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A Good Day To Die Hard Review

7 min read

A Good Day To Die Hard
A Good Day To Die Hard
While the family is just as fractured as ever, it doesn’t stop John McClane from doing what needs to be done. Even if it doesn’t need to be done.

What They Say:
Since the first “Die Hard” in 1988, John McClane has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the skills and attitude to always be the last man standing, making him enemy #1 for terrorists the world over. Now, McClane faces his greatest challenge ever, this time on an international stage, when his estranged son Jack is caught up in the daring prison escape of a rogue Russian leader, and father and son McClane must work together to keep each other alive and keep the world safe for democracy.

The Review:
As is the curse from many movies from the 80’s, sequels never live up to the original. Die Hard certainly earned its place during that decade as quite the big movie and it holds up pretty well in the decades since. With each of the sequels, there’s strong fans for each of them, though the critics of course take far different paths with them. It’s been a couple of years since I last saw them, with the four feature collection that came out on Blu-ray, but I enjoyed all of them in their differences that followed, though the core problem remained. While John McClane is the lead and defining character, the sort of action everyman caught in situations spiraling out of control, each film had to put him in some new locale in order to make it work. Yet the reason the first one worked so well was the freshness of it but also the way that it was a small space, even in a big building. It was tight and controlled rather than sprawling and expansive, something that doesn’t quite fit the character, even if it works on some occasions in the sequels.

With A Good Day To Die Hard, the series continues to advance in the timeline which works to its favor, giving us an older John McClane that’s quite a few years past what happened in the original. His familial relationships have changed, with his daughter Lucy (with Mary Elizabeth Winstead reprising her role for a cameo here), things are better than before. The same can’t be said for his son Jack as the two haven’t spoken in three years. Things change quickly though as Jack, who has apparently been spending his time in Russia, becomes involved in the murder of a well known Russian man and is quickly arrested and set for trial. That gets John on a plane to come and see his son and to figure out what’s going on, though that aspect of it feels less than clear as there’s no sense that he’s made any contacts within the Russian police or legal system in order to actually get in touch with him in some way. All he intends to do is to just show up at the trial, though not even get inside.

The first act of the film brings us into a lot of movements within Russia as there are those in the position of power in the state, a man named Viktor, who wants a file that a man named Komarov has. Komarov is a political prisoner who has lost his life, but there are dark secrets from his shared past with Viktor that has him wanting to go through the process of trial and more. But his plans aren’t what they seem as what Jack had done was all in order to get closer to Komarov in order to free him, which another team has a plan for as well to happen at the same time. All the plans go to crap quickly at the courthouse as the escape does not go as planned, but Jack’s takes a supremely unexpected turn when his escape truck practically runs into his father. From there it just barrels forward as twists and turns are revealed about the true nature of the characters until it all comes to a big, explosive conclusion.

Being a Die Hard movie, plot is fairly thin and it’s more about set pieces and moving along to get to the end, which happens fairly quickly after the first act as the film clocks in at just under a hundred minutes. The first act is the hardest since it’s throwing a lot of Russian characters at you and a less than clear storyline, one that pivots significantly in third act as more of the truth is revealed and things were not as they seemed. The first act is also hurt by John McClane himself as it really, really feels like a grandpa kind of character. Though I love Bruce Willis in many movies, including the things he did in RED and other films as he gets older, it simply doesn’t translate well here in this franchise for some reason. A lot of it is the terrible dialogue that he gets to spout and the regular refrain about being on vacation as things get heated around him with the action. While he does all the action well and it’s believable for the character based on the previous four movies, it’s the personality. There’s a weariness to him here that while appropriate in some ways, simply doesn’t make him engaging to watch.

It also doesn’t help that Jack and John have no real chemistry together. Some of it is certainly understandable considering the years apart from each other and the discovery along the way in the first act that Jack is working for the CIA. That whole angle does make a certain amount of sense and you can see how he’d be useful in some ways, but as we watch the operation he’s involved in go completely to hell, the CIA angle is practically dropped from there on out as it’s just Jack and John working together. Once he becomes a “burnable” asset, there’s no real mention of the organization in terms of usefulness to the situation. It comes up a bit as John can’t believe he fell into that life and all it entails, but even that is just superficial at best. The whole thing plays as the man on his own routine that has permeated all the movies, albeit this time as a pairing, but even in most of those movies the support team of the police or something else was still present throughout it.

While the character of John McClane obviously is the defining character of the franchise, the action is just as important. And there’s a lot of it here, though most of it just feels like set pieces rather than important pieces. The smaller bits early on are interesting but it goes big in the first act with the car chase that happens after the escape from the courthouse. There are some basic chase scene bits in here and with the Russian locale it at least doesn’t look exactly like every other American based on, but it also just goes further than it should. When they do the launches off of the upper decks or John taking the pickup all over the other cars, the scale of destruction is just too much and it becomes more of a joke than anything else. Things do settle down a bit more from there, such as the next big piece inside the hotel – and outside as well – which pushes its luck a little but at least feels a bit more personal and connected with the characters. The third act has a few different things going on but the overall scale of it is fun, even if by that point the twists have made you just laugh at what’s going on more than anything else. Shifting the story to Chernobyl has its positives to be sure and it does make for a neat twist overall, but it also just feels too easy.

In Summary:
While you can see this as a bit of a transitional movie if they attempt to shift anything further with Jack McClane, it’s not something I can actually see happening, no matter how much I like Jai Courtney after his run as Varro in the first season of Spartacus. This feature is a kind of mild send off to the franchise that really put Bruce Willis on the map in the feature film world and part of me is glad that he can still get out there and do all of this. But because of the dialogue used, the pacing and the weaker script, it ends up making him feel even older than he is and more of a Murtaugh here than anything else. The pairing has its awkward moments as it works towards the inevitable coming together of the two men as father and son. While we had reconciliation in a previous film between John and his daughter Lucy, it makes sense to add this little touch here, even if the character was barely seen across the previous four films. Yet in the end, A Good Day To Die Hard just doesn’t feel like it lives up to the name of the franchise with what came before. It had a lot of potential but the poor script which feels like it would have worked better outside of this particular franchise just hamstrings it far too often. In the end, it just makes me want to go back to the original again and enjoy that while mostly forgetting about this one.

Grade: C

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