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 411mania » Movies » Film Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard Review [2]
Posted by Nolan Woodford on 02.18.2013

John McClane: Bruce Willis
John "Jack" McClane, Jr.: Jai Courtney
Lucy McClane: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Yuri Komarov: Sebastian Koch
Irina: Yuliya Snigir
Alik: Rasha Bukvić
Chagarin: Sergey Kolesnikov
Mike Collins: Cole Hauser
Murphy: Amaury Nolasco

20th Century Fox presents a film written by Skip Woods and directed by John Moore.
Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Release Date: February 14, 2013

It's hard to believe it's been a quarter-century since John McClane hopped a flight from New York to see his estranged wife and kids on Christmas and ended up foiling a terrorist plot instead. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman both created legendary characters, using every available resource to try and outsmart one another. For my money, it's the single greatest action movie of all time. To expect any of the subsequent sequels to match it would be downright impossible.

But the sequels have always had something to offer. Die Hard 2: Die Harder went back to the well, substituting a skyscraper for an airport and providing a servicable sequel. Die Hard With a Vengeance remains the series' strongest sequel, thanks to the incredible chemistry of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Twelve years later, the franchise received a complete reboot with Live Free or Die Hard. While the only thing that still made it feel like a Die Hard movie was the name McClane and the "Yippie Ki-Yay" line (which is covered up by a gunshot to get a PG-13 rating, because shooting someone is less dangerous than a naughty word), it's still a fun summer popcorn movie.

The writing then may have been on the wall when then-Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Tom Rothman went on Jim Rome's sports talk radio show in October 2011 to announce a fifth installment of the franchise. I was in my car listening to the announcement, hoping for another enjoyable action flick, if nothing else. But there was something in Rothman's voice when he shrilled the name "John McClane, Jr.!" that told me the run of good-to-classic Die Hard movies was in jeopardy.

I had no idea it was in this much jeopardy.

There may be some semblance of plot to be found in the mess that is A Good Day to Die Hard, but it's clearly not relevant to director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen). Most of the set-up before stuff starts blowing up involves a cute exchange between McClane and a Russian cab driver. The first shot of McClane shows him as tired and perfectly content shooting at practice targets over real bad guys. But, when he hears his estranged son (Courtney) has been arrested in Russia, he hops on a flight to go see him and straighten things out.

McClane is still digesting his in-flight meal by the time he's helped level half of Moscow. A well-timed terrorist attack helps McClane, Jr. escape with a fellow prisoner (Koch) in tow. As he's about to make a clean getaway, he runs into dear old dad - and pulls a gun on him. Stubborn as ever, McClane commandeers multiple vehicles and causes tens of millions of dollars worth of damage trying to run down his son while also being chased by the terrorists. Somehow, I see the John McClane at Nakatomi Plaza trying to find a more nuianced way of tracking down his son than driving a stolen truck over dozens of cars, likely killing multiple innocent people along the way. Moscow's police presence may be an even bigger problem than McClane's reckless driving, as no authority figure of any type is anywhere to be found while the world's seventh largest city is being blown to pieces.

The movie plows through even more mindless destruction for most of its run time, which thankfully is about a half hour shorter than the other installments of the Die Hard franchise. John eventually learns that his son is working for the CIA and he's been in Russia working on a case for three years. Shouldn't a New York cop as resourceful as McClane have an idea of that? And even if Jack hates his dad, wouldn't he tell his mom or sister?

What exactly the case Jack is working is remains sketchy. There are a lot of bad guys, one of whom (Bukvić) eats a carrot and dances while the McClanes are in trouble. (Perhaps I should admire his dedication to health and fitness even under such circumstances.) And it doesn't become clear until the film's final act - which takes place after a quick car ride to Chernobyl (a thousand kilometers away and in another country) - who the baddest of the bad guys are. The McClanes survive certain death so many times before getting to the nuclear disaster area that a little uranium poses the threat of a mosquito bite. McClane, Sr. casually jokes: "I'm not going to grow a third arm, am I?"

As brutally awful and incomprehensible as every situation they're placed into is, A Good Day to Die Hard isn't the fault of its leads. While the John McClane we once knew and loved is dead and buried, Bruce Willis is still a more-than-capable action lead at 57-years-old. Jai Courtney (looking like a clean-shaven version of WWE's Daniel Bryan) is not miscast as his son, either, but father and son are given the impossible task of trying to salvage a baffling script and incoherent direction.

The 411: Much like they did with Homer Simpson, 20th Century Fox has significantly dumbed down John McClane, forcing him to stumble in and out of various unintelligible situations without any sort of rational thought. The mental chess match that McClane once found himself in against Hans Gruber has been traded in for an obnoxious montage of poorly filmed explosions and unnecessary plot twists in a movie with little plot to begin with. If this is going to get passed off as a Die Hard movie, it's a good day to kill off the franchise.
Final Score:  3.5   [ Bad ]  legend


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