Critics Score(from Rottentomatoes.com): 13%
My Score: 5.5/10
Though the cinematic dump month of January may be over, February has it’s fair share of duds. For every good or even great February flick, like Warm Bodies or Side Effects, there’s a Safe Haven, Beautiful Creatures, and Identity Thief to question your faith in films in general. So it was with this knowledge, and careful trepidation, that I attended A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in the Die Hard saga.
I should point out that, up ‘till that opening Thursday night, I’ve been a fan and supporter of the Die Hard series since I first rented the film on(WHAT?) VHS. That’s right, my parents let me watch an R-Rated movie back when VHS tapes were a thing. Somebody call social services. I was even a fan of the fourth film, which most people found to be distasteful to the franchise. My take on the fourth one was that the action scenes were fun, and John McClane’s dialogue was funny. Those folks, are the two ingredients that make a Die Hard movie to me, so naturally, I was satisfied. So yes, even though it was an early year release, even though it was set in Russia, even though it had a throwaway director, even though the early reviews were abysmal, I still went to see the movie. Hoping that it would be a guilty pleasure of sorts, that my opinion would differ from the reviews like it did for the fourth outing. My hopes were high. It was not a good film.
A Good Day to Die Hard takes place in modern day. NYPD Detective John McClane travels to Russia to bust his son out of jail. McClane believes his son is a heroin addict, and he finally needs some smackin’ around or whatever New Jersey natives say these days. Nothing is what it seems in Russia, however, as McClane discovers that his son Jack is actually a spy for the CIA(there will be oh so very many stale James Bond jokes in this movie), and together they kill a bunch of people, crush a bunch of cars and shout “I’M ON A VACATION!” repeatedly despite the fact that, no, John McClane is not on a vacation.
And that’s pretty much the gist of the entire film. Clocking in at 97 minutes, this is the shortest Die Hard film by a good half an hour, and you can definitely feel it. The movie feels slight, as if it was the pilot episode for a Die Hard series or it was missing a third act. There’s about four action sequences, but each of them (except for the banal 15 minute car chase, that apparently took 100 days to shoot) clock in at around 2 minutes long, and most are really choppy, poorly lit and edited. That’s not to say that some of these action scenes aren’t fun, they just aren’t long enough to fully appreciate, and when they are long enough, they’re just not very well made.
The character development in this film is what’s truly baffling to me, and an embarrassment to the series in general. See, to me, part of what makes the series special is the characters. The first film established John McClane as the wisecracking pissed off police officer, as well as what I consider to be one of the greatest cinema villains of all time, Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman(Severus Snape to those born after 1997). The rest of the series gave us characters that we all remember, played by actors ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Jeremy Irons to Justin Long. A sidekick is provided here in the form of Jack McClane, played by Jai Courtney, and while Courtney is certainly a respectable actor and does well here, but unfortunately his character just isn’t written well enough(we’ll get to that in a bit) to be as memorable as he could’ve been. Same goes for the half-assed villain, played by Radivoje Bukvic(for the most part). He was written with the attempt of recreating a classic villain that just doesn’t care, one that’s a little crazy and therefore iconic. Well, due to the writing, he comes off as just plain weird and unbalanced as a character. Finally, John McClane himself just feels…dead. He’s constantly bored, stone-faced, and well, generally feels like Bruce Willis in real life as opposed to that hilariously pissed off and vocal character we’ve all come to know and love. He’s just not John McClane. Any moment where he seems to gain that John McClane mojo of a previous entry is trumped by another moment that feels very foreign(no pun intended).
To the writing of the story in general, well, it just plays off as a generic film that leaves you unsatisfied. It’s copy and paste writing done by Skip Woods, whose previous work(Hitman and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) speaks for itself. This is not the writing we want for a Die Hard film. A Die Hard film needs writing with panache, with a sense of character and dialogue, matched with fun, well made action scenes.
The film is not well written, nor is it particularly well directed. The acting is fine, but the actors can only do so much with what they’re given(especially when it’s Bruce Willis). The film feels way too short and definitely not in the vein of a Die Hard entry. It’s dull. There’s not enough coherent action nor is there appropriate character entertainment that we all expect from a Die Hard film. A Good Day to Die Hard is a good indication of a series that may need to die off quietly, or pull a ‘Fast and Furious’ type re-haul and dedicate more time to make a better entry that people will actually be entertained by. Despite the crappiness of this film, I hold out hope. There were like nine Lethal Weapon’s, after all. Some of them not bad. Yippee Ki Yay, Mother Russia.