A Good Day to Die Hard
by Jim Reed
I, like some, may say A Good Day to Die Hard is the best film in the Die Hard series. But those people have either never seen a movie (any movie ever), or are employing biting, timely sarcasm—like I am now. I thought about making some kind of play on the title, make a reference to how this may be a good day for the Die Hard franchise to die, but that would be juvenile (like the film) and much too easy. I wonder if they tried. “They” being anyone associated with making this film. Perhaps I’ll decide by the end of the review.
I have to start at the end. Why? Because the last frame of the movie is a FREEZE FRAME! Are you kidding me?! Now, see and understand, the filmmakers were shrewd, because my earnest desire after having seen the picture is that they would have put the freeze frame at the beginning so that I know what kind of movie I’m in for and could have perhaps asked for my money back at that time. But no! They saved the freeze frame for the end so that I’m lured to continue watching. Smart. By the time I decided the movie was as terrible as any movie I have seen in a long time it was already too late. I may as well stick around until the end. And boy, it just kept getting worse.
The film opens when a handsome looking young man (Jai Courtney) murders some guy who is supposed to be important (pretty typical, he’s in a club with sexy ladies all around him). Then we’re reintroduced to John McClane (Bruce Willis), the total BA from the first four films, who is given a file by a cop, or PI, or something, it’s not really explained. Come to find out the murderer is John’s son, Jack! Oh No! So John packs up and heads to Russia, where Jack will testify at the mock trial of Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch).
But then! A series of car bombs explode outside of the courthouse unleashing pandemonium! Jack efficiently escorts Komarov to safety, just as a number of very well armed folks bust in looking for them. It is about this time that we discover Jack is really in the CIA working a three-year operation that goes horribly wrong when… you guessed it: his father John interrupts! What ensues is perhaps the most absurd hour and a quarter you’ll spend at the cinema this year.
There is a bonkers car chase through the streets of Moscow, where nearly everything is destroyed. There are helicopters that shoot massive 50 caliber rounds (sure that works) on multiple occasions. The amount of CGI in this film would have made John McTiernan and Hans Gruber weep together. They end up in Chernobyl (yes, that Chernobyl) after Komarov is double-crossed (or is he?), and the fight that breaks out there is like something out of a Rambo film. Unfortunately, this isn’t a Rambo film. It’s a Die Hard film. Or at least is supposed to be.
There are other twists, but I don’t want to ruin them for you and they’re not that important. What is important to note is that the father/son dynamic would have been touching had the writing and dialogue not been so poor. Now I know what you apologists are saying—“But Jim, it’s not meant to be good….” Sure, I’ll grant you that. But folks, listen to me, it is laughably bad. Not like The Room (Tommy Wiseau, 1997) bad, but like when a parent is deeply disappointed with their child kind of bad. Or when a situation is so uncomfortable all you can do is laugh—that kind of bad. The film is an utter mess. I still haven’t decided if anyone actually tried, so I’ll say yes, just to give some folks the benefit of the doubt.
The biggest problem with the recent Die Hard films is that they have completely deserted what made Die Hard great in the first place. It’s not just the “wrong place, wrong time” motif that has been dropped, but John is no longer just a regular guy doing everything he can to salvage a totally F-ed up situation. John McClane is no longer an “Everyman.” Originally he made us believe that any average person could rise to the occasion and do what is right and necessary. Now we’re just inundated with explosions and tricky graphics. The street smarts of the rugged New York City cop have been turned in for the brutish violence of an era now behind us. The world is far more complicated than the “one man wrecking crews” of the 1980s, of which the original Die Hard seemed to have an acute awareness. The new John McClane is more machine than man, and thus even more of a shell than a human. It appears time for this cop to retire, because the new John McClane has regressed.