A Good Day to Die Hard is the latest chance to follow super-cop John McClane as he bloodies up another t-shirt in the name of accidental justice. But while it’s got some good action, it’s more frustrating than fun.
McClane (Bruce Willis) still works for the NYPD, a career choice which has decimated his family relationships. He’s patched things up with daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but lost track of son Jack (Jai Courtney), who last appeared to be on a downward spiral. Friends on the police force have now tracked Jack to Moscow, where he’s due in court on a murder charge. McClane hops a plane to Russia, unsure of how to help his son, but determined to do so.
What McClane doesn’t know, however, is that Jack is actually an undercover CIA agent, working a plan to rescue a political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from underworld forces out to kill him before he can reveal their secrets. McClane’s interference with the escape plan reunites him with his son, but burns all of Jack’s assets in the process, and now the pair have to work alone to protect the world from an elaborately-plotted nuclear weapons heist.
Let’s face it: the previous Die Hard sequels have never been able to re-capture the magic of the original, and this one doesn’t either. The big problem is this one barely even tries. For one thing, there’s no strong villain. A quirky lead gunman (Rasha Bukvic) and Komarov’s double-crossing daughter (Yuliya Snigir) do most of the evil heavy-lifting, but by the time we’re properly introduced to the real bad guy, it’s too late for him to do anything menacing. There’s no banter, no mind games, and nothing for McClane to work against.
And that’s only one of the ways our hero is neutered. The father-son team-up is a fine idea, but McClane has always worked best as a solo act. Here, while Jack struggles with what to do next, his dad stands idle a lot of the time. McClane’s superior instincts aren’t used well, either – he always smells the rat, but too late to do anything about it. And writer Skip Woods’ running gag of McClane shouting “I’m on vacation!” seems more Lethal Weapon than Die Hard. Willis is as reliable as ever, but you can practically see him begging for something to do. Courtney makes a good partner, but no one else in the film is picking up the slack.
The direction by John Moore is hit-and-miss. He paces the action well, and the climactic rooftop battle with a helicopter is spectacular, but his visuals are otherwise drab. Why does every movie set in Russia have to look so grey and depressing?
A Good Day to Die Hard is an okay action movie, with thrilling chases, loud explosions, and more vehicle damage than a hundred scrapyards, and if it hadn’t associated itself with the Die Hard name, it might have been seen as just that. As it is, though, this looks like a cash grab, and the movie’s failure to understand its lead character is just disappointing.
Tags: Movie Review