A Good Day to Die Hard is a good movie. It’s not great or all kinds of fun. It’s not fresh and sharp like the first three, or even the 4th. It’s not surprising and it’s not particularly well acted.
But it’s a good movie and provides some perfectly fine entertainment for about 90 minutes.
Here’s a trailer:
Released February 14, 2013
Written by Skip Woods and Roderick Thorpe
Directed by John Moore
Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, Amaury Nolasco, and Cole Hauser.
* * * * *
John McClane (Willis), still a cop but definitely showing his age, is worried about his grown son, Jack (Courtney). We see McClane as he fires off a tight grouping in what would appear to be the NYPD’s firing range, where he is quickly joined by Murphy (Nolasco– and while we’re on the subject of Murphy– this guy is Latin. He calls McClane ‘papi’. And his name is Murphy? Seriously?) Murphy has tracked down McClane’s son, finding him in a Moscow jail, where he awaits trial for murder.
McClane gets a ride to the airport from his daughter Lucy (Winstead), who abjures her dad to not make a mess of things. It’s clear that McClane has no intention of getting into a fight; he just wants to see if he can help his boy.
All of this setup comes to pass against the backdrop of political unrest and betrayal in Russia. A wealthy scientist named Komarov (Koch) has been unjustly imprisoned and now waits to be put through a trial– all because the Russian defense secretary has a vendetta against him and is trying to get something the scientist has– a file of some kind.
But on the day McClane arrives in Moscow at the courthouse where his son is going to be, Jack breaks out with Komarov in quite an explosive fashion. McClane provides just enough of an obstacle to Jack that Jack misses his evacuation window– and it turns out Jack is probably CIA.
So a rather destructive car chase ensues, during which McClane saves Jack’s skin and the two end up together, both working to reunite Komarov with his daughter and get the file which can be used to stop a potentially awful Russian regime.
Of course, there are a couple of twists which most audience members will see coming from quite a long way off. But there are plenty of explosions and there is a high body count, along with some super-slow-motion scenes in which McClane and Jack take the kind of beating that a superhero could take.
In case you’re wondering, McClane’s signature line of “Yippi-ki-yay…” is said, but is wasted and is far too easy to miss.
The movie starts strong. McClane is old and shows it in his tired gait and somewhat drawn face. We wonder why this guy is still just a basic cop after all the heroics he’s performed over the years, but he’s clearly mellowed in his later years. A few scenes are allowed to take their time to develop– allowing a bit of access to otherwise fairly standard characters.
But character development, wry and somewhat vulnerable humor, and pretty much all the enjoyment of the older movies take a back–waaaaaay back– seat as some very impressively choreographed and executed action set pieces unfold. The action is ambitious, loud, and furious. But it’s not invested with the connection we had with the previous movies, particularly in the first Die Hard.
I wonder if John McTiernan could fix this franchise?
In any case, a perfect moment that sums up everything this movie has to offer is the first punch that McClane throws. It’s louder than a gunshot and echoes off the theater walls, sounding as if a kraken has just snapped a mountain in two. It’s so far over the top that it couldn’t see the top with the Hubble. It strains credulity so much, and is followed by sprained credulity, that the movie falls pretty flat. It’s still watchable, because, well… Bruce Willis, but it doesn’t satisfy the Die Hard need.
Yes, the two wind up with a variety of bumps and scrapes, but that glass scene in the first Die Hard is so perfect because this is a mortal– but totally relentless and driven– hero. We just don’t see this in A Good Day to Die Hard.
I want John McClane to have his heroic ride into the sunset. I predict that with the next, and hopefully last, Die Hard film, he will get this ride and he will be with his grown children. This series deserves a worthy send-off, and A Good Day to Die Hard is not that worthy send-off.
Content warnings: Loads of action violence and salty language.
Writing: 2.5 Acting: 3 Overall: 3
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