I wasn’t going to review A Good Day to Die Hard. Then I thought some people might try and see it, and if I could have stopped them, I could never forgive myself as a critic.
I recently stated that Safe Haven is a lazy film. That may be true, but it is Beasts of the Southern Wild compared to this weak fifth entry to the Die Hard franchise. The wheels fall off of this film almost immediately, and the audience is asked a question worthy of Simon from the immensely superior, Die Hard With a Vengeance: “Do I ride this out to its predictable, inevitable, and unsatisfying conclusion or do I admit that I wasted $10, walk out, and get a sandwich?” Simon says, “Get the sandwich.”
A Good Day to Die Hard sends John McClane (Bruce Willis) on vacation and he chooses to spend it in Russia checking up on his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has recently found himself in some major international trouble. Within five minutes, we’re in the middle of a sloppy car chase where it is revealed that Jack is an undercover CIA operative attempting to derail a major nuclear weapons heist. Thus, Jack and John must team up against a Russian gang…
So what went wrong? I will not admit that Die Hard is done; one bad film does not a franchise ruin. So let’s look at this constructively. First of all, no more catch phrases or cliches. “Yippee Ki-Yay” is grandfathered in, but now we’re reminded that John McClane is “old” and “on vacation” at least ten times. This repetition serves no purpose except to go for a cheap laugh, but you’ll never hear the laughter over most of the theater slapping their hands to their foreheads in disgust. Furthermore, this installment takes place in Russia. In one scene, John is handed a tour book by his daughter, Idiot’s Guide to Russia. Clearly, it was the same book Skip Woods used to write the screenplay because the film exposes Russia’s traffic issues, introduces characters named Viktor, Yuri, and Anton, and its climax seals the cliche deal by taking place at Chernobyl. Oh, did I mention Yuri is introduced playing chess, so we know he’s a smart Russian? Disappointing stuff.
Next, is the action. In a high profile action film, it is expected that the action scenes are first rate, exciting, and innovative. Watch the opening car chase in A Good Day to Die Hard; next, watch the masterful opening scene of Sam Mendes’s Skyfall. Every confusing, flawed, elemental choice that John Moore makes in A Good Day to Die Hard is exposed when comparing the two. More attention needs to be paid to making sure the action is not as over-produced, compartmentalized, and hilariously slowed down as it is. There is a scene in A Good Day to Die Hard where the characters walk into a ballroom with multiple chandeliers hanging in different stages of preparation for some event that will be happening that evening. Audiences are immediately forced to think, “Well, looks like we’ll be in this scene until all of these chandeliers are destroyed”, and of course, they’d be right. This type of blatant predictability serves no purpose except to immediately signal a good time to hit the restroom. Action confined in one setting for ten minutes with no real danger becomes dull in 30 seconds. The previous four films did not feel so confined to sound-stages as this one does (even though the first two had McClane trapped in a building and an airport respectively), and it ruins any tension or fun.
Finally, if one wants to make a sequel, then make a sequel. What happened to Bonnie Bedelia as McClane’s now ex-wife, Holly? Where’s good ole’ Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Powell? Why introduce all of those fun tech-geeks in Live Free or Die Hard only to strand them in that film? Screenwriters, listen up; these character actors will sign up if the story is there!
At one point, it appeared that we were in for a slightly uplifting February movie season heading into the Spring, but it turns out it is still a dumping ground. A Good Day to Die Hard made $30 million regardless of its being terrible, so the audience is still there, and this film could have been a game changer that could show studios that good movies can be released all year long. Guess we’ll have to wait for a better day, not just a “good” one. D-