FILM REVIEW: A Good Day to Die Hard

A-GOOD-DAY-TO-DIE-HARDJohn McClane (Bruce Willis) returns for another installment in the Die Hard saga with the fourth film since the iconic and entertaining 1988 original. Veteran New York City copper McClane, now floating somewhere around his mid-fifties, is once more to be found shooting his way out of trouble. This time as part of an attempt to bury the hatchet with McClane’s estranged son – John McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) by schlepping all the way to Russia.

Directed by John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines), with a screenplay by X-Men Origins: Wolverine scribe Skip Woods – you could hope that this film could at least be entertaining if not exactly deep. Fortunately, the camera work, lighting, and the pacing at the start do an acceptable job in giving viewers a false sense of watching the beginning of a Bourne-level suspense thriller but it doesn’t take very long for the film to go completely pear-shaped – explosively unravelling in all the wrong ways.

The film certainly moves fast. ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ (as it is so lengthily titled) speedily drives itself down a path that is so senseless, stupid, and unreal that it’s hard to not laugh at such an abysmal take on the classic franchise. Within the first thirty-plus minutes McClane experiences three near consecutive and ferocious car accidents in downtown Moscow completely unscathed. Later he plummets from the top of a multi-story hotel, also surviving with nary a scratch. To top it all off, John and son take a nice unprotected trip to the Chernobyl site, which despite still being highly radioactive for normal human beings – none of the characters seem to notice or care too much. The majority of the film takes place in broad daylight and you can’t help but wonder how no one notices two Americans blowing the hell out of everything.

In terms of plot, the film makes little sense that quickly contradicts itself over and over to prevent people from grasping anything –  seemingly a ploy to allow for more gun-toting, explosive, slow-mo action scenes and brief, ridiculous macho posturing from a somewhat wooden, and childish, Courtney, with Willis playing his own part on autopilot. Tender moments are brief and awkward between ‘father’ and ‘son’, convincing nobody into caring about them. Willis’ character, in particular, comes off as the most brainless character in the film – which is saying a lot. Going all the way across the world to find his son and then jumping automatically into a car chase just to say “Hi, sonny boy” is utterly absurd. The bad guys in the film, meanwhile, come across as mere window dressing with forgettable lines and utterly nonsensical aspirations, ability at planning, or rational technical knowledge.

The classic “Yippee ki-yay” catchphrase that fans of the series know and love since it was first spoken by Willis 25 years ago is anticipated but withheld for the majority of the film. When it does come up it’s hardly noticeable. The new, ‘classic’ one liner (“I’m on vacation”) gets the most mileage in the film. Coming repeatedly from Willis like a continuous brain fart, John McClane Sr. sounds like a lost tourist with early onset dementia.

The performances of Willis and Courtney are acceptable, if utterly unmemorable. The guns and explosions are there as expected, but the dialogue and plot of the film is full of terrifically moronic lines and attempts at macho familial affection that you really wonder if anyone thought twice about anything that went into the film – script, plot, setting, and characterisation, in particular. At least the standardised explosive special effects are satisfactory.

There is a raw sense of missed opportunity in ‘A Good Day To Die Hard‘, aka Die Hard 5. Not only failing to revitalise the now 25-year-old Die Hard franchise but, in particular, the accountants and marketing execs clearly behind it have truly missed the actual selling point of this overlong and clumsily titled film – comedic value. This film is a classic case of cynical cash in without any care about the script or the story or those poor individuals likely to cough up £10 to see it at the cinema. Hopefully they will leave the cinema like this reviewer did. Laughing.

Rating: 1*

Reviewer: Dean Simons

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