When it comes to action movie franchises, few have ever had the acclaim of Die Hard. After the generally mixed reviews of its previous installment, 20th Century Fox went to John Moore to direct A Good Day to Die Hard. It is interesting to see who they get to direct the next Die Hard to make up for this one!
A Good Day to Die Hard focuses on the CIA trying to protect Komarov, played by Sebastian Koch; a man who has critical incriminating information stored on a file on one of Russia’s most prominent political figures. They have sent Jack McClane, played by Jai Courtney, to ensure that the data is recovered and Komarov. However, the mission is compromised and Jack is going to be sent to prison, prompting Bruce Willis, reprising his role as John McClane, to come to the Kremlin and protect his estranged son. What follows is a complicated, convoluted story with unnecessary plot twists and the most frustrating “character development ever put to film.
The writer of this film should go into therapy because virtually every character overtly and constantly exposits their tumultuous family life. Once is funny and establishes the McClane’s as estranged. Twice is expository so we get to see how deep the turmoil runs between the leads. But when every line of dialogue between them pertains to their practically non-existent relationship you can’t help but sense a cry for help!
However, the greatest fault in this movie is the complete lack of need for John. If you were to systematically remove Bruce Willis from this film, there would be absolutely no loss to the plot; a rarity considering he received top billing. John McClane, the straight shooting, no nonsense cop from New Jersey who has overcome insurmountable odds time and again, has had his role reduced to the point of comedy relief to his son Jack; who shoulders the burden of saving the day with little to no help from his father. The director makes it painfully obvious that John has aged, and points it out on numerous occasions, and that is the rationalization behind the minimization of his character and impact on the story. That is not meant as a slight against the actors themselves. Jai Courtney does a fantastic job as the CIA agent living in his father’s shadow. Koch plays the part of the former Soviet very well; reminding us of the savvy that made the Cossacks such a threat.
Perhaps there in lies the problem; this movie should have come out 30 years ago. There are hints of Cold War implications, the climax of the film occurs in the midst of the remnants of the Chernobyl disaster and, keeping with the tradition of other Die Hard and 1980s action films, the villain’s primary attack and transport vehicle is an attack helicopter. The only thing missing to set it apart was a final hand-to-hand fight scene between McClane – either of them, as a matter of fact – and some steroid induced henchmen, despite the fact that there was more than one ready for the task.
The movie is constantly walking a fine line between maintaining the atmosphere of the genre, showing reverence to the franchise, and giving into the fad of making a pseudo-parody of the action films. It isn’t over-the-top enough to be on par with The Expendables and it pales in comparison to every other Die Hard movie, even the laughable Live Free or Die Hard; a film that is now gaining credibility as a result of this latest installment.
All of the actors do a wonderful job of making their characters appear both real and interesting. However, the movie feels too much like a generic action movie that came out a few decades too late that wasn’t going to be strong enough on its own so it wrote in John McClane as an afterthought so the Die Hard name would bolster sales. There is far too much CGI when practical effects would have been more effective. The cinematography work is distracting at best and mind-numbingly infuriating at worst. The editing combines completely unnecessary slow motion shots one minute and cuts between shots within two seconds of each other the next, instead of holding an establishing shot or panning back to show the scope of the scene; particularly during the climax. We can only hope John Moore will have better luck in other endeavors.
One and a half stars out of four.