John McClane (Bruce Willis) must travel to Russia and see if he can provide his son Jack (Jai Courtney) any assistance as Jack is facing murder charges. When John arrives at the courthouse in Moscow he notices some things don’t look right. About then, three powerful car bombs explode, blowing out a side of the building. Jack and another prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) escape into the streets just as several armed men enter the devastated courtroom. They are looking to abduct Komarov at the request of Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolensnikov), a candidate for defense minister and a former friend of Komarov’s. Komarov has information that could be very damaging to Chagarin and wants that information turned over to him before it destroys his access to power. As Jack and Komarov are about to escape, John stops them, wanting to talk to Jack about their strained relationship. After a brief confrontation, Jack and Komarov drive away but they are being followed by a heavily armored vehicle filled with gun-toting thugs working for Chagarin. The delay caused by John has ruined Jack’s escape plan. Jack is a CIA operative on a mission to bring in Komarov and get him out of Russia. John’s interference has put the extraction plan off schedule and the mission leaders in Washington DC call off the rescue. Seeing the massive armored truck chasing his son’s van, John steals a delivery truck and heads after them. Despite being outweighed and outgunned, John is able to give Jack a chance to escape, but Jack turns around and begrudgingly picks up John. With the plan for escape off the table, Jack and John must work together to protect Komarov and get him and themselves out of a very unfriendly Russia.
The first “Die Hard” movie came out about 25 years ago. While the stunts have gotten bigger and the hair has gotten thinner (or disappeared entirely) what has remained a constant is the wry smile, the pithy catch phrases and the get-the-job-done attitude of star Bruce Willis. This fifth installment in the action franchise has the big stunts, the insane car and foot chases and the massive gun battles. What it is lacking is anything remotely interesting in between the gunfire and explosions. “A Good Day to Die Hard” may be the least entertaining of all the films in the series.
The screenplay, written by Skip Woods, is devoid of anything resembling character development. We are told very little about the relationship between Jack and John prior to their uncomfortable reunion in Moscow. The source of their tension is likely John being away due to work as Jack was growing up, but that conclusion is largely left up to the audience to figure out on our own. We know the two will work out their differences as the story moves forward but the speed of their reconciliation probably sets a new record and, aside from dad shooting a bunch of bad guys, there’s really no reason for it.
The bad guys of the film are laughable in their silliness. Making the usual mistakes made by stereotypical movie villains, such as taking too long toying with the heroes instead of just putting some bullets in their brains, the assortment of thugs and hired guns that make up Chagarin’s gang are right out of every crime film set in Eastern Europe: There’s the thug with the muscular build and tattoos, the thug with the bleach blond spiked hairdo, the thug who enjoys torturing the heroes, the beautiful woman thug and the thug who really wanted to do something else but didn’t have any opportunities so he turned to a life of crime. It seems the writer of the script wasn’t very interested in giving the audience interesting supporting characters so he just gave John McClane several witty asides that take place during the chase scenes. I suppose this is a substitute for a story that makes a little sense.
The story is also filled with twists and turns that seem arbitrary and thought up on the fly. Much of what happens prior to the twist is blown out of the water from a logic point of view after the twist, making the basis for the entire story rather suspect. While one person has gotten credit for the screenplay, the choppy and incoherent nature of the story suggests there were several people involved in what was actually shot. Most film scripts are the product of a committee. Sometimes it works and sometimes you get “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
There’s another thing about the film that stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Apparently, Moscow has a very small police force. Despite car crashes caused by three vehicles driving the wrong way on the streets and bombs exploding and helicopters shooting cannons at downtown buildings, there are never more than one or two police cars that show up. More often than not, none show up at all. I suppose the appropriate numbers of police showing up at a massive explosion or a helicopter shooting up a building would add a great deal of expense to the production and no one ever accused a filmmaker of being too realistic but come on; any one of these events would have attracted the attention of several law enforcement agencies, even in Russia. I’ve seen four police cruisers parked behind one car pulled over for speeding on the interstate. I’m pretty sure more than a few cars might respond to any of the catastrophes shown in the film.
Finally, Bruce Willis is just phoning it in. His fifth go round as John McClane seems to be something of a bore for Willis. His zingers don’t have their usual zing. Even his best known catchphrase, Yippee Ki-Yay Mother F***er, is delivered with very little enthusiasm and is almost drowned out by background noise. Apparently Willis wants to do one more film in the series before retiring the character. If that happens, I hope he gets plenty of rest and is in a good frame of mind when he begins shooting so we can get our old John McClane back. He’s nowhere to be found in “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
“A Good Day to Die Hard” is rated R for violence and language. The violence begins pretty much from the first frame and continues till nearly the last. There are plenty of shootings, some more graphic than others, car crashes, bodies flying from bomb blasts and more. Foul language is common throughout the film.
“Die Hard” made Bruce Willis a bankable action star in 1988. He’s done more serious acting in several films but he always comes back to the shoot ‘em ups. I suppose you stay with what pays the bills; but Willis has nearly worn out his welcome as the guy who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” gets two disappointed guitars out of five.
Three films are up for your consideration this week in the movie poll. Vote for the next flick I see and review.
Amour—Age and infirmity test the bonds of love for a married couple entering a troubling time. “Amour” is nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress at this year’s Academy Awards.
Dark Skies—As husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret witness an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, their safe and peaceful home quickly unravels.
Snitch—A desperate father puts everything on the line to save his son from a long prison sentence after the boy is wrongly accused of illegal drug distribution. Based on a true story.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.