Truth be told, I never even saw the theatrical trailer for this movie before I decided to see it on the big screen. I just saw that it was playing and my brother and I were confident enough in the strength of the Die Hard franchise that we didn’t care if the story was any good. While it was not as strong as the previous installments, I must say, A Good Day to Die Hard does have its own appeal and held its own as a standalone.
For the first time in five installments, John McClane goes international as he tries he save his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) from prison time in Moscow. But not even a few hours after his landing, with no chance of even finding out the deal that got Jack in trouble, an explosion rocks the courthouse where Jack was to appear as a witness in the trial of Yuri Komarov, a political prisoner who is set to expose a huge conspiracy behind the Chernobyl disaster. After John saves his life, the young McClane realizes that he is backed into a corner with no other ally than his dad, who admittedly, has some experience in the past in dealing with tough situations.
A Good Day to Die Hard follows the formula of its predecessors almost to the letter. It has kickass action — car chases that basically set out to prove how powerful Mercedes Benz vehicles are; lots of firepower (director John Moore seemed to have a special fondness for exploding glass), some choice family moments when father and son bond, and basically a lot of running, broken bones, injuries and the like. If one has seen any of the previous Die Hard movies, this one basically just takes on another form in another location.
What I really liked about the movie was that Bruce Willis took a page from Sly Stallone’s manual and seemed to now play to his age. AGDTDH, in choosing a plotline that has his grown son as the focus, is saying that the action hero is indeed aging and is relying on his experience, more than his age to kick the bad guy’s ass. For the rest, he can sic Jack, who has arms like boa constrictors and a tough no nonsense attitude like his dad. The movie also showed rapport between father and son, and illustrated how their styles and strengths complemented each other, even with years of estrangement between them. While the supposed dramatic moments were peppered with wisecracks from John, there was some sort of macho understanding between the two characters that solidified their partnership.
The story was not exactly mind blowing, but after four installments of the franchise, it was a good effort from writer Skip Woods (Hitman, Wolverine, Swordfish). It still had some sort of continuity through John’s character. I had a bit of a problem with the use of extreme close ups especially towards the beginning because some of the sequences were shaky, and I would have liked to see more of Russia through the cinematography but AGDTDH was, mainly an action film that focused on ass kicking rather than selling the view so not much complaints on my part.
I think what was missing from this (maybe) final installment to the John McClane franchise was a really good villain that makes the audience cringe and grit their teeth. It had Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in the first, it had Col. Stuart (William Sadler) in the second. It had the terrorist Simon (Jeremy Irons) in the third and even Timothy Olyphant pulled his weight as the techie terrorist Thomas Gabriel in 4.0. In the fifth McClane adventure, I would have thought that filmmakers would introduce a more nefarious villain since there were two tough McClanes to contend with but all they came up with were two double crossing Russians in their 50s and a (bad) tap dancing assassin. This part was kind of a downer.
All in all, A Good Day to Die Hard was a fitting end to the Die Hard franchise, well, not unless they want Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to tote an AK-47 for the next McClane family adventure. It was good to see John finally reconcile with his two children since his love for his family was what remained constant in all of the films.
AGDTDH was a wild ride, but sadly, it was not as wild or as memorable as any of the first four movies. In itself, it was a strong action film which I hope would open doors for talented Aussie Jai Courtney (whom I loved as Varro on Spartacus) as he brought the new school component to the movie quite well. Bruce Willis will be awesome no matter what role but I must admit that I like him best wearing John McClane’s shoes. If this is the end, I will surely miss him. He is one tough action hero.