Bruce Willis returns as John McClane for his fifth outing in A Good Day to Die Hard! But does it live up to the standards of the franchise or fall short? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: John Moore Written By: Skip Woods and Jason Keller Runtime: 97 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
John McClane - Bruce Willis John “Jack” McClane, Jr. - Jai Courtney Lucy McClane - Mary Elizabeth Winstead Yuri Komarov - Sebastien Koch Chagarin - Sergey Kolesnikov Alik - Rasha Bukvic Irina - Yulia Snigir Collins - Cole Hauser Murphy - Amaury Nolasco
Usually when a movie franchise hits say its fourth or fifth installment, the concept is getting tired or old hat. Not really playing the exception to the rule is A Good Day to Die Hard the fifth outing for the blue collar New York detective John McClane (Willis). Willis is back as McClane for his fifth outing. McClane continues to attract trouble like no other. While A Good Day to Die Hard is a basic, watchable action romp it in no way reaches the past heights of the franchise and comes nowhere close to the original which remains a modern classic.
A Good Day to Die Hard continues with a similar thread introduced in Live Free or Die Hard in utilizing McClane’s latest misadventure as a way to mend fences with his estranged family. In Live Free or Die Hard, it was with his daughter Lucy (Winstead back here for basically a bookended cameo). This time around, John has to make things right with his absentee son Jack (Courtney). For those expecting some type of return of Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia), don’t bother. This go around, she is not even worthy of a token aside mention. The one joke about her bad cooking that was spammed in the TV spots didn’t even make it into the final cut.
John receives word that Jack is in Russian police custody so after not having seen him in years decides to pack up and go to Russia to see if he can help. Jack’s incarceration however was in fact part of a calculated plan. You see Jack is a CIA operative. He got arrested in order to get close to a political prisoner by the name of Komarov (Koch). Komarov is preparing to testify in court, and he apparently has evidence that could incriminate a high ranking, corrupt Russian politician named Chagarin (Kolesnikov). The CIA wants to prevent Chagarin from gaining power in Russia, and Jack is sent in to protect Komarov from Chagarin’s forces.
John stumbles to the courthouse when Chagarin’s thugs led by the dancing-minded Alik (Bukvic) make their play and basically blow up the courthouse. Jack is able to extract Komarov, but John – unaware of his son’s true profession – intervenes. This prevents Jack from running his planned extraction and he gets chased halfway across Moscow by Alik in hot pursuit in his tricked out truck tanker with John not far behind. This is the first big action set-piece in the movie and it is perhaps one the most overdone and ridiculous ones in the franchise history . . . ok maybe not as ridiculous as John surfing on top of a truck in third movie. But the property damage and complete and total disregard for innocent people and other civilian drivers in this sequence especially the hero John is borderline offensive. OK yes, there was the cab drive through the park in the third movie as well, but this go around it looks like John is aiming to hit people in order to get more points. They’re Russian, who cares, right? With his plan A blown, Jack reluctantly brings John along back to his safe house to regroup. Komarov is willing to provide the CIA with the evidence against Chagarin provided they get him and his daughter Irina (Snigir) out of Moscow safely. However, Irina looks to be happily be in the employ of Chagarin already. There a couple plot twists thrown in, but you get the idea. It’s a Die Hard movie not The Usual Suspects.
At 97 minutes, this is the shortest film in the franchise’s history and it doesn’t do the movie justice. The movie does have a quick pace to it, but nothing ever really sinks in. The plot came off extremely rushed. This was a very cobbled-together, cookie cutter plot. Most of the plot and exposition is delivered in this jumbled fashion so you don't really know what's going on but can kind of glean it in a haphazard way. The movie is pretty much a sprint and like a cliff notes Die Hard movie.
What also hurts A Good Day to Die Hard is that there is virtually no supporting cast at all. There are some minor characters who come and go quickly, but I enjoy the previous Die Hard movies that tend to have a colorful and eclectic cast of memorable characters from the secondary to the tertiary members of the story on down. I like the Die Hard movies where there are a bunch of foils and bureaucrats for McClane to play off of. There are no such characters here. No one really leaves an impression. Snigir could’ve played a cooler femme fatale role like Maggie Q in Live Free or Die Hard but judging just from the way her first appearance in the movie got slashed, it appears most of her role got cut up or left on the editing bay floor. Hard to believe an R-rated movie shying away from a woman stripping down to her underwear, a shot left undisturbed in the actual trailers for crying out loud. Either this is the case, or screenwriters Jason Keller and Skip Woods just aren’t as good at fleshing out the supporting cast. Woods’ previous credits include such B-grade action schlock as the Hitman movie and also the disappointments that were The A-Team and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Now to the direction by franchise newcomer John Moore. I was quite concerned when Moore got the gig. Moore’s yet to be able to really hit it out of the park in any of his previous efforts. I think he’s shown some interesting stylistic points before, but again most of his efforts have fallen short and I still don’t think he was the right guy for Die Hard. While Live Free or Die Hard is not my favorite in the franchise, I think director Len Wiseman did a great job of handling the action and making it look mostly believable and watchable onscreen. He was able to make a movie that looked and felt like Die Hard. Now with the solid musical score by composer Marco Beltrami, this does sound to a degree like a Die Hard movie, but does it look like one? Unfortunately, that is not the case here. The editing and direction are terrible and literally the worst the franchise has ever seen. Moore opts for lots of hand-held cinematography or “shaky-cam” as its often called by film fans for most of the action sequences. Since Moore is not Paul Greengrass, I don’t think he really knows how to utilize this technique as effectively. He shoots the action scenes way too tight with too many close-ups. I was constantly hoping for a moment where the camera could just be pulled back so one could finally discern exactly what was happening but it never really took place. The good news is that you will not be forced to suffer through the experience in 3D. I was disappointed with the direction of this film much the same way I was with Max Payne, a movie which basically reversed all the high points of the original videogame’s story. The other issue is while the movie has a good soundtrack and sound effects mix, the dialogue was barely audible. It was constantly muffled or almost spoken as a whisper. While the whiz bang sound effects mix was turned up to about 11, the dialogue mix sounded at about a 5.
Now all that being said the movie is not a total loss. Despite everything, it’s hard not to enjoy Bruce Willis playing McClane. There is definitely without a doubt a continued charm and charisma Willis exudes in the role of John McClane. The character is supposed to be this blue collar, average working joe detective who has now become a larger than life legend himself. Jai Courtney is a great performer and he and Willis have a good rapport that’s believable as father and son. I just wish both actors had something better than this kindergarten level dialogue they are forced to speak. Say what you will about the previous installments of the franchise, but they were clever at times in their own way. And none of the previous four movies are as rudimentary as this one.
The 411: If you like Bruce Willis and love action movies, you might enjoy this. If you are a devoted fan of the original and view it as a modern classic and are curious about this one, I'd recommend waiting for Netflix or Redbox. If not, it is worth a matinee viewing at most. I'm not opposed to the franchise continuing, but it seems with a team like John Moore and Skip Woods, Fox decided to go the cheap route with a director who tends to do disappointing, schlocky action movies. If Die Hard is to continue, it will need a much better director and a more competent script.