A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, 2013
Director: John Moore
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Patrick Stewart
Review by Matthew Toffolo
John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.
A famous poet once said 'it's better to burn out than to fade away.' I think it was Shakespeare. If John McClane (Bruce Willis) read more he'd know that and would have cashed in his chips after Die Hard 4: Die Harderer. But he didn't so now we get to find out if it really is 'A Good Day To Die Hard.'
It's five years on from 'Live Free or Die Hard' and John McClane is still stuck re-living the 80s. That is, desperately trying to repair strained personal relationships with family members, helped along by the timely intervention of gun-toting terrorists. After spending 2 ½ films working on his marriage, and another movie arguing with daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it's son Jack Jr.'s (Jai Courtney) turn. That's going to be tough since Jack is in a Moscow jail after shooting a Russian businessman. You can see where this is going.
It became clear after 'Die Hard 2' that what sequels really needed were to get away from the 'trapped in a…' meme while still maintaining the underdog feel of the original. After the fourth version it also started to become clear that there was probably a limit to how far away you can actually get before you stop actually making a 'Die Hard' film at all. That and 20th Century Fox are determined to keep a 20 year old actor on the screen with him as often as possible.
If 'A Good Day To Die Hard' doesn't exactly pass that mark it's certainly within spitting distance of it.
McClane being the rush in type of guy we've come to know he jumps onto a plane to try and straighten out Jack before it's too late. This being a Die Hard film things are not what they seem and faster than you can say 'Yippekiyay' McClane and son find themselves duking it out with an armored car on the Moscow freeway trying to rescue political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch).
It's the first and best of an increasingly unlikely series of action sequences eventually ending with the McClane's going mano a helicopter-o with Komarov's duplicitous daughter (Yuliya Snigir), one of several villains in the film all of whom meld together after a while.
Which pretty much sums 'Die Hard' up. There's nothing inventive or original about it. It's just a bog standard action film which garners nothing from its legacy except to remind us of older, better days.
Director Moore is competent enough at action sequences—he's done enough of these by now to know how make a cogent action scene even if he has yet to put that together into an interesting movie. The real problem is that unlike McClane, 'Die Hard' seems to have finally run out of luck. When it worked it was a shining example of what the studio action film could achieve. Skilled craftsmen turned the inspiration of generally uninspired writers into brilliant entertainment (even 'Die Hard 2' has its moments), that's greater than the sum of its parts.
You can't get away with that forever. Moore is certainly a skilled craftsman, even if none of his films have been particularly good at least they're generally well made. And writer Skip Woods ('Swordfish,' 'G.I. Joe') is certainly uninspired. On the surface they're not that different from the team who made the first few films, but the final product couldn't be more different. In nothing else than in the script which seems like a pre-existing story McClane was simply shoved in to and has very little stake in once he finds his son.
Yeah there's been worse action films than 'A Good Day To Die Hard.' There may have even been worse 'Die Hard' films. But there has never been one so forgettable, and that's the most damming thing about it.