A Good Day to Die Hard
Directed by: John Moore
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Running Time: 1 hr 36 mins
Release Date: February 14, 2013
PLOT: New York cop John McClane (Willis) ventures to Russia to rescue his son Jack (Courtney) who is imprisoned with a controversial political figure (Koch). The two McClanes soon become solely responsible for the politician’s life, who has ties to the atrocities at Chernobyl.
WHO’S IT FOR? If you’re a Die Hard fan, you’ll get the action you want – it will just be more stylized than the original John McClane adventures one may be used to.
EXPECTATIONS: While the climate of action movies has certainly changed since 1988’s Die Hard, the previous film from the franchise in 2007 was an efficient update to classic hero of John McClane. Would that momentum continue into the next installment, or would it run out? What fun or disaster could be involved with bringing in John’s son to the mix?
Bruce Willis as John McClane: Willis is McClane, and McClane is Willis. Even if on-screen son Courtney takes over the franchise, it seems impossible to replace John McClane, especially as he is so built into Willis’ physicality. The smirks, the constant leaning to the side like an unimpressed sheriff, these are distinct characteristics from Willis to McClane. In this fifth movie as McClane, Willis has no problem in assuming the status of mega action hero, and even takes this job a little easier. He’s involved with a great amount of ass-kicking, but many of his wise cracks have been reduced.
Jai Courtney as Jack McClane: Muscled up and with a face that looks ready to Hulk out at any second, Courtney’s Jack is like the representation of what action heroes could turn into if classic characters like John McClane aren’t around to point out their naivete. Next to his on-screen father, Courtney serviceable as a sidekick. But one can only imagine how uninspired he would be were he to tackle McClane-level action on his own.
Rest of Cast: Sebastian Koch (formerly of The Lives of Others and Black Book) is wasted in this role that reduces him to a shifty, scraggly politician. However, Koch does look unrecognizable with all of that makeup and facial hair. And while Winstead made a case for Lucy McClane’s involvement in a Die Hard movie in 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, she is only the maternal presence in the movie, dropping her father off at the airport, and then calling him during an inopportune time just to check on him.
TALKING: From writer Skip Woods (Hitman, Swordfish), this isn’t a script that concerns itself with making a lot of sense. The opening scene is a kerfuffle of characters with zigzagging Russian names, and then the explanation of their significance to one another becomes a big mess as the story goes on, especially when the already dumb story tries to pull a few twists. But as for what moviegoers really pay for when they go to a Die Hard movie, this script does have a few McClane wisecracks, but there’s nothing special. Even the manner in which the classic “Yipee-Ki-Yay” line is delivered comes with a gentle thud.
SIGHTS: For what A Good Day to Die Hard lacks in brains, it makes up with bonanza. The action sequences are awesomely ridiculous, which caused me to laugh in full amusement more than a couple of times. While the editing on a car chase sequence may not be pristine, it still provides unbelievable visuals, the type that one pays for when going to a mega action movie like this. And in keeping with trends of the action genre, this Die Hard features some distinct moments of slow motion, and it’s some of the best seen in a while; these shots have grace, while also allowing the chaos of the film to breathe for only a moment.
SOUNDS: Not to be outdone by every other mainstream action movie, A Good Day to Die Hard is painted floor to ceiling with a score from Marco Beltrami. Rushing strings, crescendos, there’s probably even a few cowbells in there. Thankfully it doesn’t get in the way of this movie’s impeccable sound design (Dolby Atmos was used for my screening) which allows viewers to hear the death of every piece of glass and wood that was slaughtered to make this movie.
BEST SCENE: Although the car chase mega sequence completely had my amusement, I think the whole part of the third act involving McClane taking down a helicopter with a truck was a dumb, unexpected, yet beautiful thrill all on its own.
ENDING: “After all these years, I still ask myself the same question.”
QUESTIONS: Though I did enjoy this movie, is there a Die Hard script that Willis will say no to? Why so long to wait for Die Hard movies, if they can be as disposable and fun as this?
REWATCHABILITY: The action may not be as surprising in a second or third viewing, but it still has a strong visual allure to hold one’s attention.
As indicated by the legendary mishmash of its plot, A Good Day to Die Hard is a film that keeps this franchise, based on dumb sequel subtitles like Die Harder, proudly within perspective of a lunkhead (McClane). It’s “killing bad guys,” while our hero is on vacation (“I’m still jetlagged!” Willis exclaims). This is a blow’em-up mostly dedicated to the visuals of “physical change,” in which one piece of glass turns into a million pieces of glass or a Chernobyl factory becomes a war zone. For what the movie does offer as Die Hard thrills, damn if it isn’t a bit of fun; a few sequences did leave me highly amused and laughing at their sheer ridiculousness. While McClane’s “Yipee-Ki-Yay” line comes with softer usage in this film, compared to others, it’s as if that phrase was the Moore and Co.’s mindset as they used McClane to provide nutso action to keep up with Taken’s box office receipts. And if the whole contemporary genre of mainstream action is going to progressively lose its mind to slow motion and implausible stunt work, it might as well be an easygoing hero like John “America, f** yeah!” McClane blasting through the wreckage.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10