Film Review: A Good Day to Die Hard
At this point one thing seems certain: it is far too late to stop this bandwagon of archaic action. With its requisite one-liners, cackling, villainous dandies, and violence free from moral inspection, the resurgent 80′s action vehicle is here to stay. Unfortunately, the results seem to be very hit and miss.
Despite what you may have heard, A Good Day to Die Hard is not an atrocious film, it just isn’t a very good one. Rounding out the trio of new action put out by the aging geezers behind the doomed Planet Hollywood franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard falls in the middle of the pack. It does not approach Schwarzenegger’s sturdy return to cinemas, but there is at least some enjoyment to be had here, more so at least than the ugly, boring and irrelevant Stallone flick, Bullet to the Head.
This fifth Die Hard takes the one and only spitfire cop, John McClane, outside of his homeland for the first time, plunking him down in Mother Russia following news of his son’s arrest. Once in Russia we are treated to a little of the ol’ McClane sardonic magic, where he bullshits with a cabbie for a time before meeting up with his estranged son, who, for reasons that are only vaguely defined, fucking hates his father’s guts. Luckily though, this is the Die Hard series where family therapy always accompanies the mayhem and carnage.
As it turns out McClane Jr. – who is played effectively enough by a slab of man-meat called Jai Courtney - is actually working for the CIA. His arrest was part of a covert, cloak and dagger operation to extract some bozo named Yuri Komarov from Russia in exchange for a disk that would discredit a corrupt Russian official. Of course, once the senior McClane joins the fray the situation becomes infinitely more explosive and the body count rises exponentially.
A Good Day to Die Hard is a departure from the original spirit of the series, even further than Live Free or Die Hard was, and is considerably less engaging due to the void left by Justin Long‘s geekiness, which was a great foil for McClane’s cocksure brutality in that film. Instead of this interesting dynamic Good Day leaves us with only the combative interactions between the two McClanes, which director John Moore can’t bring any interesting subtext to. All that we really get from the chaotic, scatter-shot script by Skip Woods and Roderick Thorp is some slim dialogue scenes related to how McClane wasn’t home much due to his job, or something.
The original Die Hard connected so powerfully to audiences through the empathy we had for the McClane character; we feared for his safety because John McTiernan was able to so effectively highlight the man’s vulnerability. He was the everyman valiantly struggling against extraordinary circumstances.
In Good Day the trademark tension of the series, so palpable in scenes like the elevator shaft sequence from the original, finally dissipates completely. McClane, who in Live Free was seen surfing on the back of a fighter jet, becomes the comical equivalent of Willie E. Coyote in Good Day - getting tossed around with such reckless abandon that a man a third his age would need years of physical therapy to recover. Now, this is not the worst thing in the world, as some of the action scenes in Good Day are so absurd that they provide unintentional humor. You simply have to divorce yourself from looking for genuine thrills in the film. The equivalent to the hair-raising, virtuoso sequences of Nakatomi Plaza are not coming back; this is a cartoon movie.
Willis’s charismatic cowboy shtick remains potent, even when it emanates out of his craggy, geriatric form. He will probably always be at least somewhat interesting to watch and gets a number of humorous lines. However, the humanity of the character is definitively gone, and the McClane persona has never been less interesting, probably due to the fact that he has no real villain to bounce off against here. There has rarely been a villain quite as bland as Rasha Bukvic’s Alik.
Final Verdict: Die Hard 5.0 will give you a few cheap laughs, but underwritten characters and asinine set pieces rob the film of both its aesthetic and emotional power. It has now been 25 years since the original Die Hard and, as much as Willis probably doesn’t want to accept it, his iconic cop and his “Yippe ki-yays” have finally gotten old.