Friday films: Die Hard vs. Reign of Assassins

15 Feb
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If it’s action you want, Michelle Yeoh kicks Bruce Willis in the Yipikayes

 

The week’s new releases, in 500 words:

I have a huge soft spot for the Die Hard series. The first one, in 1988, created a major movie star out of little Bruce Willis, previously known only as the wisecracking private dick from the TV comedy Moonlighting. It also redefined the action genre. Until then, muscle-bound supermen like Schwarzenegger and Stallone ruled the ‘80s. Willis’s John McLane was an Everyman: vulnerable in his sweaty vest and with glass shards in his bare feet, he survived through brain and not brawn.

The second film, inevitably, upped the ante with twice the explosions and jeopardy. But just as you were thinking “hang on, how can the same extraordinary s**t happen to the same ordinary guy?”, Bruce Willis actually said that out loud. That wink to the audience brought you back on side.

Yes, the films – and Willis himself – got tired. And the action stunts got sillier, right up to the notorious car-crashing-into-helicopter scene. But Willis’s cheeky grin and Yipikaye quips always pulled you through.

Until now.

A Good Day to Die Hard scores an impressively low 12% on Rottentomatoes.com, the cursory father-son bonding scenes sitting uneasily with the regulation explosive action. And that score is mostly from US critics – it’s unlikely the UK release has been improved by trimming the juicier action and language to win a 12A certificate (it was rated R in the States).

Sad. Still, it is the fifth in the series, and fifth films are universally awful. Except perhaps for Henry V. Ho ho.

So what should we look forward to in this week’s new releases?

How about Run for Your Wife, an antiquated British stage farce updated to star Danny Dyer, Denise Van Outen and, gulp, Sarah Harding? Nope, just remembered an urgent appointment with the acupuncturist. He’ll be sticking needles in my eyes.

Or This Is 40, a movie featuring the boring, annoying couple from Knocked Up as they enter a mid-life crisis? Judd Apatow or not, I think I’ll be washing my hair. And I’m as bald as Bruce Willis.

Nor am I rushing to see Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, even though critics are united in their praise. This searing expose of child abuse in the Catholic church may be brilliantly topical, what with the Pope’s resignation (Magritte fans will appreciate his picture doing the rounds on Facebook, entitled “Ceci n’est pas une pape”). But it won’t half put you off your popcorn.

I am, however, down for Side by Side, a well-received documentary on the rise of digital film with contributions from James Cameron, Danny Boyle, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and David Fincher. 

Or, if not in a film-geek mood, supernatural love story Beautiful Creatures may help fill a Twilight-shaped void. Better still, martial arts flick Reign of Assassins is said to be ace. John Woo had a hand in the action scenes. Michelle Yeoh stars. See you in the front row. 

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