Some of you may remember that I had not seen the original Die Hard until several months ago (At which point it promptly became my favorite action movie of all time). Before that, I had only seen the three sequels, which were definitely weaker but still a lot of fun. My biggest surprise was that the most recent entry, Live Free or Die Hard, ended up ranking as my second favorite of the entire series. Even with its much maligned PG-13 rating, it still kept the McClane saga running with some of the most ridiculous action stunt-work I’d ever seen. With that entry so close in the rear view mirror, it seemed like the fifth entry into the series would be following the example set by that film. Not only did the trailers feature over-the-top action, further explorations of the McClane family tree and One Liners galore, but it also promised a new locale that had yet to be completely destroyed by John’s hijinks: Mother Russia. Unfortunately, what could have been a fun, refreshing change of pace form the doldrums of the winter movie system ended up as nothing more than an unremarkable (albeit high-budget) geezer action flick. A Good Day To Die Hard checks of all of the necessary boxes in terms of high-octane action, but the lack of a single shred of substance in between the shootouts and chase sequences makes it very difficult to recommend.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack (Jai Courtney), only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.
That’s the bulk of it but there’s a twist near the end that I wasn’t even able to follow. At its best, a Die Hard movie should be ACTION ACTION plot ACTION plot ACTION ACTION roll credits. The writers seemed to think those what the franchise was in need of was a good incomprehensible twist, and that’s just not the case.
As I mentioned before, I loved John McClane circa 1988. I liked him in 1990 and 1995 and then loved him in 2007. 2013 marks the first year in the Die Hard catalog in which I can honestly say I didn’t even like him, though to be fair that isn’t so much a fault of Willis as it is a fault with the god-awful writing in this movie. Sure, he gets to toss around a few one-liners and maintain the cocky persona that was brought to a new level in the previous film, but they also paint him as incredibly obtuse to the point where his son’s mission would have likely gone just fine had he never interfered. Watching John McClane cleaning up his own mess without even apologizing for it is not nearly as interesting as watching John McClane saving his wife or daughter from just about anyone.
Jai Courtney (Who some of you might remember as Varro from Spartacus: Blood and Sand or as the bad guy from last November’s Jack Reacher) is completely fine as John’s son Jack, but the angsty father-son dynamic between him and John throughout the entire movie feels more at home in a high school setting than in international espionage. If the past movies have shown anything, it’s that John McClane comes across best when he is either alone or accompanied by some innocent tag-along like Samuel L. Jackson or Justin Long, but the inclusion of those tag-alongs only really worked because they gave someone for John to impress, save or make surprisingly nonchalant comments to in the midst of a life or death situation. When you add the equally capable son Jack to the mix, it robs McClane of a lot of the badass factor that made the previous movies so great.
To touch on the villains, there are three main occupants of that role here and none of them comes close to even the weakest bad guys of the previous films. The first, a mercenary named Alik (Radivoje Bukvic) crosses the line between eccentric and silly far to often to be taken seriously. The Second, Alik’s boss and prospective defense minister of Russia, Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), is given very little attention at all which feels like a huge missed opporunity. The third villain I will remain nameless as they factor in significantly to the twist I referred to up above. In any case, Hans Gruber could eat amateurs like this for breakfast.
This is the only aspect of the film that delivers on its promises. Between some solid chase scenes, (which nevertheless include a huge amount of vehicular product placement and a baffling amount of civilian casualties) an ample amount of helicopter swinging and enough rare gun varieties to make an NRA member wet himself (seriously though, it doesn’t matter who a bad guy is as long as he’s carrying an AUG w/ a grenade launcher attachment and a holographic sight), the action levels here will at least make the average viewer not completely regret spending eleven bucks on the experience.
The Verdict: 5.0/10 Mediocre
+ All of the ridiculously over-the-top action we’ve come to expect from the franchise
– Distractingly complicated plot
– The McClane father-son dynamic is incredibly cliche and annoying
– The villains are by far the weakest in the series
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
The Focused Filmographer: 3.0/5
Tim’s Film Reviews: 60%
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5.0/10 (0.5/10 by Die Hard standards)
Cinematic Katzenjammer: 5.0/10
The Code is Zeek: 2.0/5
Black Sheep Reviews: 2.0/5
Amonynous Reviews: 1/5