Back in 1987 Bruce Willis shocked audiences world wide by transforming his wise cracking, comedy image from popular TV series Moonlighting into credible action-hero machismo with the first in this franchise … arguably one of the finest action thrillers ever made. Naturally such a well crafted movie would spawn sequels, and generally in my opinion, Die Hard has always delivered – but any good run had to come to an end, and yes, all the rumours you may have heard about this ill advised continuation of John McClane’s adventures are true.
Willis travels to Moscow to track down his estranged son (Jai Courtney) who seems to have got himself in a heap of trouble with some Russian terrorists. But before long father and son are reunited against a common enemy, and attempt to bond between the bullets flying and the bodies piling up. Directed by relative-unknown John Moore, this frantic, moodily shot attempt at an action movie from the get-go fails on almost every level. Firstly this isn’t just Willis playing McClane as a fish out of water New York cop (that would have been fun – but it’s not explored) he genuinely looks lost – not necessarily over the hill, but just in the wrong movie. His wise-cracks are delivered awkwardly like Willis himself is bored with the character, and the setting and the plot just failed to resonate. Add to this rapidly edited, confusing action that is mostly too fast and too chaotic to follow or enjoy, and well … I began to almost want to remove this from my PlayStation 3 and throw the original Die Hard in for the umpteenth time.
A plot twist towards the end was borderline interesting, but especially bad for this franchise, the villain was just a cliché, and his evil scheme nothing that clever. I wouldn’t normally be so against a movie, but for a franchise I previously adored – this was an embarrassment. Oh, and that cool free fall through a building and into water showcased in the trailer – that’s the best bit of the movie.
I have been out of the asian action cinema scene for a while now, having been heavily into all things kung fu, martial arts and Hong Kong related some years ago. Yet of late I’ve had a yearning to rediscover the movies I used to love so much, and with a somewhat resurgence in their popularity thanks to the prolific output of martial arts superstar Donnie Yen, now was as good a time as any to get back into them.
Donnie Yen plays Qinglong, a secret service agent during the Ming Dynasty who has sworn an oath to protect the empire using his 14 specialist blades passed down to him during a sacred ceremony. When the emperor’s Imperial Seal is stolen and Qinglong set up for the crime, he sets out to find the real culprit, kicking plenty of ass along the way. Now this is a very loose join-the-dots interpretation of the story as to be honest I found it very hard to follow. It’s complicated and vague at the same time, and with some poor subtitles for this viewing, keeping up with who was who and what was what was an uphill struggle. Yet Donnie Yen is excellent as the deadly warrior who discovers a softer side to himself when he kidnaps a young woman (Zhao Wei) so a group of escorts will help him in his mission, and finds himself falling for her. Directed by Daniel Lee (Black Mask, Dragon Squad) this well shot and attractive looking movie is filled with breathtaking action, with some excellent sword fighting, wire-assisted acrobatics and imaginative, cool looking characters. The main villain, a Medusa inspired femme fatale is wonderful too, and an easy match for a hard-as-nails Donnie Yen.
It’s sad then that the surrounding story is told in such a fragmented and incoherent manner, as otherwise this would have been an easy recommendation. As it stands, if you love asian action movies, this still delivers … but the poor story telling lets it down.
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