A competent action movie, A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t bad but it also isn’t exactly Die Hard either.
When he receives word that his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested and put in a Russian prison for a laundry list of crimes including murder, John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Russia to see what he can do. After Jack escapes trial with a political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) John learns his son, who he had assumed was delinquent screw up, is a CIA agent trying to prevent a stockpile of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. Just whose hands that happens to be makes up a fair amount of intrigue throughout the film as the two McClanes attempt to keep Komarov out of the hands of terrorist Alik (Radivoje Bukvic) and his group of thugs.
Given this is the 5th installment in the Die Hard series, it is understandable that they would try to go a different way plotwise but the rhythm and tone have to be consistent across the series for it to work out. This is where it all went wrong for the new Die Hard, it doesn’t FEEL like a Die Hard movie. It is much more like they made a Bond movie or Mission Impossible and stuck John McClane in there to see what would happen. Sadly what happens is that he mostly plays second fiddle to his son who is competent but not nearly as interesting.
Part of the appeal of the John McClane character is that he is ostensibly a regular (ish) guy who finds himself in over his head but is so stubborn, tenacious and clever that he manages to defy the odds and survives. He is often not the best on the playing field but his refusal to give up regardless of the odds gives him an edge. His enemies just want money but he wants to survive. The fact that the bad guys always under estimate him, despite the fact that he has ruined the shit out of several highly trained teams of thieves and terrorists, is one of his biggest advantages. Most of that appeal is missing here as once he teams with Jack he is just a guy who is good with a gun. That is when he isn’t just standing there while Jack does most of the talking.
Jack himself is kind of a cookie cutter spy type character but the interplay between Jack and John fills in some of the blanks. It is fairly standard most of the time. John wasn’t around, Jack felt unloved and unappreciated and doesn’t want much to do with his dad despite turning out to be a guy not dissimilar from his dad. There are some really nice moments here though and the two go a long way toward finding an understanding with each other. In a way they both find a measure of redemption with the other. If you have ever had a complicated relationship with your dad this material may have more traction for you. It did with me.
The action scenes here were big and generally well put together if not the freshest I have ever seen. A car chase early on is pretty cool to watch but if you compare it to a similar chase in Skyfall it loses a bit of its luster. That is one of the problems here is that there isn’t a lot of action we haven’t seen before. The action in previous Die Hards is generally superior to what is on display here as well and it tends to be more creative than the run of the mill shoot outs in this installment. Courtney handles his end of the action well but again, he was much more effective in last year’s Jack Reacher.
The film’s performances are kind of on autopilot to a certain degree. That is a problem with characters acting angry and stoic the whole time, there is really not a lot of room for actual performance. Willis and Courtney do their best to out detach each other and that doesn’t make for a lot of nuance. When their walls break down, both men are convincing but it takes awhile to get there. Also, Willis just looks really tired here. This could be a character driven decision but I really don’t want to see a bored, tired John McClane. The villains are pretty much from Russian Heavy central casting and not much interesting comes up there.
Conclusion [7.0 out of 10]
A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t a terrible movie by any means but it is also not much of a Die Hard movie. If it were called something else it would be a middle of the road action movie. With the Die Hard pedigree behind it, it looks worse than it really is. I think the producers were hoping for a torch passing here and I doubt very strongly that will happen and this is a pretty good place to call it a day. A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t bad but it isn’t great either and I would rather see the series end here than get a weaker 6th installment. As far as recommending the movie, that really kind of depends on how much of a Die Hard fan you are and how much you are willing to accept from it. It is worth checking out at an matinee or rental but full price will likely disappoint.