A bad omen at the start of any film is when main plot details are dropped by a news report and in the opening seconds of A Good Day to Die Hard there’s a news update. It’s an example of one of the many ways the film languishes in mediocrity. The Die Hard franchise has had highs (Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance) and lows (Die Hard 2 and Live Free or Die Hard) but A Good Day to Die Hard breaks the deadlock and pushes the series deep into the trash heap.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia to help out his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been thrown in jail, only to discover that Jack is actually a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist.
The character of John McClane resembles one of those melancholy dancing bears from India. Willis has never looked so bored in a role that ignited his career with the first Die Hard, but the spark is well and truly dead now. We meet McClane on a shooting range that resembles a bunker. It’s appears as if the character is being kept in a storage unit and director, John Moore, has arrived to pull him out for a quick buck. A young police officer informs McClane that his son is in trouble and it’s time to book a ticket to Russia. It’s in this moment we get our first good look at the kind of approach Moore is taking to the material when the young cop says “they do things differently over there”. It’s clear that McLane isn’t going to take down the bad guys because of their evil plan, no, there’s an element of xenophobia built into the film that’s a stale piece Cold War fear mongering. It renders all the death and destruction void of any of the enjoyment that Moore wants audiences to indulge in with his use of what can only be described as porn for pyromaniacs.
McClane and son shoot, punch and detonate anything with a pulse, propellers or load bearing walls in a cartoonish way that transforms the duo and their foes into members of the Looney Toons. McClane pulls out a light machine gun so his foes answer back with a helicopter gunship. When that doesn’t work the villains drive the chopper into a building which this reviewer is sure would not be advisable in the flight manual. McClane used to be an ordinary guy stuck in an extraordinary situation earlier in the franchise, but now he has reached a superhuman level of survival. Even when his entire body is surrounded by fire his t-shirt remains almost completely intact. It’s a far cry from the character who had his feet completely shredded by glass in Nakatomi Plaza.
Despite the general dose of venom the American characters show towards their Russian adversaries, the goons don’t do much in their defense beside fire a few stray bullets. When one carrot chewing eccentric baddie laments that he turned bad because he couldn’t take dancing lessons (seriously!); it’s funny and far from menacing. When twinkle toes says “you know what I hate about Americans? EVERYTHNG” it’s clear that Moore is playing from the 1988 European scoundrel playbook. There is also a Russian beauty played by Yuliya Snigir who seems to have fallen into a time vortex during a Roger Moore Bond film and been spewed out into A Good Day to Die Hard. Courtney as mini-McClane serves only as a jumping on point for younger male audiences into the franchise.
All this is built on top of a plot that has something to do with nuclear weapons and money but it’s hard not to face dive into the DVD bargain bin at your local retailer and not hit that clichéd plot. It has been done do death.
A Good Day to Die Hard further devolves the franchise from the outstanding first entry. John McClane is dead.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies