Title: A Good Day to Die Hard
HTS Overall Score:81.5
Twenty five years ago Director John McTiernan delivered an early holiday present to action fans: Officer John McClane in Die Hard. "Forty Stories of Sheer Adventure," was the promotional line, and it delivered by the fist full. It was an action film, a holiday film, and a thriller all twisted into a package laced with smart dialog exchanges, great character interplay, and solid performances by Bruce Willis (John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), and Paul Gleason (Deputy Police Chief Dwyane T. Robinson). Amazingly, until this year, the original Die Hard had the lowest total box office earnings of any movie in the Die Hard series. It opened in the United States with a paltry $601,851 in earnings (2007’s Live Free or Die Hard opened with $33.3 million), which in hindsight is shockingly low, and earned a total of $83 million.
Fast forward to 2013 and Director John Moore (Max Payne, Behind Enemy Lines) brings us a fifth installment in the series: A Good Day to Die Hard. John McClane (Bruce Willis), now a detective, is back in action, stumbling upon more stupefying trouble. While the movie opened with a decent showing, its overall earnings at box offices in the U.S. totaled $67.3 million giving it the distinction of having earned the least of any movie in the series. It probably didn’t help that the movie received generally poor reviews. Call me a sucker, but my love of the original always leaves the door of hope open for one more winning installment, even a moderately good installment would be welcomed.
A Good Day to Die Hard finds our resident hero, John McClane, flying eastbound to Moscow to help his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack is in jail along with a man named Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a prisoner with access to a file that exposes illegal weapons dealings by a former business partner turned political official named Viktor Chagarin (Sergi Kolesnikov). McClane enters Russia with his “Idiots Travel Guide to Moscow” in hand and stumbles his way to a courthouse where his son is being sentenced. Stunned, McClane is witness to a failed courthouse bombing, a hail of gun fire, and the escape of his son and Yuri. Jack is equally stunned to find his father on the streets of Moscow. Their strained relationship (John, the concerned but distant father / Jack, the bitter and dismissive son) is immediately apparent and Jack reluctantly allows his father to join them in their escape.
McClane soon comes to realize that his son is a CIA agent. Much to Jack’s chagrin, McClane maintains an experienced ‘calm within the storm’ demeanor, relying on old veteran tricks and tactics to solve problems that Jack’s CIA training just can’t seem to crack. The mission (and focus of the film) becomes helping Yuri retrieve his incriminating file. Along the way we are introduced to this movie’s Hans Gruber-esque villain, Alik (Rasha Bukvic), and his accomplice Irina (Yuliya Snigir). What follows is a Moscow on fire scenario tied to the rekindling of a father and son relationship. Viewers are treated to loads of action ranging from raucous car chases, to fire-fights and Russian military helicopters unleashing firepower into downtown buildings. The action stunts and sequences are well executed and a delight for the senses.
The movie itself is marginally good. To its credit, the storyline is decent with a few surprises and the acting is par for the course. However much of the movie is tired and lacks innovation. Bruce Willis is also beginning to show his age (although the movie takes advantage of this and makes it one of McClane’s more endearing character traits). Fans of the series will find there are many moments that feature nods to the original Die Hard film. They include a falling-from-a-building villain, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, arrogant laughs in the face of death, and (of course) shooting large sheets of glass. The movie is also laced with loads of comedic/sarcastic one-liners delivered by John McClane. While these have been a staple of the series, their use has begun to lose some luster and at times sound forced and poorly placed. One line that McClane frequently blurts-out as he evades death is: “I’m on vacation!” It gets old (pitifully so) after the third time it’s used.
Much to the credit of the Blu-ray release is a plethora of unusually detailed extras. The hour long “making of” documentary is tremendously informative and interesting, as are the revealing Pre-Vis and VFX Sequences (which show how CG was used to create some sequences), Storyboards, and Concept Art Gallery. My immediate reaction to the movie was indifference. Not great, not awful. However, the extras lend to a subtle appreciation for the film. The large amount of highly technical stunt work (in leu of CGI) is impressive (if not unique) and seeing the stuntmen in action makes the action sequences all the more impressive. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to overcome a so-so movie that has probably overextended the franchise by one to many releases.
Rated R for violence and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/dh3.jpg[/img]20th Century Fox’s 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode is best described as a mixed-bag of good to excellent and moderately bad. It’s important to note that Director John Moore chose to shoot with 35mm film which doesn’t necessarily lend to images with insane levels of detail. It definitely gives the film a gritty, natural, feel. However, there are quite a few shots with a distracting amount of grain and some minor pixilation – particularly in the beginning of the film. This is especially noteworthy in parts of images that were purposefully blurred (in the foreground and background of shots). On the flip-side, most closeup shots show nice amounts of detail and edges approaching excellent levels of sharpness. If it’s possible to draw a parallel, A Good Day to Die Hard’s picture quality is similar to Lionsgate’s recent Expendables 2 Blu-ray release.
The film has an interesting color tone that is typically crisp with a tilt toward blues. Some scenes buck this trend by being bathed in intense shades of green. All of this makes explosions, fire, and muzzle flashes really pop-off the screen. Shadow detail is very good without any visible issues of crush.
The film’s aspect ratio is 1.85:1, which is a curious choice for an action film that flamboyantly boasts loads of special effects and stunt scenes. The film’s overall visual presentation would have been more immersive in cinemascope.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/dh2.jpg[/img]Dynamic and robust. These two words adequately describe the vast majority of A Good Day to Die Hard’s excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. The presentation has an airy and expansive front soundstage that more than compensates for the film’s smaller aspect ratio, pulling the immersion factor far away from the edges of the screen. The movie is loaded with intense action sequences and the resulting audio explosion is a total delight. Whether it be the dislodging of car doors, the lion-esque roar of a Russian MI-24 helicopter, screeching of tires, shattering of glass, or the pounding of automatic weapons, A Good Day to Die Hard gives exactly what audio enthusiasts crave: Snap, crackle and BOOM!
The track has fantastic panning sounds (such as a helicopter flying off screen) that maintain their directionality with superb realism. Surround activity is full of echoes, gunfire, helicopters, and loads of ambient effects. Low Frequency Effects are over-the-top with immense rumbles associated with machinery, explosions, weapons, and the like. There are some moments where the dialog is hard to understand. This is particularly true of lines that are slightly mumbled or purposefully spoken with a low tone of voice. This doesn’t detract too greatly from the audio presentation, making it easy to say the film’s audio track is demo-worthy.
• Audio Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Making It Hard To Die
• Anatomy of a Car Chase
• Two of a Kind
• Back in Action
• The New Face of Evil
• VFX Sequences
• Concept Art Gallery
• Theatrical Trailers
A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t an awful film, but coming on the heels of a decent fourth installment it’s easy to call it a disappointment. The film’s plot is so-so and ultimately doesn’t do anything exceptionally unique. That being said, there is some enjoyment to be derived from the film as long as viewers maintain moderately low expectations. Audio enthusiasts will love the film's amazingly dynamic sound. It truly is a beautiful 7.1 work of art with plenty of rumble and loads of surround activity to please folks looking for demo material. Its video presentation, on the other hand, is good but hampered by its unaction-like 1.85:1 aspect ratio and some questionable image pixilation.
Fans of the Die Hard series should definitely consider viewing this movie, a rental is advised. Audio enthusiasts should consider buying a copy to have on hand for demo moments.
Starring: Bruce Willis
Directed by: John Moore
Written by: Skip Woods and Roderick Thorp
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 4, 2013
Buy A Good Day to Die Hard Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rental for fans of the series, a buy for enthusiasts looking for demo-worthy audio material