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A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

| February 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

A Good Day to Die Hard is a movie concocted by filmmakers who have completely forgotten all the reasons that we keep coming back to the adventures of John McClane since the original Die Hard back in 1988.  It is the same reason that we keep coming back to James Bond: he stands out in a field packed with identical action heroes.  McClane has an appealing, not to mention, distinctive personality.  He is a blue collar veteran cop with family problems, who prefers Roy Rogers to Rambo and has a talent for wise-acre catchphrases.  Like Indiana Jones, he is strong but has an upfront vulnerability.  He’s so cool, he even has a theme: Beethoven’s 5th.  He is just a guy, a relatable guy that you wouldn’t mind having a beer with.

The trouble with A Good Day to Die Hard is that it erases all those distinctive pleasures.  Willis is so bland here that we never feel that we’re watching that guy who jumped off the roof of the Nakatomi building tied to a fire hose.  It is possible that after his countless look-a-like/sound-a-like action pictures over the years that Bruce Willis has forgotten that the shock of the original “Die Hard” is that it felt like an 80s action movie that just happened to star that guy from “Moonlighting.  This movie, the fifth in the series, is so banal that any actor to stand in the lead.

It also could have taken place anywhere.  The story takes John to Russia, but we never feel like we’re there.  Other than the accents, it could be New York, or Italy, or Spain, or Johannesburg.  You get no sense of the social climate of Moscow or the Ukraine, unlike the Bond pictures which went to Russia before and after communism and you could feel the tension in the air.

The story doesn’t matter, either.  It involves John travelling to Russia because his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested in connection with an assassination and is about to testify in a separate case in exchange for a shorter sentence.  That trial involves a government whistleblower Yuri Komarov (Sabastian Koch) who refuses to turn over a secret file that has incriminating evidence involving a corrupt Russian official, Viktor Chagarin who will kill him in order to keep the file that could put WMD’s in the hands of some very bad people.  No sooner does John arrive in Moscow then the courthouse is bombed, Chagarin’s men kidnap Komarov and we come to understand what Bruce Willis is talking about in the trailer when he calls someone “The 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey”.  Hint: He’s not talking about himself.

What follows is more or less redundant.  John and son Jack (who is secretly a C.I.A. agent) join forces to retrieve Komarov even though Jack resents his father for never being around when he was a kid.  Another running joke in this series is that John is always trying to get back into the good graces of a family member who hates him.  Remember the first one?  His wife was mad at him.  In “Live Free or Die Hard” it was his daughter.  Now it’s his son, who is so at odds with his father that he insists on calling him by his first name.  They never really work things out.  Plus, you’d think that after all he’s been through for the family over the years, they might cut him a break.  What’s a dad to do?

The rest of the movie is one long chase as father and son try to keep Chagarin’s men from getting their grubby hands on that secret file.  That includes an exhaustive car chase in the streets of Moscow; a shoot out in a safehouse; and another at a facility at Chernobyl.  The movie is wall-to-wall stunts, which we accept, but this series has been known for overblown, ridiculous stuntwork that never-the-less has always been inventive and a lot of fun.  Not here.  We get car chases, helicopter crashes done without style or flare or creativity.  You can run next door in the theater and see the same stuff in Parker or The Last Stand or Bullet to the Head.  Bruce Willis says that he is onboard for one more “Die Hard” picture.  Let’s hope so.  Let’s hope that he insists that the script for that film reminds us of the reasons that we fell in love with this series in the first place.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Action