Remember in the Lethal Weapon movies how Danny Glover’s character would frequently say that he’s getting too old for whatever silly and action-filled plot the films were putting him through? That’s sort of how John McClane (Bruce Willis) is feeling at this point. The key difference being that John is still enjoying the action even if his stream of profanities speak otherwise. Maybe he’s realized he can’t be killed, because the Die Hard franchise no longer views its protagonist as mortal. Yes, even though that was part of the point of the first one.
For reasons that don’t matter, John wants to make things right with his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courney), who is currently in Russia having been arrested for something I can’t remember and the film doesn’t care about. It turns out it’s all a front anyway; Jack is a CIA agent and is part of a three-year mission whose goal is to secure a man named Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). John shows up at the absolute worst time possible, ruins the mission and then the two McClanes need to fight their way through waves of villains while maybe making up and bonding as father and son.
There’s more to the plot than that. Some additional characters arrive, a few plot twists occur, and at one point I swear there’s a five-minute break in the relentless scenes of action. I know! None of this matters. A Good Day to Die Hard exists because people enjoy watching Bruce Willis in an action movie. This time, he jokes his way through most of it. A few one-liners are funny, but most of them are not.
None of the action is worth seeing. There’s an extended car chase near the beginning that I never thought was going to end, and after that it’s basically “run here, shoot these guys, fall off a building, repeat.” The plot, what little of it there is, exists in order for the characters to move from one place to another. There’s no creativity, much of it takes place at night, which means you can’t even see some of the things that happen because of the darkness, and what you do see looks pretty cheap. Die Hard was released in 1988 and is far better looking than this one.
It’s hard to buy into why Jack hates his father so much. Has he not seen the previous four movies. John McClane has essentially saved all of America at this point. Jack’s father is a hero, but the film treats him as if he just “worked too much.” Really? That’s why Jack hates him? It doesn’t work. As a result, much of the banter between the two, as well as any potential tender moments, come across as forced and false.
The film wants to play with the child/parent theme. In addition to the John/Jack story, Yuri Komarov also has a daughter, Irina (Yuliya Snigir). Do the two families provide a counter to one another? No. Not at all. In fact, apart from the fact that there’s an older one and a younger one in each case, there’s so little characterization that you really can’t read into anything in regard to the whole family dynamic. A Good Day to Die Hard falls under the very definition of “brainless action film.”
This film is so devoid of ideas and originality that it doesn’t even run for over 100 minutes. To put that in context, Die Hard was 132 minutes, Die Hard 2 was 124, Die Hard With a Vengeance was 131, and Live Free or Die Hard was 129. That’s an average of 129 minutes. A Good Day to Die Hard plays for only 97. It is a full half hour shorter than the other four films in its franchise. And it still feels too long, with its big climactic action scene basically mimicking the one in the middle. It has enough creativity to maybe work as a 20-minute short film.
Actually, the more I think of A Good Day to Die Hard, the less I’m enjoying the 97 minutes I spent with it. I’m struggling to remember much of it, mind you, but what I can recall is so poor that I wish it wasn’t even called a Die Hard movie. This is worse than Die Hard 2. It barely even resembles the previous movies. John McClane being an “average dude” used to be what made these movies special. Now he’s a robot who has sarcastic one-liners. That might have been the case last time, too, but Live Free or Die Hard at least had good action.
I get it. Bruce Willis is a box office draw — even in spite of his recent direct-to-DVD films — and audiences like seeing him either shoot or joke his way through action films. He gets to do both here. But the action is bad and the jokes aren’t funny. So you’re basically watching a serviceable actor go through the motions, making him awful. And his co-stars are somehow worse! Do I sound exasperated yet?
Please do yourself a favor and do not seek out A Good Day to Die Hard. Do not waste 97 minutes of your life watching it. Do not give it any amount of money to view it. If you need a Die Hard movie, go watch one of the first four. I’d recommend any of them but the second. This is a film devoid of ideas, creativity, laughs and fun. It looks cheap, it has terrible action, and it’s soiled and devalued the franchise. I hope it’s done. Let Bruce Willis move on to something else. It’s time to retire this character.