Director: John Moore
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch
Running Time: 97 mins
Release: February 14th
A Good Day to Die Hard is not a good film. It’s been lambasted by the public (many of whom haven’t seen it yet) and critics alike, but in reality is just a below-average action movie—certainly not good, but no worse than dozens of films that come out in any given year. A good performance and some spectacle might prevent you from changing the channel when it hits TV in a few years.
So… New York cop John McLane (Bruce Willis) flies to Moscow on short notice because his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney, excellent) has been arrested. It turns out that McLane Jnr is working for the CIA and trying to protect a whistleblower from being killed by the Minister for Defence. Carnage, car chases and uneasy alliance between the McLanes soon follows.
Let’s start with the positive. Willis, one of my favourite actors, is always watchable—laconic, witty, likeable and tough. Courtney is almost as good, bringing intensity, conviction and presence to his role. Irish director John Moore crafts some gratifyingly big set pieces, and the opening scene (cutting between each of the main players) has a nice rhythm.
Here’s what’s wrong: Remember when Indiana Jones climbed into a fridge, then the fridge was struck by a nuclear bomb and catapulted about a mile into the sky, and then Indie climbs out of the fridge as if nothing happened? Of course you remember. Well that sort of thing happens at least four times in the new Die Hard. A tough action hero is welcome, an indestructible one is boring.
Also, because the film feels so rushed (it clocks in at roughly 90 minutes), much of the action feels out of context. There’s a lengthy car chase through Russia near the beginning, but we’re unsure of characters’ motivations, or even many of their names, so what’s at stake? With no context or characterisation a car chase might as well be a videogame cut scene or worse—Formula 1.
Another unhappy result of the film’s rushed pace is that the villains don’t get time to breathe; no scenery chewing interrogations, no discussions on classical education or men’s fashion, just a perfunctory introduction. Also, they change allegiances so frequently that you never get a handle on the characters.
There are numerous tributes to previous Die Hards; the McLanes jump from a few exploding buildings, there’s the hesitant sidekick (a la Sam Jackson in 3 and Justin Long in 4); an American-hating terrorist, and McLane has banter with a local driver shortly after his plane lands. This time it’s a Russian taxi driver who likes Frank Sinatra. Is that a tribute to the crazy Die Hard trivia that the film was nearly made in the ’70s with Old Blue Eyes as McLane? Needless to say, these just serve to remind you how far the franchise has sunk in recent years.
It’s saddening to think that this is the film the producers made for Die Hard’s 25th anniversary; a rushed mess without the personality or craft of its predecessors. For Bond’s 50th the fans were given Skyfall, and we get this?