It turns out this coming Friday boasts not only one, but two (TWO) (2!) comic book adaptations. R.I.P.D. and this sequel, RED 2. We’ll discuss RED below, but suffice to say that it has made me somewhat look forward to its sequel. It is not a “I need to see that right away” kind of film, but more of “I’ll catch that before it leaves theatres, most likely some random Tuesday in a second run theatre” sort of flick.
And that’s no insult. I love me some Tuesday in a second run theatre movie watching.
In addition to the aforementioned RED, I’m also taking a look at A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, Bruce Willis’s previous action extravaganza.
Sometimes the best movie experiences come from the movies you expect nothing from. I know that’s not a great attitude or one that particularly advances film as a medium, but there it is. A movie you see with the effort equivalent to a shrug can still turn out to be a fun time.
And so it was for me with RED.
I knew the movie’s pedigree—adapted from a limited comic book series written by nearly beloved writer Warren Ellis and talented artist Cully Hammer—but much like the series itself, this did little to encourage me to actually show up. I like movies, I like comics, I like Ellis and Hammer, but still…just wasn’t interested.
Yet, somehow, I ended up in a theatre one day watching it. And found myself glad for it. It’s an easygoing action movie where the real “action” comes from the interactions of the ensemble cast including the aforementioned Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, and, you guessed it, Rebecca Pidgeon.
That’s right…Rebecca Pidgeon!
(If you get that joke, you've seen David Mamet movies.)
None of you seem as excited about it this as I am. That’s weird.
Anyway, the action sequences were decent enough, but mostly they marked time between scenes of grumpy, good-natured verbal sparring and awkward, but oddly sweet flirting. It is the unusual script that feels lazy and yet delivers nice character work. I can’t explain it, I just know it is true.
However, having said that, it is the kind of movie that does not lend itself well to sequels. A pleasant action movie is not the foundation, typically, to handle a bigger, louder, more explosive sequel as that would threaten the first film’s delicate balance. Action sequels rarely offer room to breathe.
So I recommend it, but know that the reasons I recommend it are the same reasons that the sequel might be wildly disappointing.
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
And speaking of wildly disappointing sequels…
(Oooooooooooooooooooooo! Self high five!)
…I give you A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD.
So here’s a weird fact, GOOD DAY is the only DIE HARD movie that is neither adapted from another work or simply a script altered to be a DIE HARD film. This is the first original script for a DIE HARD movie written specifically to be a DIE HARD movie. So why, exactly, is it the worst? Like, by far?
I don’t know, but I can tell you that it is the first to fully break my sense of suspended disbelief for the DIE HARD franchise. Yes, every sequel demands an increasingly bizarre worldview, but for some reason, be it the Russian location, the McClane looking for trouble as opposed to it finding him plot choice or the son (we’ll talk more about his later) left me thinking, “This just kind of schlubby cop keeps getting in these situations? Yeah, sure, I’ll allow it. But in Russia? Whoa, whoa, whoa…let’s all just slow down a moment.”
Evidently, I could handle McClane surfing a jetplane wing, but not the idea that he’d ever manage to take an international flight to its conclusion. I might be weird in this way.
Another problem is Jai Courtney as the heretofore unknown McClane scion. Although his physicality recalls Willis’s back in the day, he lacks about 95% of Willis’s (when he chooses to show up) charisma. And while Willis doesn’t exactly choose to show up in this movie, he still out-stars his “son” and it is noticeable.
Finally, there’s no good, strong villain here. DIE HARDER laughs at how weak the villains are here, to give you an idea. Laughs.
Not recommended, but DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE remains an underappreciated sequel. Revisit that one instead.