The Die Hard franchise has surprisingly endured for 25 years now that the fifth film in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard, has been released and I’ve liked the majority of them regardless of their varying quality. Most people hate Live Free or Die Hard, but I feel that it traded in mindless violence for great stunts and spectacle while Die Hard 2 is a fan favorite which I find dumb and repetitive. The critical and fan reaction to A Good Day to Die Hard has been abysmal to say the least. I, on the other hand, found it to be a fun yet highly uneven action picture.
New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Moscow to find his wayward son Jack (Jai Courtney) when he learns he’s involved with the Russian mafia. John learns quickly that he is a CIA operative trying to stop a madman from pulling off a nuclear weapons heist. Together they attempt to stop them before it’s too late.
Out of all the Die Hard flicks this one is the most reserved. It doesn’t involve a large cast or a massive amount of real estate and it doesn’t outstay its welcome being that it’s the shortest film in the series (98 minutes). There’s plenty of action for adrenaline junkies to sink their teeth into and we finally get to see John’s long talked about son, but there’s surprisingly little else going on here. Writer Skip Woods (Swordfish, The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) managed to write a Die Hard movie that doesn’t exactly feel like a Die Hard movie. Is it a good thing to balk at tradition? Yes and no. Sure there’s a nice theme of how a parent’s decisions shape their children, but outside of that the whole affair is generic and a little boring when something isn’t blowing up. But the idea of an everyman caught in a ridiculous situation is pretty much abandoned here because Woods makes McClane out to be an indestructible killing machine that passed his mutant gene on to his offspring. Unfortunately all the one-liners were lame.
I’m just going to say it outright and be honest… I have issues with director John Moore. I’ve seen every one of his features (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix remake, The Omen remake and Max Payne) and I haven’t liked a single one of them. I don’t understand why he’s still working in Hollywood since nearly every one of his films have bombed. He’s a visually oriented director who always focuses on how everything looks as opposed to if the movie is actually working. The same goes here since he seemed to put all his energy into making sure the multiple action scenes are as spectacular as they possibly can be, and they are. When the real plot and character moments come around they are clunky and forced due to his inane direction.
Bruce Willis, as I mentioned in my review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, wears an embarrassed smirk for the entire runtime. I don’t know if he even takes any role seriously anymore, but for the past couple of years he’s been taking on any job that comes his way. Not unlike Nicolas Cage. I like Bruce Willis and all, but he needs to start reading his scripts a little more closely, especially if it’s a part of the franchise that put him on the map. He’s not bad in the film, but he’s not great either.
Jai Courtney, who recently co-starred in Jack Reacher and is on his way to being the next Brad Pitt, fares much better as McClane’s son. You can just tell by his energy level that he’s stoked to now be a part of this series and he makes his thinly written character work regardless. He’s a good actor that’s going places.
The actors cast as the Russian characters are decent, but nothing to write home about. The main villain of Alik, played by Rasha Bukvic, is not really all that threatening. His master plan, which does serve up a few unpredictable twists and turns, is kind of lame. Sebastian Koch and Yuliya Snigir, who play father and daughter and are a major part of the overall plot, are okay as well. Out of all the films in this franchise this one serves up some of the least interesting secondary characters of them all.
I did mention at the start of this review that I found the movie fun, right? Yes, I did. I wasn’t being facetious since I did find this movie on the whole entertaining. The action scenes feature some truly awesome moments, especially the epic car chase through Moscow. There are a handful of moments that made me gasp and it is shot extremely well. There are other action scenes that are rad as well, but going into detail about them would go into spoiler territory. There’s one particular shot in the finale which is breathtakingly amazing, but was ruined in the commercials. If I hadn’t seen it prior to watching the actual film it might have had even more impact.
I also mentioned the theme about parents and their children running through the film. It was a great surprise to find something like that in an action film such as this where messages are usually nowhere to be found. The final shot being the topping on the cake. I won’t go into more detail for those that wish to see the movie.
While this flick isn’t the best action movie of 2013 by a long shot, it is entertaining if you don’t bring the baggage of the franchise with you. On its own it’s a flawed piece of enjoyment. I can’t complain too much about it because when it was over I had a grin on my face and a need to rewatch the previous films. I can honestly say that I liked A Good Day to Die Hard more than the second film, but the others were still far superior.
Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia indeed.
3 out of 5