Rating: 2 stars out of 5
In the real world, anyone with a total disregard for authority, who manages to find himself caught up with a bunch of bad guys and ends up destroying anything and everything he touches, would be tied up in a straitjacket – and thrown into the deepest darkest hole, with the key thrown away.
But not John McClane. This old school New York City cop has a penchant to find himself in the crosshairs of some very bad people and like the smart-ass he is, tries to save the day (while destroying everything) and then just walking away from it.
McClane (Bruce Willis) has basically done it four times: in a building (he torched it), at the airport (he destroyed a jet), around town (he wrecked most of NYC) and then almost shuts down the entire infrastructure of the United States if he didn’t beat the crap out of some cyber-terrorists.
And now, almost 25 years later, McClane, with his propensity to smell trouble, travels to Moscow, Russia to bring back his wayward son, Jack. The boy is charged with murder but is in fact a CIA operative tasked to whisk away political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch, ‘Unknown’) out of Russia, who then gets entangled with a motley crew of terrorists with a nuclear weapons heist on their agenda.
‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ trailer
We all know how ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ goes from here: mirth and mayhem in Moscow, followed by havoc in radioactive Chernobyl. But even then, the carnage and the movie as a whole pales in comparison to McClane’s earlier outings (‘Die Hard’ and ‘Die Hard 2’).
A lot of the elements that made the ‘Die Hard’ franchise so successful back in the ’80s and ’90s are effectively missing.
One is the lack of a wise-cracking or scheming villain the likes of Alan Rickman’s Han Gruber and Jeremy Irons’ Simon. In this fifth instalment, McClane has to contend instead with a dancing-one-liner-spewing henchman, Alik (Radivoje Bukvic) as well as the stereotypical Russian bad guys.
And two; the movie being in Mother Russia (and the obvious language barrier), there are no officials for McClane to butt heads with. Instead there is a slight role reversal as the only authoritative figure turns out to be McClane himself, in relation to his son Jack, who is played by a serviceable and one-dimensional Jai Courtney (‘Spartacus’).
Three; the filmmakers squandered a good opportunity to further flesh out the relationship between the father-son pair. Yes, we all know there is bad blood between the two but that is never explained. And the attempts at bonding (screaming at each other doesn’t count) are next to negligible.
And last and most importantly; McClane is startlingly unrecognisable from the average Joe-who-finds-himself-at-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time persona that audiences grew to love. Part of the charm of Willis’ John McClane is that he is the everyman – a blue-jeaned underdog who’s willing to roll up his sleeves and step onto the plate. He behaves like a raving lunatic in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, screaming at people, stealing cars, destroying cars and shooting like he’s John Rambo with no disregard to the people around him.
Besides pointing fingers at scriptwriter Skip Woods (‘The A-Team’), some blame should also go to Willis who also gets producing credits. For someone so entrenched in the franchise, Willis should have spotted the muddles in the writing before going on screen raving like a sociopath on the loose in Moscow.
The saving grace in John Moore’s (‘Behind Enemy Line’s, ‘Max Payne’) movie are the action set pieces and boy, there are plenty. From the first car chase scene where McClane takes on a mobile armoured fortress and the high wire helicopter shootout to the grand finale in Chernobyl, everything is grandiose and distinctively ‘Die Hard’.
Although it’s not as smart or witty as its predecessors, ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ is still a thrilling ride if you’re a fan of the franchise. Unlike his peers, Bruce Willis has his “ageing action hero” persona down pat in this fifth ‘Die Hard’ instalment (we hear that he had agreed to appear in a sixth one). Let’s just cross our fingers that the filmmakers will get that one right.