There’s a reason why Bruce Willis’ John McClane is one of action cinema’s most enduring heroes. It’s because he wasn’t perfect. He was just a regular guy at the wrong place and the wrong time. When people shot at him, he bled. When he got scared, he ran. It’s the fear that drove him, and it’s what separated him from the Arnold and Stallones of his day. It’s his vulnerability that made him relatable, and eventually, iconic.
In A Good Day to Die Hard, McClane travels to Russia to find his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who has recently been arrested. Unbeknownst to him, Jack is an undercover CIA operative tasked with transporting a political prisoner named Komarov (The Lives of Others star Sebastian Koch) to the US. When things begin to heat up, John does something he’s never done in the series before – he unnecessarily embeds himself into the operation, risking the lives of both, Jack and Komarov. It’s at that moment when I realized I wasn’t watching a Die Hard movie anymore, but a bastardization of it.
A Good Day to Die Hard takes everything that we’ve loved about McClane – the wit, the smarts, the attitude and above all, the heart – and exchanges it with the traits of the Terminator. The guy in A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t the McClane of the first three films, or even 2007’s unfairly criticized Live Free or Die Hard. He’s a fearless killing machine who condescends towards everything, punches innocent bystanders who don’t speak English, and survives leaps off skyscrapers, car wreckages, explosions and even nuclear radiation zones without a scratch.
As if these changes weren’t unfortunate enough, there’s the rest of the movie to deal with. Screenwriter Skip Woods, a guy who’s made a career out of penning brain dead action movies with toothpick-thin plots and zero attention to character (Wolverine, Hitman, The A-Team) once again builds on his reputation. A Good Day to Die Hard is 5% plot, 2% character and 93% relentless noise. Instead of trying to give the villains a decent plan or giving McClane and son a proper reason, or any reason for that matter, to explain why they’re estranged, Woods is more interested in coming up with idiotic catchphrases like “I’m on vacation!” and making McClane repeat it over and over again like a grumpy grandpa! This is a plodding, humorless, and predictable movie where nothing makes sense and no one, from Woods to the studio chiefs to Bruce Willis to director John Moore (a fellow practitioner in the art of delivering drivel) cared enough about what they were making before signing on to receive their undoubtedly fat paychecks.
Combine Woods’ witless script with the talents of director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen remake), whose idea of directing action scenes tends to be shooting everything in close-up and shaking the camera as much as possible, plus Bruce Willis’ lifeless performance, and you get the Batman & Robin of the Die Hard franchise.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh and I understand that critiquing a Die Hard movie for plot holes and character development is a fool’s errand but there’s a reason why Die Hard is a seminal film that paved the way for how we view action cinema today. It’s all character and story-driven. Even Live Free or Die Hard, as preposterous as it was, was vastly entertaining. To say this is the worst entry in the now 25-year-old series would be putting it lightly. This isn’t a Die Hard movie. It’s the afterbirth.
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
Directed by: John Moore
Written by: Skip Woods
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch
Rated: R (for gratuitous and relentless noisy violence, language, including the requisite usage of McClane’s signature line and stupidity).