I know that the title of the movie that I’m reviewing is A Good Day to Die Hard, but it actually took some convincing for me to actually believe that this was a part of the Die Hard franchise. Sure, Bruce Willis is in it, and he has the right name, but still…this is a stretch for me to accept. The John McClane we all know and love has become some senior citizen superhero, and while moments of this flick are entertaining, it just isn’t Die Hard. Director John Moore and writer Skip Woods (who previously had an uncredited hand in the penning of Live Free or Die Hard) are overly concerned with making this a loud and violent action movie that they completely disregard the whole point of having Willis become McClane again. I honestly believe that if you took the Die Hard names and connective tissue away and just left us with a generic shoot em up, it would have been a better sell. Everything about this is mediocre, but because of affection for the main character, it just winds up hurting all the more. The sequels have all been ridiculous in one way or another, but this one just up and takes the cake for stupidity.
Our fifth adventure with New York City cop John McClane (Willis) begins with him finding out that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested on murder charges in Russia. Apparently believing that he can somehow help, he heads to the airport, disregarding the advice of his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to not just make a bigger mess of things. He arrives as Jack is about to testify as a witness in the trial of a political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Komarov has many enemies, and there’s immediately an attempt on his life. Jack whisks him away though, and that’s when John finds out that his son isn’t a loser, but a highly trained CIA operative on a mission in Russia. Despite the tension between them, they eventually team up to, wait for it…prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. It’s a ludicrous premise for a Die Hard movie, and it’s made even worse by John staying in the background while Jack takes the lead on things. The plot makes very little sense, but the fun that we should have in watching John complain as he saves the day is severely muted.
Bruce Willis just isn’t even trying here. The signs of fatigue he showed the last time around are obvious this time. Yes, he wise cracks more than he has in years, but he’s also apparently invincible. The days of glass on the floor causing pain are long gone, replaced by an ability for McClane to jump out of windows and land safely a number of stories below. This literally happens a few times, and only gets less believable as it goes on. He’s not exactly helped by Jai Courtney giving a charisma-less performance. He kind of looks like Willis, but Courtney brings very little to the table. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is wasted in what amounts to a bookend cameo, and Cole Hauser shows up in one scene as Jack’s safe house contact. Sebastian Koch is forgettable, and the rest of the cast is even worse. You really only see this movie for Willis, but he’s not in fine form here. ‘Looper’, this is not.
I’ll concede that John Moore knows how to direct action scenes, but he’s overly concerned with making them loud and busy instead of entertaining. In some ways, he’s a good fit for the types of screenplays that Skip Woods specializes in, but the mixture is off here. It’s as if they don’t know what to do with the John McClane character, so they opted to make him a sidekick instead. Making sure he gets his signature line in is hardly enough to get by, but Moore and Woods seem content to just have the character on the screen. That’s not nearly enough for me, and the movie suffers as scene after scene goes by and nothing of any sense happens. Once in a blue moon you’re jolted by a good moment or a cute line, but then it’s back to boredom.
A Good Day to Die Hard is just silly enough to avoid being an actual bad movie, but it’s light years away from being a good one or an acceptable entry into the Die Hard franchise. If this is the direction that the series is moving in, then I really hope a sixth film isn’t in the cards (though I know it likely is). Bruce Willis should have the good sense to retire this character, as John McClane is even more of a relic than he already was. This flick misuses him in every single way that they can, and I’m just ready to give up. It pains me to say it, but these movies are just no longer any fun.
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Tags: Bruce Willis, Cole Hauser, franchise, Jai Courtney, John Moore, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sebastian Koch, sequel, Skip Woods