is by far the shortest of the “Die Hard” movies, and by nearly a half-hour at that, because there’s really not much there. The rudimentary plot involves Russian smugglers trying to steal weapons-grade nuclear material from Chernobyl to sell on the black market. The script touches on it just enough to provide an excuse to introduce expendable bad guys as cannon fodder for a string of elaborate action scenes (which, let’s be honest, is the reason most people want to watch a ‘Die Hard’ movie). The action scenes are pretty good, despite the direction and editing moving things along at such a whiz-bang pace it’s hard to keep up.

The Blu-ray includes about two hours of featurettes about the making of the film, as if trying to convince the audience that the movie is better than it is (although, those willing to buy the disc in the first place must already have attained a certain appreciation for it). Just in terms of bonus content, the Blu-ray is rather loaded.

There’s a fascinating half-hour anatomy of the main car chase, in which director John Moore frames the scene in the context of his directorial style. One of the more interesting moments pops up when he talks about doing real stuntwork just to get a sense of what he’s showing could be plausible (because if a stunt driver could walk away from a wreck, why not John McClane?).

The rest of the behind-the-scenes programs include a plethora of producers and crew members patting themselves on the back for their efforts. And there’s plenty of analysis of what makes John McClane such a great character.

The Blu-ray also includes an extended cut of the film, which is nominally three minutes longer, although there aren’t many significant changes other than the fact that Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as McClane’s daughter, has inexplicably been excised from the picture (and Moore, in his extended cut commentary with 1st AD Mark Cotone, offers no explanation). Given the family dynamic at the heart of the story and how her scenes give the film a stronger connection to the franchise as a whole, it’s probably better to stick with the theatrical cut.

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