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Making a Trailer First and a Movie Second

Making a Trailer First and a Movie Second

Down here, guys. Eyes down here. Okay great.

I don’t blame you for wanting to take a look — that is an arresting image. A beautiful woman stripping out of her biker gear and into her underwear in the middle of a parking garage. It raises so many questions. Like, who is the fetching creature? Why is she doing that? There isn’t, like, a closet or a bathroom she could use? It draws you in, this image. It’s a riddle you want to solve. A riddle with fantastic muscle tone. One look and you’re hooked: “I gotta see this movie.”

The movie is “A Good Day to Die Hard” and I can tell you from first-hand experience: no you don’t. It’s far and away the worst film in the “Die Hard” franchise — and I’m such an easy lay for “Die Hard” movies I liked “Live Free or Die Hard.” You can read my full review of “A Poor Excuse to A Good Day to Die Hard” at ScreenCrush, but here’s the short, short version: it stinks.

So it’s a bad movie, which might be even more disappointing because it was actually a pretty good trailer. If you never saw it, or need a refresher, here it is:

You may have noticed that bonny biker in there as the focal point of the trailer’s opening moments. She’s seen riding her motorcycle from several angles, and then disrobing — again, in that well-lit parking lot for some inexplicable reason — in not one but two different shots: a medium shot from the waist up and then a long wide shot that shows her from head to toe. I know I sound incredibly pervy right now (Happy Valentine’s Day to my wife, by the way!), but there’s a point to all this, so please bear with me.

If you’re so unfortunate as to see “A Good Day to Die Hard” this weekend, you will see the biker woman. But if you’re expecting to see more of her than you glimpsed in the trailer, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Even more surprising: there’s actually less of her accidental striptease in the final film than in the trailer. Instead of two shots, there’s just one, framed from the shoulders up, at least as I recall it a day later. And if there was ever a reason this poor woman (Irina, played by the lovely Yuliya Snigir) peeled off her jumpsuit in a garage instead of a more private area, it got lost on the cutting room floor. So what the heck is she doing?

Selling tickets; that’s what she’s doing. Irina exists to bolster “A Good Day to Die Hard”‘s marketing campaign, not its narrative. And I suspect that on that level, she’s doing a really good job.

We all recognize that a trailer is a piece of advertising. That sales pitch, like any other, comes with a certain amount of fudging: moving pieces of different scenes around to create the impression of narrative connections that aren’t actually there; using lines or shots that might not make it into the finished film. We accept all that as necessary evils of the process.

What’s going on here with “A Good Day to Die Hard” feels like something else. Irina is almost completely irrelevant — to the movie in general, and to this scene in particular. It’s very possible her raison d’etre was lost somewhere between the set and the screen. But as a viewer considering the final product, it looks like the only reason she’s in the movie is so she can be in the trailer, where she can draw in young male audiences. A trailer need not deliver exactly what it promises — but it does need to deliver on the spirit of what it promises. And “A Good Day to Die Hard”‘s trailer promises some kind of sexy mystery involving this woman. In this, and in so many other ways, it fails.

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