Movie Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Jai Courtney as Jack McClane
Sebastian Koch as Komarov
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy
Yuliya Snigir as Irina
Radivoje Bukvic as Alik
Cole Hauser as Collins
Amaury Nolasco as Murphy
Sergei Kolesnikov as Chagarin
Roman Luknár as Anton
Zolee Ganxsta as MRAP Driver
Péter Takátsy as Prosecutor
Pasha D. Lychnikoff as Cabbie
Melissa Tang as Lucas

Directed by John Moore

Summary:
"A Good Day to Die Hard" is, essentially, the "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" of the "Die Hard" series. It has some decent action, but there are enough other problems to drag the overall film down.

Story:
John McClane, now a senior member of the NYPD, has been searching for his estranged son Jack McClane. But when he finds him, it's in a surprising place – a Russian prison. In an effort to reconnect with his son, John flies to Moscow to see what he can do.

What John doesn't know is that Jack is a spy for the CIA and he got himself arrested on purpose. He has been tasked with protecting political prisoner Komarov and the best way he can do that is to be imprisoned with him. Komarov has a mysterious file with information that could convict a corrupt Russian politician with a dark history and he will do anything to keep its contents from being revealed.

When assassins strike a Moscow courtroom in order to kill Komarov, John McClane finds himself in the middle of ground zero alongside his estranged son. But as the bad guys will soon discover, the McClanes don't die easy.

"A Good Day to Die Hard" is rated R for violence and language.

What Worked:
I'm a big fan of the original "Die Hard." As far as I'm concerned, it set the bar to which all other action movies are measured against for the last 25 years. The sequels have varied in quality over the years, but they've all been entertaining on various levels.

This fifth Die Hard film attempts to shake things up in a couple of ways. First, it is set in Russia. That allows the ‘cowboy' McClane to be thrown into a situation outside of his comfort zone. We see him dealing with the language, the city, and a new set of bad guys creating a new set of threats. On paper, it's a solid idea. The film is also shot in Moscow so we get lots of sweeping views of the unique city (maybe a few too many sweeping shots). Overall, the Russian setting isn't a bad idea.

The other way "A Good Day To Die Hard" tries something different is by adding John's son Jack into the mix. I don't remember if a son was ever mentioned in the previous films, but he's here now. He's played by Jai Courtney, who handles both an American accent and the action well. Jack is, essentially, Jason Bourne as John McClane's son. He's a spy, he's an international man of mystery, and he gets into brutal battles with the villains. It's not hard to see what their inspiration was for his character. And again, on paper, it's not a bad idea.

You would expect a "Die Hard" movie to have some good action and it does somewhat deliver. There is an impressive car chase through Moscow. There is also an impressive shootout in a hotel involving a helicopter. Then there's a major action scene in the finale at a notable location that I won't spoil. The action, really, is the main thing that makes this film worth checking out at all.

What Didn't Work:
Where everything falls apart is the execution of the initially solid ideas that it has.

"A Good Day to Die Hard" is, essentially, the "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" of the "Die Hard" series. You have a new character with a chip on his shoulder as the son of the '80s action hero. You have Russian bad guys. You have the lead character trying to recapture the magic of the early films and never quite succeeding. And you have a script that inexplicably fails to capture tone, cleverness, and intensity of the original. In short, it just doesn't work.

But I can be more specific with my gripes. First of all, the camerawork is terrible. All but about 1 minute of the film is done with ‘shaky cam'. If two characters are standing in a room talking quietly, the camera is shaking. If there's an action scene, the camera is shaking almost uncontrollably while alternately zooming in for close-ups. This may have looked great on set on a tiny monitor. On a large theater screen, you can't even tell what's going on. And the real shame is that there's a pretty impressive car chase in the film, but you can barely see it because the image is so jarring. The Russian stuntmen seem to be doing one of the better car crashes and chases on screen in a while, but your eye simply can't register any of it. It's a real waste.

My other major problem was how the character of John McClane was handled. When he first gets thrown into the action in Moscow, he acts like an idiot. He's literally left standing by the side of the road yelling at his son like a moron, not like a seasoned terrorist fighter who has just seen assassins firing on his son. When he finally is thrown into the action fully, he still does a number of stupid things. He answers his cell phone during a car chase. He makes stupid quips to the villains. He mouths off at the son he's supposedly trying to win back. Overall, he doesn't feel like the same character from the earlier films.

The villains this time around are weak as well. The character Alik tries to act like the Joker without the makeup, but his crazy act just comes across as stupid as he dances in front of McClane in an attempt to intimidate him. Yes, that's right. He dances. Hans Gruber would have been rooting for McClane to shoot him. One thug near the end is a muscle man covered with tattoos that looks pretty impressive, but he's barely seen at the end. They could have at least used him in a good fistfight between him and our leads, but they opt instead for him to have a shootout with them. It seems like a waste of a good bad guy. I can't talk about more details without getting into spoilers, but you get the idea. These villains aren't great.

The film also calls for big stretches in realism. For example, there's a massive car chase through Moscow and only one police shows up at the very end. Where are the rest of the cops? Also during the car chase, McClane destroys numerous cars and puts many innocent bystanders at serious risk. Yes, he's a cowboy, but he's also a policeman that would seem to have some regard for the public. Then the US military flies a drone over Moscow with seemingly no response from the Russian air force. All of this happens in the first action scene, so you can imagine how the rest of the movie goes. Yeah, it's "Die Hard" and you should forgive a lot, but it becomes more and more noticeable as the film progresses.

The Bottom Line:
While "A Good Day to Die Hard" is a disappointment, the action scenes make it worth checking out at least as a renter or on TV. It's not great when compared to its predecessors, but there are a lot worse action movies out there.

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