A Good Day to Die Hard
Release Date: February 14, 2013
Director: John Moore
Writers: Skip Woods, Roderick Thorp (certain original characters)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch
MPAA Rating: R
Die Hard stands tall as the greatest action film ever made. The original film is the perfect blend of underdog story, gripping action film and buddy cop movie. The one-liners are funny, the emotional elements work and both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman are fantastic.
It’s a formula that has Hollywood has been attempting to replicate ever since. Action films have been described (and most likely pitched to movie executives) as “Die Hard on a bus” or “Die Hard on a train.” And Bruce Willis himself has now starred in four Die Hard sequels (and countless other action films in which he played John McClane-esque characters).
The reason that the Die Hard formula is so often replicated is because it’s one that works. While none of its official or unofficial successors have quite lived up to the original, some have been quite good. The Die Hard sequels themselves have been a mixed bag – Die Hard With A Vengeance was quite good, Die Harder was a shell of the first film and Live Free or Die Hard was somewhere in the middle.
I’m sad to report that A Good Day to Die Hard is officially the low point of the franchise. Even as the fifth film in an aged franchise, its bad. By any measurable metric, it is an utterly dull and poorly executed film. It lacks all of the charm and the fun of the previous four films. It’s a terrible thud of a movie that when the credits roll leaves you wondering what it was that you just watched.
The plot feels like it was hastily thrown together during someone’s lunch break. After Live Free or Die Hard focused on John McClane’s fractured relationship with his daughter, the powers that be decided to focus this one on his relationship with his son. It makes perfect sense, but then they decided to set the film in Russia for some reason. And they decided to make McClane’s son a CIA operative. Why they did this is anyone’s guess.
The biggest problem is that writer Skip Woods just didn’t feel like putting in the work to make the film interesting. McClane is just handed a file that tells him that his son is in trouble and in Russia. Woods never bothers to explain why McClane was worried about his son in the first place or what Jack (Jai Courtney) has been up to since we last saw him in 1988 as a small child being exploited by smarmy newsman Richard Thornburg.
When John finds Jack, it becomes clear that their relationship is strained, but again Woods never fills us in on the backstory. With Live Free or Die Hard, it was made clear that John McClane had been a bit of an absentee father who was now being overprotective of his college-aged daughter. We got a clear sense of what their relationship was and why even though Lucy still loved him, she often didn’t like him. It was also a nice parallel to the first film, in which John and his wife Holly had a similarly strained relationship, but one that was clearly still built on love. (Interestingly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns in this film for a brief cameo as Lucy, though she sadly isn’t given much to do.)
This film tries to mirror that dynamic, but in the laziest way possible. Jack McClane, like Holly and Lucy before him, starts off the film not wanting to take his dad’s name. And its clear the two had a falling out at some point. But we never get a sense of who Jack actually is (outside of a bad ass superspy) or what their relationship is like. It’s also just broad strokes without any concrete details or anything that makes them feel like real people with an actual father/son relationship.
The rest of the film is similarly as half-baked. The plot (as much as there is one) centers around a Russian named Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who is ready to turn on his boss and turn over evidence about a nuclear bomb plot. Jack McClane is tasked with protecting him. Kamarov also has a sexy, bad ass daughter named Irina (Yuliya Snigir) who exists almost purely as eye candy.
Surprisingly, the film actually has a pretty entertaining climax. In spite of itself, it ends up giving the audience a grand finale filled with the explosions and fire fight you would expect from a Die Hard film. Unfortunately, by that point, the film has so completely destroyed all the good will viewers had going in so I found myself being hard pressed to care at all what was happening. And when a John McClane film has me not caring about him blowing things up and shouting “Yippie-ki-yay,” then you know things have gone horrible wrong.
The original Die Hard is such a brilliant film worthy of all of the imitators than have come after it. A Good Day to Die Hard is unlikely to be the last of the Die Hard imitators (or even the last official Die Hard sequel, if Bruce Willis’ recent comments are to be believed). So take solace in the fact that while this is a horrible film that is nothing but the palest of imitations of the original that we likely won’t have to wait long for another, better Die Hard-esque film to come along.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at email@example.com.