Review Date: March 29, 2006
Director: Richard Donner
Writer: Richark Wenk
Producers: Arnold Rifkin, Avi Lerner, Randall Emmett
Bruce Willis as Jack
Mos Def as Eddie
David Morse as Frank
A downtrodden New York City copper is asked to chaperone a witness through 16 blocks of traffic in order to deliver him to the grand jury for an important case. Sounds easy enough, right? But this is a movie and the downtrodden cop is Bruce Willis, so expect bad guys to intercept his mission at some point, fireworks to go off and the chase to begin! Oh, and did I mention that he’s a lush to boot? No? Well…he’s a lush to boot!
It’s nice to see Richard Donner making a decent action film again and it’s also nice to see Bruce Willis playing a fantasy version of what might’ve happened to John McLane had he taken the wrong path at some point in his career and drank a little too much and forgot about that whole “do the right thing” motto. I enjoyed this film overall because it moved at a clip, featured two interesting lead characters and had enough action pieces to keep me entertained throughout, but I can’t say that it bowled me over in any “new” sort of way, and it kinda lost its believability factor in the third act, which didn’t come together as nicely as it could have. Everything from the “bus scene” onwards didn’t entirely sell me, especially when you have cops shooting at the tires of a bus filled with innocent by-standers. Gimme a break, fellas. That said, big points go out to Willis for playing his down-and-out character as down-and-out as you can imagine, really looking worse for the wear with chub all around and the perfect “I could give a fuck about life” attitude. Of course, Mos Def literally steals the show as well, with a character that simply will not shut his mouth all the way through the film, but who at the same time, actually has you caring about him. Kudos to Def for creating such an annoying, yet sympathetic, character and for appearing to be entirely natural throughout.
As for the story, well, it’s your basic “chase” flick with Willis and Def essentially attempting to get from Point A to Point B within a certain timeframe, with the one added variable in this film being the claustrophobic one, with the streets of New York City, and all of its many inhabitants, playing a “third character” in most scenes. The great David Morse is also pretty bad-ass as the gum-chewing cop who won’t stop at much to nail the lead duo, and even though you sorta see the end coming all along, I was never really bored at any point, but did roll me eyes a few times near the end of the film, and even got a little sick of Def’s constant yakking at some point as well. That said, the film works overall with enough suspense and speed to make up for its few faults, and even though you can certainly enjoy it in a movie theater, I think it’s likely to go down even better on your small screen and couch one day. Incidentally, with a couple of tweaks and turns here and there, I think they could actually have titled this film DIE HARD 4: I WILL NEVER DIE with Willis’ character renamed as John McLane, but then again, I think folks still wanna see Willis kicking ass as the cool action-hero guy, as opposed to the aging, drunk, fatter guy. I’d like to see them both myself! Note: Nice homage to Mr. Blue (aka Eddie Bunker) by the way.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian