A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
By Gary Murray
Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch
Written by Skip Woods
Directed by John Moore
Running time 97 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Cable
Bruce Willis has gone from wise-cracking TV show star to wise-cracking multi-million dollar motion picture star. Some of his better known roles are in The Fifth Element, The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction. Arguably his greatest character is John McClane from the Die Hard series. This is the fifth installment in the series that has been going on for twenty years.
The film starts with John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son John Jr. (Jai Courtney). Very soon, we discover that the younger man is in a lot of trouble in Russia. Dad does what every father would be expected to do, go and support his son.
Once in Russia, we soon begin to discover that all is not what it appears to be. John Jr. is a CIA agent and he went undercover to prison to befriend and spring Komarov (Sebastian Koch) the head of a group of bad guys who may or may not be tied with the ruling judicial body. The group smuggles weapons. It seems that the CIA wants a file that Komarov has hidden. Komarov wants to get himself and his daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir) out of the country.
In what is easily the best moment and strongest beat of A Good Day to Die Hard, there is a giant chase between John, John Jr. and a group of very heavily armed bad guys. They all tear down the streets of Moscow, destroying as many cars as Landis did in The Blues Brothers. This is a melee of dangerous driving and action packed flips and spills, just the kind of set piece expected in these thrillers.
Then the film begins a slow drag to the end. The McClane team soon finds that everyone is double-crossing everyone else. Where Dad senses the worst in everybody, his son is duped more than once. This says very little for the training of the CIA. The two men must put aside their differences and work together to get the people who are chasing Komarov.
The movie limps along to the giant confrontation in a part of the former USSR that is known for not being too environmentally friendly—Chernobyl. Our heroes go to save the day without hazmat suits. It seems that nuclear radiation is no match for the testosterone of two McClane boys.
A Good Day to Die Hard is the fifth installment in the franchise. The original Die Hard (1988) was a rip-roaring action piece about a normal guy thrown into an abnormal situation. It was full of great action and cleaver lines.
This time out it just seems tired. There is no snappy dialogue and no cleaver twists. Skip Woods (Swordfish, Wolverine) has done better work than this film and the weakness of the script cannot be saved by recycling lines from other and better motion pictures. Director John Moore made both Behind Enemy Lines and Flight of the Phoenix, both films that has some good action sequences but little else. Here, he shows much of the same—a great chase and a giant explosive ending.
Where the last episode just tried too hard, this version feels like 3rd rate James Bond. One great chase scene does not make for a great movie. Anyone who has seen a movie will not be surprised by all the ‘surprise twists’.
The question begs to be answered—do we need another Die Hard flick? By the time James Bond made it to the fifth outing, the cleverness had worn bit thin. It took some new blood and new directions to save the franchise. This time out, A Good Day to Die Hard feels more along the lines of the wreck that was A View to a Kill than the cleverness that was Dr. No.
But Bruce Willis does look great as John McClane. Where the other 80’s action stars either look too tired or too jacked on anabolic steroids, Bruce has aged a bit more gracefully into senior citizenship. This is the third 80’s action star to make a comeback in the 21st century and is easily the most believable.
Jai Courtney does his level best to go toe-to-toe with Bruce and mostly succeeds. It is a tall order to have to be the next generation of action hero but the young actor does his best. It is more of a valiant effort than a genre defining moment.
This film is a programming effort to be the anti-Valentine’s Day flick. Where all the chicks are going to split their attentions to Safe Haven and Beautiful Creatures, the groups of guys and couples where the man is in control will all head to the Cineplex to see stuff ‘blow-up good’. It becomes more of a thrill ride than a film.
Lastly, here’s a drinking game to play while watching this Die Hard flick. Every time Bruce mentions that he is on vacation, take a drink. In 90 minutes, you will be totally hammered. And being totally hammered is the best way to enjoy this flick.