Film Review: Final Score

During an interview with Jonathan Ross I heard this movie compared to Die Hard, which is fair enough given that this has a similar plot of a lone hero going up against a gang of terrorists. But really the film that this is most like is the Jean Claude Van Damme flick Sudden Death, the only difference being that instead of taking place during an ice hockey match, this is during a football game.

final score pos

Dave Bautista plays Mike Knox, an ex-soldier who comes to London to visit the family of a fallen comrade, who he was good friends with. He is an uncle figure to the man’s teenage daughter, Danni (Lara Peake), who he surprises with tickets to go see West Ham in the European Cup semi final (one of the more far fetched parts of the movie). While there he starts to suspect that something isn’t right and stumbles across a bunch of Eastern European bad guys.

Unfortunately, he also loses Danni, who sneaks off to see her boyfriend who is sitting elsewhere in the ground. Incidentally, the boyfriend is one of the worst written characters in recent memory, I get that he’s meant to be a douche, but you’ve got to show at least some charm that explains why Danni is into him, but here he’s just a turboknob in every scene.

With the stadium cut off from the outside world by the terrorists, and the police not believing him, Mike has to find a way to stop the villains and find Danni.

The problem with this movie is that a lot of it feels very familiar, as it lifts wholesale from other movies. There’s a fight in the kitchen which reminded me of Sudden Death and Under Siege 2, and Mike gets the attention of the cops by dropping a body off the roof just like John McClaine did. And one of the goons he takes out as a vengeance seeking loved one in the crew, like the brothers in Die Hard.

That’s not to say that the movie isn’t fun, the action sequences are pretty good, particularly a motorbike chase and the kitchen fight which features two inventive ways to kill a bad guy. Bautista is a decent enough lead, although due to his massive size the “everyman” aspect of the scenario is hurt a bit, and the dialogue he’s given is pretty generic. He’s likeable enough in the role, but he definitely lacks the charisma of many other action stars.

final score bautista

The film does deserve praise for the set up actually making sense, with the crew led by Ray Stevenson’s Arkady attacking the stadium during a match because they’re actually looking for one particular person, his brother, the former leader of their revolution who faked his death and relocated due to the bloodshed that was happening in his name. Aware that he lives in London and will be attending the game, they spring into action. It’s a clever, neat set up and gives them a believable motive.

Pierce Brosnan plays the brother, Dimitri, and is criminally underused in a dull role. It’s especially galling as this is supposed to be the figurehead for a revolution, so you would expect him to be quite a charismatic figure, but Brosnan plays it very dry. This robs the movie of the point of having a big name in a supporting role, as you feel any middle aged actor could have played the role. At least he doesn’t sing, I guess.

final score brosnan

However, this is undercut by the fact that Ray Stevenson’s villain is unforgivably dull. While he’s shown to have a ruthless streak and military background that make him a legitimate threat, he gets no unique traits or flourishes to engage the audience. I miss when villains were more colourful.

In a way, he serves to illustrate the movie’s major flaw- it’s fine, and does the job, but in an extremely workmanlike fashion. There’s very little flair or charm to elevate this above the standard action fare you got in the early ’90s. It’s a decent enough popcorn movie, the kind of thing to pass the time of an evening, but it’s miles off the Die Hard level.

Verdict: A distinctly average action flick which is let down by a lifeless script and characters who don’t jump off the screen. Does the job, but without any flash. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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How I’d make Die Hard 6

Here’s my 10 step guide to how I’d make Die Hard 6 an improvement on A Good Day to Die Hard.

1. KISS

Get back to basics. One location, John McClane and a gang of thugs in a big showdown. It’ll rein in the excesses that marred 4 and 5 and get back to the series’ roots.

2. Get a Brit in as the villain

Die Hard‘s major strength is that it has a tip-top villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, he’s menacing, charming and entertaining and a worthy adversary for McClane. …With a Vengeance starred Jeremy Irons who was another cracking villain, so it’d be nice to get a Brit in the mix again, and preferably someone charismatic and tough enough to give Willis someone good to go up against.

My shout for the role? Idris Elba, he’s cool, badass and looks like he can handle himself in a scrap.

idriselba

3. No school like the old school

Ditch the CGI and do as much as the effects as possible for real, down and dirty style. Even the best graphics age and never quite convince, blow some shit up!

4. Hire Shane Black

Black is one of the best guys for writing action movies in the business, he’s capable of crafting really cool, memorable dialogue as evidenced by his work on the likes of The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon.

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5. Out of his depth

Have McClane being totally outgunned and also at risk. In the first flick McClane was someone who hurt, he cut his feet and so he was limping, and the impacts felt real, it was what made Willis’ character different from the superhuman Arnie and Sly characters, but as the series has progressed he’s become able to sustain massive crashes and impacts and barely drop his grin.

It’d be nice to see him outgunned and outnumbered having to improvise his way through his enemies and getting a bit beat up along the way. He can be tough, but let’s see him as a human again.

7. Family angle

McClane works best with a personal connection, so stick some family members in the line of fire.

8. Sidekick

Have McClane team up or guard a hapless assistant. Give them a skill that helps but mainly have them irritate and frustrate McClane and get grabbed by the baddies, it gives us someone to watch the villain’s plan unfold and someone for Willis to bounce off.

McClane and Matt (Justin Long) in Die Hard 4.0 aka Live Free Or Die Hard

McClane and Matt (Justin Long) in Die Hard 4.0 aka Live Free Or Die Hard

9. This time it’s personal?

I know I said I wanted McClane to just blunder into a mess, but they could go the other way and have him be targeted deliberately by someone with a grudge. They could be a demented villain out to destroy everyone he cares about, ice Al Powell (sorry, Al)in the pre-credits, have Zeus (Samuel L Jackson from 3) get attacked and survive to team up with McClane again.

Samuel L Jackson as Zeus- coming back?

Samuel L Jackson as Zeus- coming back?

You could have them ride to the rescue of Matt and Lucy, who in my soft git version are still together and even have Bonnie rock up too.

The angle could raise the stakes and add an extra element of danger.

10. Definitive Ending

Draw a line under the series, have McClane reunite with his missus for good, or hang up his guns and ride into the sunset. Or, maybe, maybe, kill him off? In an awesome, blaze of glory/last stand kind of way, of course.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Movie Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

Die Hard is a classic movie, and was the blueprint for a dozen knock offs (in a stadium- Sudden Death, on a boat- Under Siege, on a plane- Passenger 57, on a mountain- Cliffhanger). It’s premise was simple, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is caught in a skyscraper with a gang of dodgy Euro terrorists/criminals and has to take them out and stop them pulling off a massive heist.

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Over a series of sequels the scope of the threat gradually expanded- a whole airport in 2, all of New York in 3 and the entire US in 4. All have been successful, largely down to Willis’ wisecracking and resourceful copper. He’s a loudmouth who’s always the underdog but never  backs down, and he’s usually out of his comfort zone.

In this the 5th installment the scope is bigger again and McClane is even further out of his depth as he travels to Russia to see if he can get his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courteney) out of some trouble with the local law. When he gets to Moscow he discovers that Jack is in fact a CIA agent on a mission to keep a dodgy Russian safe. Kumarov (Sebastian Koch), said dodgy Russian has apparently reformed in prison and knows the location of a file which will ruin corrupt politician Chagarin (Sergey Kolesnikov), who the US want to stop getting to power.

Chagarin is trying to eliminate Kumarov when McClane collides with his son and gets sucked into keeping him safe from Chagarin’s goons, led by Alik (Rasha Bukvic), a crazed mercenary. Can McClane and son keep him safe and get the file back? Who can they trust, and can they rebuild their tattered relationship?

Here’s the thing about this movie, it was never going to match the original, which as I said, is a classic but I was in no way ready for the disappointment it turned out to be.

You know you're in trouble when the best thing about your movie is one of the posters

You know you’re in trouble when the best thing about your movie is one of the posters

It may not have pleased everyone, but I rather enjoyed number 4, which saw Willis being teamed with a geeky sidekick and ramped up the scale with a string of ludicrous OTT set pieces and a great villain, at times it creaked a little and there was a little too much CGI for my tastes as I like my stunts old school, but on the whole it was quite good fun.

But 5 doesn’t even match that, with there being far too much computer imagery and the ridiculous aspects even more outlandish. With each installment the series has moved away from it’s roots as a fairly low-key actioner.

It ditches the traditional Die Hard motif of McClane being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time by having him actually go after danger and gives him a partner who’s actually up to the challenge, which makes a change but doesn’t quite work as Courtney makes Willis look older.

Courtney however is one of the film’s strengths as he and Willis share fairly decent chemistry and he looks the part as the tough guy junior McClane.

Coutney as McClane Jr- one of the film's strengths

Coutney as McClane Jr- one of the film’s strengths

Willis is his usual grinning, wisecracking self and as likable as ever, if not quite given as good a script as in previous episodes.

But there’s little else to recommend the flick, the charismatic villain Alik is underused and a little too cartoony at times.

With the heavy use of computer effects the only real standout sequence is a rather impressive car chase through the Russian capital, which was rather awesome but other than that there are too many missed opportunities, including a hulking henchman who you’d imagine was being included for a big one-on-one scrap with at least one of the McClanes but this never materializes and there’s no real dramatic showdown to cap the movie.

The whole movie carries this feeling of opportunities missed, and it just feels flat and a bit by the numbers..

There have been suggestions that the series may continue with Courtney’s character as the lead in a sort of Son of Die Hard way, but personally I’d much rather see McClane return for one last round, but with the excess reined in and a return to the more claustrophobic, no frills vibe of the original.

Verdict: A rather disappointing addition to the series, with it seeming to just go through the motions and even Willis unable to elevate it above mediocrity. Jai Courtney is good but all in all it falls flat. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Another thing I’ll never get to do.

Ghostbusters, Die Hard, Zombieland.

What do these three things have in common, other than being awesome movies?

They all feature Twinkies.

Egon uses the snack to illustrate the scale of paranormal activity going on

For those who don’t know Twinkies are these little cake bar thingies which are apparently horribly unhealthy but immensely popular in the USA. As far as I know they’ve never made it across the Atlantic and so most Brits have probably never had one, just like me.

The company that makes them has apparently gone bust and there’s been a fair bit of complaining and I’d imagine semi-ironic mourning of the snacks online.

I’m guessing some cats have been out bulk buying Twinkies like Al Powell.

I personally am a bit gutted, as I really wanted to try things.

To Americans they’re probably something a bit dull or everyday, but you have to remember that as a Brit most of my exposure to American culture has come through movies, and as a result things Americans take for granted have become strangely iconic to me (yellow cabs, White Castle, hockey jerseys etc) and added to a mental “things to do in America” list I have if I ever manage to visit there.

They’ve become a weirdly exotic seeming treat to me, I want to know what they taste like and why Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) was so obsessed with them in Zombieland.

 

Sadly I’ll never get the chance now.

Although, according to Family Guy aren’t they meant to be so crammed full of sugar and preservatives that they stay edible for years and years? Maybe there’s still hope.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


The Weirdo

I saw him from about 200 yards away.

Leaning against a the railing on the foot bridge, a massive bulging rucksack on his back and a pole of some sort resting alongside him.

He moved the pole, revealing that it was actually a flag, some kind of animal in black on a white background.

Weird flag. Camouflage bag. Heavy rucksack. Military-ish hat.

The signs pointed in one direction- Mental.

He was giving off “lone gunman” vibes so strongly that even 150 yards away I felt uneasy.

If he was some nutbar on his way to turn Swansea into the end of The Wild Bunch there was nothing I could do about it. My phone battery was dead, I couldn’t alert the police of my suspicions.

If I had been able too what exactly would I have said?

“Excuse me, its just there’s a guy in Swansea who looks a bit odd, and I’m getting a bit of a bad vibe from him.”

I’ve seen Medium, and they’re sceptical about her predictions, and she’s solved a ton of cases.

"I'm having a premonition that someone will watch this primarily because they think I'm foxy."

He then put a small black box object down on the bridge and walked off. Curiouser and curiouser.

I was torn, part of me wanted to go investigate. If it was a bomb or something I couldn’t very well leave it take out a bridge. But another, louder and shriller voice told me to avoid it. If it was a bomb what could I do? Other than run around like Batman in the old Adam West movie trying to find somewhere safer to ditch it.

Shrill Chris triumphed and I took a longer route away from the bridge. But I saw him return and pick the thing up again, before setting off down towards High Street again.

I was behind him for quite a while.

I started to think about what kind of carnage and mayhem might ensue in the city centre if my suspicions were correct.

As is often the way, in my imaginations I was a courageous, resourceful hero in the John McClane mould.

Saving the day, taking down the maniac. Sure, I might get injured in the process, a few minor cuts and bruises, maybe a flesh wound in the arm or something. Its par for the course, and as Keanu says in The Replacements:

Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever.

Everyone likes to think they’d be the hero, but most people end up as some poor innocent dude who gets whacked while shocked and confused.

This morbid chain of thought unfolded as I followed the bloke. He stopped to talk to two blokes, chatting and chuckling with them.

He’s laughing. Mentals don’t laugh.

Okay, they do laugh, but its either menacing sniggering or maniacal cackling, not a normal, conversational chuckle.

I was fine, there was nothing to worry about.

Although…well, every time there’s some flip out there’s always someone on the news who says “He always seemed so normal.”

Bollocks.

And now he was behind me. God, I might be the first victim. A poor sap who gets blown away from behind. Kicking off the whole thing.

I wasn’t John McClane, I was the guy at the front desk.

I stopped at a crossing. He stopped next to me.

Keep looking forward, don’t engage. You never know what’ll set him off.

“Excuse me, but what flag is that?”

What are you doing?! I know its been bothering us for the entire walk, but why ask? Couldn’t you wait until you read the post-massacre news reports?

He turned to me.

This is it. This is how it ends. I never got to see New York, or have tea with Lady Gaga, or see The Avengers, or punch a horse like Conan. Curiosity killed the Chris.

“Just a flag with a wolf on.” He said, as though this cleared everything up.

Then he asked me where he could get information about getting to the path that goes to Port Talbot.

A charity walk!

That’s what he must be doing. Its not his fault I have an overactive imagination. Although to be fair, most charity fundraisers wear bright t-shirts or something, not walk around like someone from Call Of Duty.

I felt relief wash over me, and I could continue with my day.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO