A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Dir. John Moore
1 out of 5
At the risk of overstating the obvious, the main reason the original Die Hard was such a breath of fresh air was because it suggested that a modern-day action hero could be as human as the next guy. In the hyper-masculine realm of pumped-up ‘80s action films, it was a big deal that John McClane was nervous about flying on a plane, had a strained marriage, and would be caught without footwear just as a gang of terrorist-thieves seized control of an office building. He was a real person, not a steroidal cartoon. A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth installment in the once-vital franchise, is the culmination of a 25-year demolition project designed to remove all traces of the original's intricate plotting, witty humor, and relatable characters. It thoroughly offends its own legacy not just in sullying the Die Hard name in service of a generic, visually exhausting shoot-em-up, but also in the way it proves that poor instincts and even poorer taste have once again become the norm in big-budget action.
Bruce Willis returns as McClane for an extremely out-of-character adventure to Moscow (because all Jersey mooks turn into globetrotters once they become AARP-eligible) to track down his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has run afoul of the Russian authorities. The estranged pair teams up to protect the former tycoon Yuri Komorov (Sebastian Koch), who is in possession of a file implicating a high-ranking politician in a major scandal. Considering that their adversary blows up an entire courthouse to get to Komorov, this must be some really juicy information. However, the multiple twists and reversals that follow do little but emphasize the lack of cohesion that pervades the film, from the muddled story to the clunky, seemingly interminable action sequences.
Even non-Die Hard partisans will find plenty of reasons to be disappointed with this Good Day. Director John Moore unwisely puts all his resources into inventively blowing things up, then removes any sense of danger by turning the McClanes into iron-skinned Supermen capable of surviving anything - gruesome car crashes, multi-story plummets, acute radiation exposure - with nary a scratch. An over-the-top film deserves an antagonist to match, but Good Day’s idea of an interesting villain is a rat-like lackey whose lame bundle of affectations includes nibbling on a carrot while dancing a little soft-shoe. At least he’s kind of humorous. Any Die Hard neophytes are unlikely to realize that McClane was once known for cracking more jokes than skulls with the way Willis agitatedly delivers his flat one-liners, along with the film’s general treatment of any emotional display as a type of infectious disease.
To be fair, Die Hard lost its way once McClane turned from a character into a catchphrase ("Yippie-ki...” once again receives prominent placement). The idea of an true Everyman hero has been gradually overwhelmed by all the statistical noise suggesting that action sequels need to be bigger, louder, and dumber to keep turning a profit. Unfortunately, none of that translates into better, even as the franchise resorts to dangling more members of the McClane family over the fire as a way of raising the stakes. Like most things in A Good Day to Die Hard, it’s just not working.