Synopsis: Bruce Willis is back in action – mind-blowing, heart-stopping, rip-roaring action – as John McClane, the heroic New York cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time. John’s latest predicament takes him all the way to Russia to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been imprisoned in Moscow. But the mission takes a deadly turn as father and son must join to thwart a nuclear weapons heist that could trigger World War III!
eyelights: the dynamic between John and Jack McClane.
eyesores: its generic action film quality.
“The shit we do for our kids.”
So, what’s the ‘Die Hard‘ series about if it’s not about some guy being trapped in a series of unfortunate events? Initially, I thought it was about an everyman caught in a claustrophobic situation he couldn’t get out of. But then the third one wasn’t claustrophobic. Or tense. And neither was the fourth one.
And he was no longer an everyman in either of those: he was a seemingly indestructible and indefatigable überman.
But at least he was inadvertently caught in the crossfire in all four – which meant that he was struggling through the chaos because he had to, not because he wanted to. And, in so doing, he brought out the best of himself. Though I’m no great fan of this broader theme, that’s as accurate as I can distill it.
So what can one make of ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, the fifth film in the never-ending series, which finds John McClane neither an everyman, nor trapped, nor in a claustrophobic situation, nor stuck in a situation that he couldn’t extricate himself from – where he purposely jumps right into the line of fire?
!@#$ if I know.
At this point, I have no idea what constitutes a ‘Die Hard’ movie, other than the presence of Bruce Willis as John McClane – a character that’s become pretty much interchangeable with almost any other action hero if not for our collective recollections of his past achievements. What are the series’ defining attributes?
Whatever they are, they’re undetectable in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’.
Heck, even the widescreen look of the series has suddenly been shifted to a more traditional 1.85:1 ratio that’s perfect for fitting one’s flatscreen, but which lacks the epic scope of 2.35:1. Damn. They might as well have shot the thing on digital video while they were at it. Maybe even release it straight-to-video.
Anyway, this time John McClane goes to Russia (no, this is not a Frank Capra movie!) to help his son, Jack, who’s been arrested for attempting to assassinate a mobster. Though half-cocked, he soon discovers that Jack is a CIA secret agent trying to rescue a Russian political prisoner in possession of sensitive data.
…and winds up trying to protect him from a large team of organized and well-funded assassins.
The picture is really just an excuse for a series of lengthy action set pieces, each of which is as ridiculously over-the-top as the other – not that you’d expect much from the director such classics as ‘Max Payne’ and the remake of ‘The Omen’, and from the screenwriter of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘ and ‘The A-Team’.
The opening salvo is a perfect example of overblown the picture gets:
After Jack offers to testify against Yuri Komarov, the Russian political prisoner, he finds himself in court. But an armed group attacks the courthouse, which allows Jack to escape with Yuri. John happens to be there as Jack drives off with Yuri and gets in his way long enough that he can’t make his rendez-vous.
They are attacked by the armed group, who chase Jack and Yuri through Moscow, plowing through an endless stream of vehicles with a large armoured truck. Naturally, John steals a vehicle of his own and chases after the attackers. There isn’t a cop in sight and the collateral damage of their rampage is extensive.
The criminals shoot a shoulder-fired missile at John, but he swerves and it hits civilians instead, and John has a MASSIVE crash, flipping his truck over a bunch of parked cars. Naturally, he comes out OK. Then he gets hit while trying to stop a vehicle that he can commandeer. Naturally, he bounces off but comes out OK.
He steals a Jeep and drives it off an overpass down a large car carrier trailer, crushing all the cars underneath him before making it to the street below. Then he manages to crash the baddies’ armoured vehicle. He crashes too, but, naturally comes out OK – and doesn’t lose the cell phone he had on the seat next to him.
This sequence alone lasted 14 minutes!
And they get attacked again mere minutes afterwards. This leads to such hilarity as John watching a chopper come right for them and only reacting after it’s arrived, John and Jack falling through layers of scaffolding with barely a scratch, and John driving a chained truck out of a large chopper to destabilize it and save Jack.
It’s one WTF moment after the other.
Speaking of hilarity, gone is John’s penchant for corny lines to alleviate the tension. Instead, here he’s relegated to complaining about being on vacation numerous times. Firstly, he does that so often that it loses all meaning. Not that it has any to start with since he was never on vacation – he’s on an f-ing rescue mission!
McClane is so vacant a character at this point in the series that his greatest sense of purpose seems to be killing the bad guys. That’s frequently what he sets out to do, and it’s what his son says he’s good at. It’s not heroism. It’s not saving the day. It’s f-ing killing the bad guys. Sheesh. What a soulless character he’s become.
If not for the tensions with Jack, whom John had long believed was a f-up (not knowing until then that it was actually a cover-up), he would have little personality. Here he’s the regret-filled dad who wishes things turned out differently – he even gets to dialogue on the subject with Yuri exchange while waiting for Jack.
Seriously, if not for the McClane nostalgia factor that trickles down from its predecessor, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ would be a very average action film. It even tries to wrap itself in this sentimentality by reuniting the father with his son and daughter at the end – after a job well done and lots of bad guys done killed good.
Look, I didn’t hate this movie, but it’s as good a time as any for this series to die.
Date of viewing: December 15, 2016