Say Something Nice: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

For a minute or so, the 5th DIE HARD movie is worthy of its name.

Movie fans know all too well that you have to wade through a lot of disappointment to find the good stuff. And it’s not always some binary pile-sorting of "good movies" and "bad movies"; sometimes there’s quality material smack in the middle of the muck. Say Something Nice is dedicated to those gems - memorable, standout, even great moments from movies that...well, aren’t.

My memories of the first three Die Hard films (you know, the good ones) are all linked to my dad, a sentiment many others probably share. He was the one to tell me about the mere existence of the first film, which he saw in theaters and raved about to me the next morning. I should stress that this was very rare, as my dad was not much of a movie fan (he didn't like movies - he liked the movies he liked), so whenever one caught his fancy it was bound to be special in some way. By the time Die Harder rolled around, he deemed me old enough to let me see it in theaters with him - my first R rated film on the big screen! However, when Die Hard with a Vengeance came out in 1995, he could no longer be bothered to see anything theatrically, despite my begging to continue our tradition. Instead, he drove me and my friend to the theater, then picked me up and asked me all about it, opting to wait until VHS to see it himself. Alas, my dad died in 2004, so he never got to witness the desecration of the franchise that began with the PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard and (hopefully) ended with 2013's much derided 5th entry, A Good Day to Die Hard

I didn't think too much about my old man during Live Free (other than "He's lucky he's not here to see this"), but his absence weighed heavily on me while I watched the hopeful series finale. If you've wiped it from your memory I don't blame you, so I'll refresh - that's the one about John teaming up with his son, Jack (Jai "Bless" Courtney), which means if it was actually decent it might in some ways be the best movie of the series for fathers and sons to watch together. However, if dad was there with me, he probably would have walked out of the movie rather than give himself a headache trying to follow John Moore's horrendous action scenes, and/or have been inquiring about the plot as he likely would have trouble following it (as did I), and I'd feel bad about dragging him to the damn thing in the first place. But if he was with me I probably wouldn't have started tearing up at the following scene, which comes fairly late in the movie (i.e. once it was clear this was not going to be a Die Hard I'd want to ever watch again). It's just before the big showdown with the film's villains, and John uses the downtime to open up a bit to his estranged son.

Sitting there by myself watching this thing, this little bit hit me hard, and I started tearing up at this otherwise lifeless movie. My dad and I didn't have much in common, but we both loved the Die Hard movies, and now there's an actual Die Hard movie about a father and son who didn't have much of a bond until they realized they were both good at killing bad guys. The scene is so good, and just plain human, that I wonder if someone else besides Skip Woods wrote it, since it comes in the same film where McClane punches out an innocent man for no reason. The common complaint about the series is that John McClane, the guy who was taken out of commission for a while with a cut up foot, had become a damn superhero as he got older, so this was a brief return of John McClane: Human Being. I don't even recognize John McClane throughout most of this film (indeed, earlier in the film he mocks Jack for wincing about an injury that looks much more serious than the one on his glass-ravaged foot did), but for 90 seconds, I once again saw this broken man who knew he had screwed up with his family and was trying to fix it (Bruce Willis is slightly more awake in the scene than he is throughout the rest of the film, which helps). You get the sense that throughout Jack's adolescence there weren't a lot of games of catch or watching the Super Bowl together, and that this was, in its preposterous way, making up for at least some of that absence. I mean, Jack more or less followed in his father's footsteps (albeit with the CIA instead of traditional police), so we can infer at some point as a kid Jack saw his dad on the news and (cue Harry Chapin) wanted to be just like him. And now he finally is, with his dad by his side, murdering people for reasons I couldn't quite discern. It's sweet, dammit.

But then the regular movie starts up again and ruins everything, with shitty digital fire exploding around shitty digital versions of our heroes, and McClane saying his catchphrase to himself for some reason, and more incoherent shootouts courtesy of uber-hack Moore, who thankfully hasn't been trusted with a big movie since. Luckily, it tanked, so no one is under any impression that this is the way the franchise should go, and it's mostly just kind of forgotten in a manner usually befitting direct to video spinoffs (hilariously, Fox released a DVD collection that only contained the first four films - AFTER this one had already been released to disc). Every now and then a sixth film is threatened, but John Moore and Skip Woods have largely killed any enthusiasm one might have for it. It's a shame that the series might end on such a low note, but at least I'll have less bad news to tell my dad in the afterlife.

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