A Good Day to Die Hard has everything a throw-back to the good ol’ days of action flicks needs: explosions, a televised news report that introduces us to the plot and segues into the story, explosions, seizure-inducing car-chases, shoot-outs that throw away bullets like production-value candy and explosions. There are also familiarities that nod and wink at the audience, like shooting out glass and a hilarious homage to a falling scene, with a bloody twist. But before I give away too much, as if I could, I’ll digress.
I know every die hard fan out there is going to see this movie. Unfortunately, I can only say that if I had it to do over again, I’d wait for the rental. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun for all the reasons mentioned above, but it was missing something. Something quintessential to the McClane brand of action flicks.
For me that something was captured in Live Free or Die Hard, specifically in McClane’s relationship with Matt Farrell as something of a surrogate father. Farrell is an apathetic, underachieving brat, and he makes no apologies for being set in his ways – here, at least he has some common ground with McClane, who is otherwise Farrell’s polar opposite. But in times of cyber terror trouble, McClane enlists the brat’s help, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to Farrell. You see, Farrell embraced his underachiever status as a shield against accountability. He was just another hacker among thousands, counting on anonymity to save him from the consequences of his irresponsible choices. He gets a McClane wake-up call in the best way. When Farrell’s indirect involvement with the cyber-terrorism that is about to bring America to its knees is out in the open, Farrell confides in McClane that he always wondered what it would be like to “crash the system.” McClane fires back. “It’s not a system, it’s a country.”
How quickly our luxury makes us forget that we are interdependent. It’s exactly John McClane’s brave, if also proud, attitude that so many Americans used to share. I’m not so sure any more.
When I saw the movie trailer for the fifth installment of the Die Hard legacy introduce McClane’s son, I literally rubbed my hands together.
(I know, it’s sad, but at least you know I’m being honest with you!)
I was looking forward to more of the mentoring Live Free had raised the Die Hard action standard with.
But I was caught off-guard. What I saw was a bitter old man constantly harping on his estranged son, ironically, during a trip to save his son from trouble. McClane even confides his short-comings as a father that seem to have lead his son, John Jr. or Jack, down this path, but he never offers that most simple and beautiful cementers of relationships: the genuine apology. Now, there is some redemptive dialogue between the two. And, of course, Jack isn’t really in trouble with the law as his father supposes. All that was just an excuse to bring these two swaggering McClanes together for some good old fashioned action violence.
In the vein of excuses, I found something very interesting. I remember the super bowl commercial, “God Made a Farmer”. I loved it, although I didn’t hear it all the way through when it first aired – I was talking with a friend through most of it. Upon a replay on the James T. Harris show, I heard the commercial talk about a man who “completes his forty-hour week by Tuesday”. I don’t want to take away from the real meaning of the advertisement, but I will say that segment is exactly what came to mind when McClane Sr. confides in a stranger that he thought “working all the time was the way to do things”.
Unbeknownst to him, Jr. is listening, heartbroken that his father couldn’t speak these words to him. The scene is followed up with a rebuke from McClane to his son for calling his father by name. “What ever happened to ‘dad’?” Sr. asks. “Good question”, Jr. retorts.
I wonder about my generation today. Who raised them? What is it that has so many of us living life with index fingers firmly plugging our ears? Bitterness, I think. The problem isn’t entirely the people who raised us. I certainly won’t blame all my problems on my parents, who raised me well. But I’m in the overwhelming minority. It seems that in teaching values with the methods incorporated by McClane Sr., I fear my generation has rebelled against the whole picture. In an effort to “not be like” mom or dad, I see generations embrace rebellion against standards for its own sake, not for the purpose of taking a moral stance. To use an old adage, we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water.