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Check your Americanski privilege: Fixing "A Good Day to Die Hard"

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | August 28, 2014 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | August 28, 2014 |

I watched a good chunk of Die Hard 5: We’ve Totally Run Out Of Puns That Work over the weekend. Well, by “good” I mean a measurable length of time, as I’m certainly not referring to the actual quality of the movie. It’s bad. I mean, it’s just so terribly and atrociously bad that it does not even achieve a basic competence of movie storytelling. The only reason I watched it as long as I did was because come on this was Russia! There was Red Square! And Revolution Square! And the Kremlin! And one of Stalin’s seven sisters! That’s a building by the way, not a euphemism.

I should have stuck to trolling around Wikipedia if I wanted to get a buzz on those things, because despite familiar landmarks, it tried to tell a political story without having the slightest information about the country’s politics. This shouldn’t be surprising. It shouldn’t even be frustrating. But I’m weak in the knees on certain topics, and just can’t quite look away. Not when I know just how good such a story could be done right.

So in a thankless and completely pointless job, I’m setting out in this article to fix Die Hard V: The Undiscovered Country. Now, I’m not going to try to fix all of the story problems, or the fact that it was directed with one eye on the clock and the other eye on a blow up doll of Michael Bay, but I’m going to correct the problems with Russia’s political situation, so that a proper mindless action movie can be told with appropriate context.

Let’s start with the story of a corrupt politician. He’s so corrupt that he’s willing to frame another politician for being corrupt in order to not be arrested himself! There’s such an adorable naiveté at play here, so many assumptions about the way the world works that are invisible to someone who knows nothing about the rest of the world. The writer has apparently heard that Russia is a highly corrupt country, but has no concept that this means that “find evidence and arrest them” isn’t an option. This isn’t just an American hearing a European football team is down by six and saying “don’t worry, a touchdown can still win this”, this is full on letting them eat cake levels of spoiled cluelessness.

Oh your country has corrupt politicians? Did you try arresting them? Thanks for the helpful suggestion America, go deep fry something. Check your Americanski privilege, comrade.

Sigh, alright, how about we scrap all that and just make the arrested guy a … how about an activist? A charismatic opposition leader perhaps, who the power holders need to eliminate? Oh that’s right, then they’d just be shot in the elevator of their apartment complex. Or have every major bone in their body broken by two guys with crowbars while walking home in the evening. Or just disappeared. Or arrested on fake charges and kept in prison indefinitely. Damn, reality is so depressing that it’s just making an action movie impossible.

Okay fine, let’s scrap everything about politicians and arrested people. Is there anything we can salvage? Ah, at the very least there’s a macguffin, right? Well we could jump right to the twist the movie gives us towards the end when the McClanes figure out that what’s actually in the vault is a pile of a weapons grade uranium.

Well, just to ruin some further dreams you may have: Ukraine does not have weapons grade uranium in a vault in Chernobyl. They gave all their nuclear weapons to Russia back in the early nineties in a fit of jolly good nature helped along by many billions of dollars of American aid that came with that string attached. Yeah, I know, movie logic. And maybe the bad guys put the stuff there explicitly so that it was in an unexpected place because they’re savvy. But here’s the thing. Corrupt Russian power brokers don’t need to have a pile of weapons grade uranium in order to make billions of dollars. See, they have this funny thing where they control the entire economy and can and do loot whatever they want.

Dealing in uranium represents a lot of hoops to jump through when you could just legally sell billions of dollars of weapons to nefarious regimes without going nuclear. Or oil. Or gas. Or diamonds. Or you could make more money flying in your engineers and building them their own breeder reactor instead of bothering to do something silly like smuggle critical masses of uranium across international borders. All of these things actually happen on a daily basis, but a wayward cop on a tourist visa can’t really do much about them, so there’s that.

Well shit, it’s almost as if not a single problem confronting Russia can be engineered into a problem that can be solved by a random American with a gun. Man, Fox News is going to be pissed.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here and order his novel here.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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