“A Good Day to Die Hard” tarnishes the family name by gutting the iconic action series, tossing its core in front of an incoming armored truck and losing any chance at redemption as it gets mowed down by a volley of helicopter gunfire.
Question: What’s the worst way to damage a legacy’s reputation? Answer: Turning said legacy into something it isn’t.
The debut of “Die Hard” in 1988 had a significant impact on the development of the action film genre, not to mention catapulted Bruce Willis to movie stardom. “Die Hard 2” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” soon came to fruition, and then “Live Free or Die Hard” successfully reignited the series after a 12-year hiatus. What could’ve been a solid follow-up to bolster the newly regained momentum ends up becoming a monstrosity that barely resembles the Willis action vehicle we remember.
There is no reason to rejoice as soon as the catchphrase “Yippee-ki-yay…” is uttered by Willis; as far I’m concerned, this “Die Hard” is one gigantic mess that can’t be fixed.
John McClane (Willis) travels to Moscow, Russia, to help out his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney), not knowing at first that Jack is actually working for the CIA to thwart a nuclear weapons heist. With waves of Russian henchmen pursuing them, and fighting to a prevent a terrorist plot from succeeding, both father and son come to realize that their differing approaches to eliminating bad guys make them an unstoppable duo.
So how exactly does the fifth “Die Hard” episode derail everything the series has worked so hard to achieve?
First of all, the action sequences don’t contain the “Die Hard” spirit. The Moscow car chase takes too big a page out of the “Mission: Impossible” book, and the climactic showdown in Chernobyl feels too much like a bad video game. If I had to guess what was going on inside director John Moore’s head during production, I’d say he was under the impression that going bigger was better. Obviously this man knows nothing about what it takes to stay true to the essence of Willis’ legendary action series.
Those who have seen the “Die Hard” films are well aware the stories are not meant to be Oscar-worthy material. But while the first four films at least had stories that served their purpose and were interesting to watch, the fifth one doesn’t even try to adhere to that tradition. I blame screenwriter Skip Woods for this failure; the whole “nuclear weapons plot” comes off as too hollow and outdated, and likely to bore moviegoers, especially fans.
As usual, Bruce Willis is in his element when he’s delivering old school justice to the bad guys. Somehow, though, the fifth time around doesn’t truly belong to him. If anything, Jai Courtney (“Spartacus” and “Jack Reacher”) is the center of attention, and I think the film would’ve been better off if it had focused on him instead of his co-star. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a cameo appearance as Lucy McClane, adding a nice dose of continuity at the beginning that has little effect on the explosive chain of events afterwards.
The villains are just as forgettable as their “hitmen” comrades six years ago. Sebastian Koch navigates the set pieces with a tired, bored expression. Radivoje Bukvi’s thrill-seeking personality and dance moves are an insult to the charismatic menace exuded by Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons from first and third films, respectively. Yuliya Snigir was certainly formidable and fanatical, but she only gets to play second fiddle here.
And last but not least, the most recent entry in the “Die Hard” series doesn’t justify the return of the R-rating. The violence feels more like a soft R — akin to that of “The Matrix” — as opposed to a hard R. Willis’ famous catchphrase has no relevance here; you barely hear it and if you, by any chance, do, you’ll be disappointed to see it lacks meaning.
It pains me to say this, but “A Good Day to Die Hard” just isn’t the “Die Hard” we know and appreciate.
MPAA rating: R for violence and language.
Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Playing: General release