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A Good Day to Die Hard

Safe Haven

February 21, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard (* 1/2) R

Die Hard has been one of the few action movie franchises with a nearly spotless record, in terms of quality. The critical consensus on these films over the last twenty five years has generally been that they accomplish what they set out do, namely offering roller coaster-like thrills, not taking things too seriously and giving the audience just enough characterization to care about the people on screen. All that is sure to change with the release of A Good Day to Die Hard, a film that is easily the worst in the series and mainly exists as just an excuse for action-heavy set pieces with little in the way of character development or much of anything else outside of disposable action pic goings on. Even for a film such as this, the characters are awfully thin and interchangeable and when all is said done you’ll be hard pressed to recall anything that has transpired in the film’s 97 minutes preceding your exit from theater.

Things get off to a decent start early on with an action sequence running fifteen minutes or so that involves Bruce Willis’ John McClane character in a truck chase through the streets of Moscow.

Willis, Courtney & Sebastian Koch in ‘Die Hard’

McClane has gone to Russia to assist his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack is now a CIA agent who’s involved in protecting a high profile Russian prisoner who knows the whereabouts of a disc containing valuable information. The disc’s contents have details regarding a plot to sell enriched plutonium from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear plant and so Jack’s informant is of much value to the government. From there, the film devolves into a series of subplots involving double agents and double crosses with most of the actors sounding as if they came from a road company presentation of War and Peace.

The direction by John Moore (The Omen remake, Max Payne) is just one of the problems with the film, compounded by a simplistic story by Skip Woods (Hitman, The A-Team). Moore seems to have more of an affinity for his special effects and stunts than he does for the characters in the film. In just about every action scene, the film is so choppily edited and poorly staged, it’s hard to tell who is who. Rarely does Willis’ character get to use any of his character’s wits that made the other films so much fun. The subplot involving McClane and his son’s repairing of their relationship doesn’t feel organic either and only hurts the film overall.

A Good Day to Die Hard is just another example of Hollywood execs trying to tap into the nostalgia for eighties action films. I’m not necessarily against that but if filmmakers are going to bring back this genre then they’re going to have to put a little more effort into these films than this. If they aren’t going to do that I think they would be just as well off with a re-release of the Stallone film Cobra. At least I could get on board with that one.

Safe Haven (* ½) PG-13

Another year and another movie adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Safe Haven is the latest trip to this romantic-tinged well whose plots are so familiar by now that most moviegoers should be able to recite the story beats in their sleep. It’s the kind of thing that studios release in the hope that housewives and girlfriends who rarely get a chance to go to the movies can somehow con their significant other into that rare outing to the local multiplex. My advice to the ladies would be that if Safe Haven is the best your partner can offer you in the way of a date night, you should leave them immediately and seek out someone more interesting and, preferably, with better taste in film.

The marquee star of Safe Haven is Julianne Hough, an actress not renowned for her acting range, which runs the gamut from A to B, or her choices in film projects. Hough has appeared in three other films of dubious merit over the last two and a half years (Footloose, Rock of Ages, Burlesque), some of which have made money, although you’ll be pressed to find large numbers of folks who actually like them. Now we can add Safe Haven to that list.

Hough’s character in the film is Katie Feldman, a woman on the run from an abusive husband (David Lyons), who also happens to be a cop. She flees to one of those idyllic, coastal North Carolina towns that populate Nicholas Sparks’ novels where, no sooner has she exited the bus she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower who runs the local general store and has two kids. You can pretty much predict what eventually happens as the ‘story’ unfolds, the only exception being Katie’s budding friendship with a woman named Jo (Cobie Smulders) whose reason for being in the film takes a major suspension of disbelief and will cause major eye-rolling once it has been revealed. There are a few moving moments in the film but, unfortunately, they turn up during the last five minutes and it’s a long sit to get there.

Duhamel & Hough in Safe Haven

While watching this film, I was struck by what a field day a psychologist would have with the three major characters in this film. First, there’s Katie who jumps into a relationship immediately after leaving an abusive husband. Then there is Alex, who inserts Katie into his and his children’s lives while knowing little to nothing about the woman’s past and only receiving evasive answers when he prods her. Finally, there’s the abusive and pathetic husband, Kevin, all sweaty and bleary eyed throughout the picture, who seems to believe Katie is the only woman that exists in the world, though it’s clear she wants him out of her life. Though Safe Haven may be a bad film, psychoanalyzing the characters might be a fun way to make it through the proceedings, especially if you’ve been forced to sit through this on ‘date night.’

These movies are playing at the Carmike Cinemas in Hickory and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam Long at



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