Never has anyone said the immortal words “fifth time’s a charm” but the latest edition of everyone’s favourite “average Joe”, put-upon cop in extraordinary circumstances (better known as Die Hard) tries to convince you of that with further toning down of violence and walking away from it’s original concept. Does this make it a success? Absolutely not!
Sent to meet his tearaway son Jack (Jai Courtney, Jack Reacher) after being put on trial in Moscow, John McClane (Bruce Willis, Looper) travels to Mother Russia to bond after years of no communication. However, Jack is secretly part of the CIA charged with getting former disgraced billionaire Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch, Unknown) out of the country, as he has information on a dodgy politician. Unjarred by this revelation, the aging McClane teams up with his son to prevent the information falling into the wrong hands.
Slipping back into the same role for the fifth time can get tiresome for any actor and Willis shows it here. He doesn’t wander into ‘lazy Bruce’ territory which he can be accused of, being on autopilot in Looper and Red, but he can definitely do better. There is an uninterested aura floating around him the entire runtime and it reflects back on audience attention through to the credits. To be fair, he’s hardly saddled with an interesting situation or any decent one-liners and commentary that we want from McClane but he doesn’t attempt to make the best of a bad situation either.
The simply unbelievable Jack (played by Courtney) damages any previous realism the series had. A new sidekick every sequel is never a good thing but when it’s a typical macho “I hate my dad!” type who is musclebound and boring, it crashes Die Hard into new realms of poorness. It says something when McClane’s son is worse than Justin Long. Koch as dodgy Komarov has an okay amount of charisma for a villain but it’s nothing that could save this movie.
But the bunk acting and cast is the least of A Good Day’s problems. Director John Moore has an okay action film resume (including Behind Enemy Lines, Flight Of The Phoenix and Max Payne) so you can understand why he was tapped to wheel out a fifth Die Hard but he’s managed to take a film with a $90 million budget and make it look absolutely terrible. Of course, filming in the various Eastern Europe locations doesn’t make it look extravagant, but even the various bits of CGI look crap, and it could have easily looked better.
Even the fight sequences look bad. There is an attempt to modernise the fighting into our old friend fluster-vision, but it’s shot by someone who doesn’t have a clue how to do it right… i.e. Moore. As much as I hate the confusing, hard to tell action scenes films like The Bourne Identity brought to us, to see it done in near slow-mo, with awkward angles makes it look like a parody. Some of the action sequences were decent; the slide down the construction tube was pretty neat (if unoriginal), some of the Garden ring-road car chases round Moscow were pepped up by innovative crashes and driving and the appearance of any “killdozer” is always a plus.
Yet despite some decent building over the series it’s hard to buy any animosity between Father and Son McClane; Jack isn’t sympathetic as he’s constantly screaming about John being a bad dad, and working all the time, despite the fact that we as an audience have seen McClane save the day on no less than four occasions. Whilst we give him a free pass, we’re not trained to think why we should think any different of him either. The way they reconcile just happens as well as there’s no time to think in the brakeless pace of the film.
The brutal decision to keep the latest instalment of the Die Hard franchise a low 12A rating kills off any respect and hopes you may have had for A Good Day To Die Hard. Limiting the violence hurts the name and history of the previous films; built on the raw realism John McClane goes through. Cutaways right before moments which could have potentially saved the film just exacerbate the situation. McClane hardly gets hurt on screen, bad guys don’t bleed, and we hardly see anyone getting shot or dying on camera. The worst possible insult is confirmed with an awful, clumsy cutaway right before the F-bomb is dropped as McClane is delivering his signature “Yipee Ki Yay Motherfucker” sign off… 3 seconds after saying the word “shit” on camera. I really don’t get the lowering at all; there is already a built in audience dying to see anything with the name Die Hard slapped on top of it; why do studio executives think it’s a good idea to change the premise and tone of properties to appeal to newcomers? The Die Hard audience is not going to have left all of a sudden after 25 years, but they may do now!
So, does A Good Day To Die Hard (shocking name) live up to the legacy of the franchise? No. Definitely not. It doesn’t have the same feel of the “normal man, extraordinary situation” that the first three and parts of four pull off well. Never, at any point in the film, does McClane feel like a normal man anymore. Of course with four previous films, the art of diminishing returns is a factor, but when he simply picks up a ridiculous mini gun and demolishes a whole bunch of black-ops terrorists with no trouble, McClane’s propelled into being another standard action hero with no heart, and an invincible aura about him. He doesn’t take damage like in previous flicks, nor do you ever fear for his safety. The villains are shocking, with muddied intentions and possibly the most pointless suicide/revenging daughter scene ever. Overall, it’s doesn’t even have the key to the shop where you’d buy the candle it doesn’t hold up to Die Hard. Not even the fourth one.
I saw a pre-10 year old boy with his parents watching this movie. Is this what you want to target now Fox? Pre-teens? It’s clear that A Good Day To Die Hard is a bit of an experiment to see how well audiences would accept a cheaper, lighter, modern-day version of the now improbable adventures of John McClane,but critical scorn and less than stellar box office returns mean this should be counted as a disappointment. What would have otherwise been a below average action film, is plunged further down the quality scale by association with Die Hard; meaning today really is A Good Day to not watch this movie.