The three biggest action stars of the 80s and 90s all tried to make a serious comeback in 2013 by starring in action extravaganzas. Unfortunately, their glory days are behind them. Instead of capturing the magic of the 80s and turning in entertaining spectacles of wanton violence, they gave us three smelly turds. As much as they want me to enjoy their shit, well, Planet Hollywood went out of business a long time ago.
Knowing these movies would be terrible, I decided to wait until they hit the second-run theater. Spending a grand total of $8 to see them (instead of $27) was a blessing.
First, I watched The Last Stand. This was supposed to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s triumphant return to action. Sure, he had a small part in The Expendables 2, but he wasn’t headlining, and nobody saw that crapfest, anyway. This movie was directed by Kim Ji-woon, the same guy who directed the horrendous I Saw the Devil. Going into this, I had no idea he was the director. As soon as I saw his name, I knew I was in for a shitty time.
This movie goes out of its way to let us know Arnold is “too old for this shit.” He’s a weary, rundown sheriff of a small town in Arizona. He limps around with a hunched back and arthritis. Of course, once the bullets start flying, he performs acrobatics like a 20-year-old gymnast. How was this possible? Did he snort several lines of coke beforehand? Anyway, it turns out that this movie is just a 100-minute long commercial for the Chevy Corvette C6ZR1. The villain drives one of these for half the movie, and the camera does all these crazy close ups and zoom-ins, like a porn director on a girl’s vag. I half expected the villain to start jacking off inside the car.
The storyline is very simple. A Mexican drug lord escapes from U.S. custody, steals a shiny new Corvette, and tries to flee the country. His choice for crossing the border happens to be the same town where Arnold is the sheriff. Only Arnold and a couple of comedians (Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman) can stop him. For a so-called action movie, there is surprisingly little action. There is virtually nothing going on until the villain actually reaches the town. Once he does, there are a few decent shootouts. Arnold kills plenty of guys. They wreck some shit with a mini-gun, and there is even a decent car chase between the Corvette and a Chevy Camaro ZR1. Gee, I wonder, did Chevy help finance this movie?
The acting and characters are stock and laughably terrible. Forest Whitaker plays a belligerent FBI agent who refuses to believe Arnold when he warns him that the villain is headed his way. He growls his lines, and looks ferocious with his lazy eye, which gets lazier with each movie he’s in. Swedish actor Peter Stormare puts on the worst fake Texas accent I’ve ever heard. He plays the villain’s second-in-command, and he chews scenery like nobody’s business. He’s so terrible, and so unbelievable in the action scenes, he ends up making a cheesy movie 10 times worse. Knoxville and Guzman play dual comic-reliefs, and both achieve their goals. As far as Arnold is concerned, well, he plays himself like he usually does, and he turns out all right.
Overall, this was a fucking terrible film. I can’t imagine what the hell anyone was thinking when they made it. And you know what the sad part is? It’s the BEST of the three movies I’m reviewing in this post. That’s right, people, it only gets worse from here on out.
Next, I saw Bullet to the Head. When I entered the theater, I counted exactly four other people. And this was the first week of release. Not off to a good start. It was directed by Walter Hill, a septuagenarian. I suppose Stallone mandated they find someone older than him to direct, so he wouldn’t feel so decrepit. Hill seems like he’s already lost his mind from dementia. In a 2005 interview, he stated, “Every film I’ve done has been a Western.” I guess he forgot about The Driver, The Warriors, 48 Hours, Brewster’s Millions, and several other non-Western movies he directed. Like I said, dementia. And after watching this incoherent mess of a film, you’ll know there is no way a person with normal cognitive skills directed Bullet to the Head.
While Arnold’s movie made the audience well aware of his age, Stallone’s movie dials the age factor way back. He can still run, fight, and shoot like a 25-year-old. But he cracks old-person jokes non-stop. The movie takes on the incredibly dated “buddy” formula. Stallone is a stalwart mob hitman, the awesomely named Jimmy Bobo, who teams up with a young Asian cop in order to… do something. I honestly can’t remember what the plot was. It didn’t really make any sense. They were trying to track down some bad guys and get revenge for… something. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, instead of trying to build an interesting character relationship, or even an exciting plot, the filmmakers went the most clichéd route imaginable.
In a typical “buddy” movie, the two leads come from completely different worlds. HE’S WHITE! SHE’S BLACK! IT’S LIKE THEY’RE FROM DIFFERENT PLANETS! THEY MAKE RACE JOKES! QUICK, EVERYBODY, LAUGH! BY THE END OF THE MOVIE THEY BECOME BEST FRIENDS! In the Rush Hour films, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan trade black and asian jokes. Bullet to the Head trades white/asian jokes, and old/young jokes. It’s a double whammy! It’s twice the comedy! Unfortunately, the jokes don’t come off as even mildly humorous, but rather extremely racist and incredibly lame.
For a so-called “action” movie, there is hardly any action. Stallone and Sung Kang go from Point A to Point B, picking up conveniently placed pieces of “evidence”, kill one or two bad guys, and then rinse and repeat. This happens all the way until the end. They find themselves in an empty warehouse with the villains, the guy from the Conan the Barbarian remake, and a crippled African warlord. The film culminates in – I swear to god – an axe fight between Conan and Stallone. The unintentional comedy factor from this scene alone almost made the entire film worthwhile. Almost. They fight for a while, and of course 66 year-old Stallone beats 33-year old Conan in a test of physical prowess. Once the movie wraps up, we get some more race and age jokes, and it’s the end.
The acting was fairly standard. Nobody turned in a memorable performance, and nobody was particularly bad either. Everyone was bland. Everything in the movie was generic. Generic characters, generic corruption plot, generic setting, generic action, generic everything. It’s so generic, honestly, I am having trouble remembering what happened to even write this review. But what I do remember is that it sucked major ass.
Lastly, I witnessed A Good Day to Die Hard. I say “witnessed” because after it was over, I felt like I had just watched someone die in a terrible car wreck, and I was helpless to do anything about it.
With the two movies above, I had no expectations going in. But having seen the other four Die Hard movies, I had some notions of what to expect. In terms of action franchises, the Die Hard series has held up pretty well over the years. Now, I had read reviews of how bad this movie was, so I wasn’t expecting it to be better than the previous entries in the series. But I was still expecting it to be better than the other two movies I just reviewed.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
To say this movie is bad is like saying Boy George is just a little bit gay. A Good Day to Die Hard is one of the most atrociously vapid, unwatchable film sequels of all time. Clearly, when they made this movie they weren’t even trying. They decided to put Bruce Willis in random scenes where he could blow shit up, and called it a movie. There is no plot, no discernible acting, and certainly no competent directing.
A major problem is this being the fifth entry in the franchise. There really is nowhere else for it to go. The first movie was self-contained in a high-rise building. The second, in an airport. The third, the city of New York. The fourth, the Washington D.C. area. With each entry getting a larger radius, the only way to make this one bigger, was to go worldwide. So, they sent McClane to Russia. Of course, since the movie only has two locations in Russia, it doesn’t seem like an international adventure. Besides, nobody watches Die Hard because they want to see a James Bond-esque globetrotting spy film. They want to see one guy, outnumbered, against a bunch of terrorists.
How could the same shit happen to the same guy five times, anyway?
A Good Day to Die Hard starts off with Bruce Willis saying goodbye to his daughter, the Creepy Internet Stalker Girlfiend, as she drops him off at the airport. Next thing we know, he’s in Russia, and immediately gets involved in a car chase. Of course, he has no reason to do so, but, whatever, fuck it, nobody cares. The editing is so bad, I didn’t even realize Willis was a part of the chase until about half-way through. When the directing is so incompetent you can’t tell what the main character is doing, you have a serious problem.
Next, Willis hooks up with his son who is a CIA agent. They have to protect a generic Russian dude from other generic Russian dudes. The villain turns out to be a menacing tap-dancer. The hot female villain was shown stripping in the theatrical trailer, and of course that scene isn’t in the actual movie. THANKS FOR COCK-BLOCKING US, GUYS! The script tries to be clever by having good guys become bad guys, and some other stupid bullshit. The double-crosses don’t work because the plot is a narrative mess. The ultimate villain isn’t menacing at all. He’s a geriatric dude who ends up fighting against Willis, another geriatric dude. Yawn. Die Hard doesn’t work without a good foil for McClane. Otherwise, it’s just him running around blowing shit up for no apparent reason. Plus, having everything condensed in a brief 97-minute runtime makes it even worse. With no time for plot or character development, all we get is a few generic action sequences that could have been in any movie.
There is some mysterious “file” MacGuffin, which – SURPRISE! – makes no sense. Everyone wants the file, but what the fuck was it? It’s never explained. The bad guy ends up unlocking some kind of Uranium vault in Chernobyl. For what reason? To sell it? To blow it up? Again, never explained. But it doesn’t matter, the audience is on the floor drooling at this point. It’s hard to have a terrifying villain when the audience never has a clue what he’s trying to accomplish. I guess the filmmakers thought, “NOBODY IS PAYING ATTENTION TO THE STORY! WE DON’T NEED A STORY! IF WE BLOW SHIT UP PEOPLE WILL LOVE IT!”
With this movie, they don’t even bother acknowledging Willis’ age. In fact, he has some kind of Benjamin Button thing going on. The older he gets, the more invincible he becomes. Willis survives falling through multiple plate glass windows with only a few scratches. He’s a long way from a guy with cut feet from the first movie. Now, he’s practically the Terminator.
Admittedly, I did laugh at some of Willis’ one-liners. Most notably, when McClane’s son smashes his phone, and McClane quips, “There was a two year contract on that phone.” Of course, the movie treats its two lead characters like buffoons. Trolling the depths of problem child clichés, it decides that estranged son Jack will call his father “John” instead of “Dad.” But by the end they learn to love each other again, and he finally calls him “Dad.” FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES! WRITE SOMETHING ORIGINAL, FOR FUCK’S SAKE! HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS EVEN QUALIFY AS WRITING?! IT’S LIKE YOU TOOK A SHIT ON A PIECE OF PAPER, HANDED IT TO A STUDIO EXECUTIVE, AND THEY THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT BECAUSE THEY HAD JUST SLAMMED AN 8-BALL OF COKE!
The two biggest problems come from the writing and directing. Writer Skip Woods is responsible for shitfests like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The A-Team. Director John Moore churned out cinematic turds like The Omen and Max Payne. How could any movie studio put these two assholes together and expect them to make a good product? How could they leave a massively popular franchise in their hands?
The pain. The pain.
The three biggest action stars of all-time have failed in their attempts to remain relevant. All of these movies are horrible, and none of them deserve to be seen by anyone. Each is an example of the type of film Hollywood should never make again. The Last Stand was a straight-up play to recapture 80s magic. A Good Day to Die Hard was an attempt to continue an ancient franchise. Bullet to the Head was such a throwback film that it could have actually been made in the 80s and no one would have noticed.
Hollywood should learn their lesson, and let their aging franchises stay in the past. If aging action stars still want to act, fine, let them, but give them age-appropriate roles. Or at least have their characters behave in a manner appropriate for their age. I don’t know a lot of mid-60 year-olds who get involved in axe-fights.
Ranking these movies is hard, because they are all so fucking terrible. But I’d say: The Last Stand > Bullet to the Head > A Good Day to Die Hard. Coincidentally, that’s the same order in which I watched them. Please, don’t watch these movies. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Stay home and watch Family Feud instead.
The Last Stand – Shitty
Bullet to the Head – Shitty
A Good Day to Die Hard – Shitty