By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Cole Hauser and Radivoje Bukvic.
Twenty five years. A quarter of a century. A lot can happen within the course of that time. Most people live their school lives and know that no matter what, they will be better people. They see their favorite sports teams falter and recover. They have friendships that come and go. In the case of John McClane, we see a character who has gone from vulnerable hero we want to root for in 1988’s Die Hard to impervious deadbeat we want to see go away in A Good Day To Die Hard. After the lukewarm reaction I had to 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, I would have honestly been happy if director John Moore turned in a film that was a little better then average and generic. I am sad to say that he does not even do that, and whatever qualms I had with Live Free’s ridiculous script can be turned ten fold when it comes to scribe Skip Woods’ take on this one. Filled with uninspired action scenes, stupid characters and yet another plot that feels insanely far-fetched, A Good Day To Die Hard was painful to sit through, and makes the previous incarnation’s script look like that of Pulp Fiction.
Let’s start with the story. After his CIA son is arrested in a Russian nightclub, McClane (a cash grabbing Willis) goes to Russia to rescue him. Of course, McClane has no idea that his son actually has valuable presidential files in his possession as well. Trying to bring some of the tension back from previous installments, the script has John not being on the best of terms with his son Jack (Courtney), who likes to call him John instead of Dad. It was a trait that I would have gone with had they decided to go for a bit of character development. But this ninety-seven minute movie seems more intent on getting us into the action than build the character nuances that made the best installments of Die Hard that much more special. See, there is no Japanese bureaucracy or revenge driven siblings to deal with. Instead, John and Jack are up against a team that makes Timothy Olyphant’s hacking team from the last installment look like makeshift terrorists. It also doesn’t help that John’s mission of gaining his son’s approval falls on the ears of perhaps the most annoying character to ever come into the franchise. Don’t get me wrong: Courtney does a more than adequate job of holding his own in A Good Day To Die Hard’s action scenes. But his constant whining does not endear us to him in the slightest. Plus, John’s introduction (shooting at a photo of Obama while at a shooting range) makes him feel like a horrible caricature of what he used to be. Where Stallone was able to succeed in bringing an 80s hero to a new generation with his 2008 Rambo, Willis is not catching on. His character is no longer getting cut up feet while running through buildings. Instead, he can avoid a helicopter blade while falling several stories with no marks to show for it. This, combined with attempts at a new catchphrase (’I’m on vacation’) makes the root of all Die Hard films, John McClane, the least inspired he has ever been.
Speaking of uninspired, that would bring me to the film’s direction. Now I was not nearly as down on the hiring of John Moore as many people were. I happen to be one of the few people I know who enjoyed his film adaptation of Max Payne. And while his The Omen remake left a ton to be desired, so did A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. But that didn’t deter Renny Harlin, the director of that film, from directing some of the series’ best action in Die Hard 2. However, Moore’s contribution to the franchise is not going to get any praise from me. It starts off with an utterly ridiculous car chase and even the gunfights didn’t thrill me in the slightest. And while the final action scene did give the slightest hint of an old Die Hard aesthetic, his frantic camera angles and consistent use of CGI (even for the blood, which is a big no-no with me) put me out of the film as opposed to feeling a part of it. Making a good action film is hard. Making a good installment of an established franchise is next to impossible. But here it doesn’t feel like they even tried. Instead, A Good Day To Die Hard feels like what all the past films were but did not allude to: an existing story that they just happened to plug John McClane into. Yes there were a couple decent one liners. Yes, Snigir (the girl taking off her jacket in the film’s trailer) is great to look at. But this film is an overall horrendous addition to what was a tremendous franchise. My suggestion is just to watch the first three Die Hard movies and file the last two under something else. Because if Willis keeps trying to shovel this dung into my mouth, my temptation to gag while damning the McClane name, as every one of his immediate family seems to do at one time or another, won’t be stopped long.
1.5 out of 5