Like every other breathing human male in the world, I love the original Die Hard. 25 years and four sequels after its debut, it is still the greatest action movie of all time and in my opinion it’s laughable to even debate this declaration. But somewhere in that time period, the essence of Die Hard and more importantly the essence of John McClane have been lost. In the immortal words of Michael Scott, “…John McClane was just this normal guy. He’s just this normal New York City cop who gets his feet cut and gets beat up. He’s an everyday guy. In Die Hard 4 he is jumping a motorcycle into a helicopter…in the air. He’s invincible. It just sort of lost what Die Hard was. It’s not Terminator.” If Michael Scott could see A Good Day to Die Hard, he’d probably start retooling Threat Level Midnight into Die Hard 6 immediately because it might just get the big screen treatment. A Good Day to Die Hard begins with John McClane (Bruce Willis) in search of his prodigal son, Jack (Jai Courtney). McClane tracks Jack down on the eve of his trial for a murder in Russia and immediately heads overseas to provide any help he can. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that Jack is actually a CIA operative and soon father and son are caught up in an explosions-filled trek across Moscow in an effort to protect Russian businessman Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) and the secret file he keeps. Shenanigans ensue.
I am 95% confident that A Good Day to Die Hard did not start out as a Die Hard movie. It reeks of a script written to be a throwaway action movie that was ill-fittingly converted into a Die Hard movie in order to (hopefully) get it streamlined into production. Perhaps this assumption is just my naïve hope bleeding through into this review as it pains me to believe that someone actually wrote this movie with John McClane in mind. Regardless, among its many sins, the biggest issue with A Good Day to Die Hard is in its inexplicable and callous disregard for everything that John McClane has stood for over the last 25 years. McClane is a regular Joe, a man with a handgun who happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and whose greatest moves came in his use of packing tape and a sharpie. He is brash but not cocky, funny but not silly, and hard but not unbreakable. You could see the transition from anti-hero to superhero in 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard but I think the core idea at the heart of that film was the clash between old school and new school, a subject that suited McClane well. This movie is a horse of an incredibly different and unappealing color.
A Good Day to Die Hard holds nothing in common with any of the previous Die Hard films other than the title and the name of the leading character. It is rife with epic, explosive violence that serves to fill the holes leftover by the paper-thin plot and bland dialogue and while I enjoy a good action movie as much if not more than the next guy, this one seems to be cobbled together with the spare parts leftover from a myriad of mediocre 90s movies. I half-expected Wesley Snipes to pop up at some point. It’s a bad script by Skip Woods (the genius behind Wolverine) and the direction of John Moore (of Max Payne fame) is abysmal. Moore seems to have no control over what anyone is doing on screen, least of all Willis, and his dramatic timing is nonexistent. Moreover, neither of these men have any idea of what the Die Hard franchise is supposed to be. In fact, the company that cut the trailer for this film displayed a much greater understanding of the mythology of this series than those actually involved in the making of the film. Maybe those guys should be given a crack at the sixth installment.
For their parts, Willis isn’t awful in his role, though he’s definitely in this for the paycheck more than the legacy, and Courtney isn’t a bad companion to McClane. And if none of this had anything to do with Die Hard, if it could be looked at as a Mission: Impossible knock-off instead of an extension of a tremendous film, I might concede that it has enough enjoyable parts as to remain at least watchable if not entirely worthwhile. But since the studio behind this film decided to drag the Die Hard name through the mud, then I find it necessary to point out that A Good Day to Die Hard is big, dumb, loud, and faceless, all adjectives that the real John McClane would never stand for.
A Good Day to Die Hard Director: John Moore Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch Rated: R (language, violence) Recommended For: Fans of big, dumb, loud, faceless action movies, 14+