Director: John Moore
Writer: Skip Woods
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir
Release date: February 14th, 2013
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running time: 97 minutes
Best part: Willis and Courtney.
Worst part: The incomprehensible plot.
Remember Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Rocky Balboa and Rambo? These films were sequels that brought their respected series’s back into the spotlight. 80s-era franchises are loved by the masses. Today, studios are milking series’s dry for nostalgia’s sake. Even looking at contemporary film franchises, we currently have six Fast and Furious films, four Terminator films and, now, five Die Hard films. Having watched A Good Day to Die Hard, I believe that this series should follow its title’s own advice.
It’s by far the worst in the series and a waste of time in more ways than one. It’s a cynical exercise in Hollywood politics that completely forgets what made the original the classic that it is. Watching this film, you can see how Hollywood has fallen from where it was in the 80s. The plot of AGDTDH is not important or interesting in any way, but I’m still going to describe it. The seemingly immortal John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back in action. This time around, he must travel to Russia to get his son Jack (Jai Courtney) out of trouble. Jack, a CIA agent, is arrested over a catastrophic assassination attempt. His mission is to set political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) free. Komarov is set to stand trial, but must retrieve a file containing incriminating evidence against corrupt politician Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Before you can say “Yippee Ki-Yay, Mother Russia”, The McClanes, Komarov, and Komarov’s daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir) must travel to Chernobyl to retrieve the file before Chagarin’s henchmen catch up to them.
This film is somehow much dumber than its already pathetic title. It seems that hack writer Skip Woods (Hitman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and hack director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne) have failed to grasp any understanding of this series. It has bigger issues to contend with than just a clichéd narrative. Many action flicks have predictable plots, yet can survive on other strengths. When analysing it as a mindless action flick, AGDTDH is terrible. But when judging it as a Die Hard instalment, it’s even worse. What makes Die Hard one of the best action flicks in history is its basic elements. It contains a simple story aided by many fun and jaw-dropping moments. With the fifth instalment, everything is pumped up to a cartoonish extent. The action set-pieces have an epic sense of scale, yet fail to convince. They stretch both plausibility and patience to breaking point. It’s awkward watching the many distracting and unnecessary visual flourishes at Moore’s disposal. The excessive use of CGI destroys action scenes that should be tangible and enjoyable. However, the stunts, noisy explosions and gunfights are fun. The leaps and bounds made by certain characters are positively baffling and add to this otherwise empty experience.
This film provides a rather uninteresting and inaccurate interpretation of the John McClane character. In the first three films, John McClane was a relatable citizen. He was essentially the action hero version of the ‘Hitchcockian’ lead character; always in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Die Hard 4.0 hit cinemas, that vulnerable side of John McClane vanished and suddenly he was launching cop cars into helicopters. In AGDTDH, he is essentially a superhero. He can jump through windows, crash cars and dodge bullets without receiving any broken bones or concussions. I’m looking forward to seeing him in The Avengers 2. Where the film lost me was in its insanely bombastic car chase. John, Jack and the slimy European baddies use three large vehicles to destroy half of Moscow. They obliterate hundreds of cars and structures in a 10 minute sequence, without receiving disabling injuries or police interference. In fact, the police are strangely vacant throughout this film. John and Jack must fight helicopters, terrorists and bad one-liners by themselves. John also becomes an unlikable and angry tourist. At one point, he knocks out an innocent Russian man for not speaking English. From then on, I found it difficult to care about his struggle.
“The sh*t we do for our kids. Yippie-kai-yay, motherf*cker.” (John McClane (Bruce Willis), A Good Day to Die Hard).
Willis is still charming. He overcomes his putrid dialogue whilst injecting some life into his beloved character for a fifth time. Willis reminds me of my dad- tough, hard-working and bald. He and Courtney have significant chemistry. Courtney, fresh off of his villainous role in Jack Reacher, is charismatic. He does what he can with the inept material here. The relationship between John and Jack fails to ignite. Like the conflict in Die Hard 4.0, the McClanes face-off with both the bad guys and each other. The father-son shouting matches never stop and soon become sitcom-like. John saves Jack’s life, only to be treated with distain. At the same time, John’s comments about Jack’s CIA work are condescending (“The 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey”). The only charming character in AGDTDH is a Frank Sinatra-loving cabbie. Every Die Hard flick should, at the very least, have a strong villain. Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons brought charm and prickly demeanours to their immaculate roles as Hans and Simon Gruber respectively. Even Timothy Olyphant shined as Die Hard 4.0’s computer whiz baddie. Here, there are too many inferior villains. None of them stand out beyond the film’s confusing political espionage sub-plot.
AGDTDH is an example of how not to make an action film. With Die Hard 6 on the horizon, everyone associated should go back to the drawing board. Hollywood’s worst ideas and impulses have been injected into this dumb action flick with the Die Hard name slapped on it. If they are looking for an even stupider title for the next instalment, may I suggest ‘A Die Hard Day’s Night’?