I am very fond of the first two “Die Hard” films. They marked a change in the 80’s action hero, because it featured a very ordinary cop named John McClane who was a cowboy, tough as nails gutsy, and resourceful when it comes to getting out of a jam. They made the catch phrase “look who’s at the right place at the wrong time” mean something. The third film “Die Hard with a Vengeance” was a little on the mixed bag, it became an odd mix of a buddy film wrapped around the devices of a caper film. It was flawed but it still proved to be entertaining for me. “Live Free or Die Hard” took a turn for something that felt a little over-the-top but hit home with its themes of our over reliance to technology.
Now, in 2013 the fifth installment of the franchise arrives with “A Good Day to Die Hard”. It still features Bruce Willis as a much older John McClane; older, yes, but the character still has a knack for finding himself in trouble. This time, McClane finds himself traveling to Moscow to see what he could do to help his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has gotten himself mixed up with drug dealings and a political prisoner called Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). But John has stumbled into a break out with his own son in the mix, and now he finds himself aiding him in his mission as a secret CIA operative to try to get Komarov out of Moscow. Seems like father and son will finally get to spend some time together with a lot of bad guys on their trail.
The charm of the “Die Hard” film franchise had always rested with the John McClane character and the charisma of Bruce Willis. John had always been a cop with more guts than brains, but he is very resourceful. He definitely never loses his cool under extreme situations, and he knew how to pick his battles. The fourth franchise “Live Free” took a little more of a cartoonish turn for the action hero, but the core of the character remained intact; he remained the wise-cracking, smart mouth gutsy cop that I have grown to be fond of. Now, when I went to see “A Good Day to Die Hard” I was expecting something that followed the tempo of that movie, but I never expected the McClane character to lose much of his charisma and become much more like a cartoon. When I say 'cartoon, it means that John McClane is just downright invincible.
I guess in its core, this latest sequel is more geared on being a stunt show. The chase sequence in the first act certainly relied in cool editing trickery, brisk chase sequences that display great stunt choreography and elaborate set designs. I knew right on that the movie was meant to showcase its action sequences, with father and son right in the neck of the woods. Despite its pedestrian plotting, and predictable devices, I hoped for the best. I wanted to see great action set ups with McClane’s wise cracking nature driving the show, but it sure became a disappointment real quick.
I am not sure, after John and Jack arrive at a certain point in the screenplay, the film became a little boring, that even the gun fights began to feel rather tedious and monotonous. I understand, the plotting was a little weaker than I would’ve liked, and the screenplay was very muddled. What really disappointed me was the weak dialogue and how the action sequences were set up. Some were uninspired and a little too convenient, it just did not have the feeling of urgency and danger that I have come to know from the franchise. The dialogue was also obligatory, and despite some decent moments of that Bruce Willis’ smart mouth, it never got me involved in what was being shown. This is especially bad for an action movie, despite the elaborate explosions and gun fire, I became bored with what I was watching. It wasn’t because the action scenes were bad, but they felt very empty and hollow, there was just no emotional drama behind them that they quickly felt rather repetitive.
I guess part of the reason why I did not buy into the film was the fact that Bruce Willis and Jack Courtney did not sell me the ‘relationship’ of an estranged father and son. The script had some fair moments to further define their relationship but it all came out rather hokey and cheap. They just did not hit that 'chemistry'. The bad guy in the film wasn’t all bad, Radivoje Bukvic plays Alik, and he was as mean as they come. The film’s twists and turns were all part of the plays, but it came out without snowballing impact to its narrative. Yuliya Snigir’s character as Irina was also shamelessly underwritten, that she became a little better as an eye candy but an eye candy nonetheless. There were just so many areas in the script that could’ve been better, but it seems like writer Skip Woods and director John Moore relied a little too much on the John McClane magic to pull their fat out of the fire.
Instead, while not utterly terrible, “A Good Day to Die Hard” becomes rather very mediocre. I am not sure what the intentions were with this film, but unless it is a ‘plug’ to start a “John McClane Junior” spin off movie, then it is absolutely superfluous. I guess it should have been a “good day to stop making a Die Hard movie”, and perhaps the time has come to retire the character into the action hero hall of fame. Despite his presence, Willis feels a little out of his element; not a real fault of his, as the script was just a little too uninspired to further the character’s story. I would say that this film should be a Rental to “Die Hard” fans and a skipper for everybody else. It would be a good day to stay home. [2 Out of 5 Stars]
200 Words or Less: How Far Has McClane Fallen? Oh, look how far we’ve come from the 1988 original! John McClane (Bruce Willis) is still battling terrorists, but this time he’s a kinder, gentler McClane hoping to reconcile with his bitter son. (Didn’t he just play Daddy Dearest in the last film?) It just so happens his son is a CIA operative on assignment in the former Soviet Union. Go figure. Moscow goes bang! Like … more
Bruce Willis reprises his ioconic role as police detective John McClane in 'A Good Day To Die Hard' directed by John Moore ('Max Payne') and written by Skip Woods ('A Team') and Jason Keller. McClane this time around, finds himself in Moscow. Seems his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested for murder. McClane isn't at all surprise. He believes Jack is a total screw-up. … more