Should I Watch..? 'A Good Day To Die Hard' (2013)
What's the big deal?
A Good Day To Die Hard is an action film released in 2013 and is the fifth part of the Die Hard series, at the time of writing. Written directly for the screen by Skip Woods and directed by John Moore, the film sees Bruce Willis once again return to play New York cop John McClane who travels to Russia to get his son out of prison and ends up caught in a cross-fire between political terrorists. It was released in the US with an R rating but censored down considerably for the UK market, securing a 12-A rating instead. It was the first film in the series that received mostly negative reviews upon release but the film's global takings were still more than three times its budget. Whether the appetite remains for another sequel is up for debate.
What's it about?
In Moscow, a corrupt but high-ranking official named Viktor Chargarin plans on incriminating political prisoner and former billionaire Yuri Komarov at a forthcoming trial. Chargarin believes Komarov is in possession of a file incriminating him but Komarov refuses to hand it over. In a separate incident, CIA operative Jack McClane is arrested after bungling an assassination but agrees to testify against Komarov in exchange for a lighter sentence. Upon hearing the news that his son is in prison, New York cop John McClane travels to Russia to try and bring him home in the hope of reconciliation.
As John approaches the courthouse, a bomb explodes and allows Jack and Komarov to escape. Reluctantly accepting his father's help, Jack escorts Komarov to safety while explaining to his father what he's been doing all these years. As they flee from Chargarin's men and his ruthless henchman Alik, the McClanes soon realise that getting out of Russia might not be as easy as they supposed...
What's to like?
Those of you cursing the PG-13 rating on Live Free Or Die Hard will be pleased to know that normal service has been resumed with ridiculous action scenes and barely a moment to catch your breath. This feels a bit more adult than before and not just because police cars aren't taking out helicopters either. The story, while a bit disjointed, offers an interesting twist halfway through which does recapture your waning interest. And in keeping with the lone-wolf-with-a-partner subplot the Die Hard films have been using since 1995, we finally re-introduced to John's son after his fleeting appearance in the background of a brief scene in the original Die Hard. Willis and Courtney might not be on their best form here but the chemistry between the two works well enough for a film like this.
The only other thing I liked about this film (and it really is the only other thing) is that for a mindless action thriller, it knows when you've had enough and calls it quits. This is actually a rare feat amongst movies of this type so I'm thankful that A Good Day To Die Hard doesn't hang around too long, either on screen or in memory. But the inescapable truth is that this has next to nothing to do with the first film with the exception of Willis. This could, and perhaps should, have been just another straight-to-video slice of action nostalgia. Would the film have been any different if Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills from Taken was running the show? Probably not.
- This marks the first time in the series that the screenplay was written directly for the screen, as opposed to being adapted from another source. The original film was based on a book by Roderick Thorp.
- John McClane's ringtone is Ludwig Van Beethoven's Ode To Joy, which was a musical theme from the original film used by Hans Gruber.
- Although the film is mainly set in Russia, it was actually filmed in Hungary with Budapest standing in for Moscow. The vehicular stunts were filmed at the Hungaroring, a Formula One circuit.
What's not to like?
Remember all the stuff you liked in the first film? The thought that McClane might not survive his ordeal? The tension as he crawled through air ducts trying to avoid alerting the bad guys? The stunt-work that took your breath away? The jokes? The impossibly suave Hans Gruber? Well, you won't find any of that here. This film dispenses with the notion that McClane is just a normal guy doing his best and instead, presents an orgy of CG-laced violence that defies logic, reason and belief. What John Moore has unwittingly done is make a film that feels like a sequel to Crank instead of Die Hard. So if mindless, moronic action sequences are all you're looking for then this might well do the trick. But frankly, it's an insult to the original.
McClane Junior is not a welcome addition to the series either, coming across as an arrogant jerk whose idea of bonding with his long-lost dad is to blow stuff up together. Touching, isn't it? Even Willis is devoid of the charm and off-the-cuff remarks that made McClane so likeable. And seeing as these are the only two characters you can recognise (the Russian characters all seem interchangeable thanks to an unmemorable supporting cast), following the plot is purely optional because the film doesn't try that hard. I also loved the notion that radiation could be hoovered up by the bad guys but then again, why bother - at no point does it seem to bother the Immortal McClanes! What I wanted from this movie was a long overdue return to form - I wanted to see Willis on his own, trapped in one location and forced to improvise his way to safety. What I got was a constant string of kabooms and bang-bangs with an old bald guy in the middle.
Should I watch it?
Unless you crave action of any sort or quality then A Good Day To Die Hard is a good day to bid farewell to the late Die Hard series. Since 1988, it has entertained countless millions but now, the time has come to put it out of its misery. It's like a dementia patient still convinced that they're in the army - it keeps rising from its bed and going through the motions but it's not fooling anyone.
Great For: desperate action fans, anyone who has never seen the original trilogy
Not So Great For: fans of the first three films, sane adults, the Die Hard series
What else should I watch?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with both Die Hard or Die Hard With A Vengeance which are both funny and exciting despite the old-school nature of the action. Even the fairly generic Die Hard 2 is better than this codswallop.
Naturally, there is plenty of choice if you like ridiculous action. The aforementioned Crank and its equally mental sequel Crank: High Voltage offer a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish that is about as insane and good for you as peeing on an electric fence. Drive Angry sees a demonic Nicholas Cage return from Hell as a vengeful grandfather and that alone should tell you how stupid that film is. Or, if you want to see why Clive Owen wasn't good enough to replace Pierce Brosnan as 007, check out Shoot 'Em Up which has as many plot holes and shoot-outs as it does dead bad guys.
John "Jack" McClane Jr.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Radivoje "Rasha" Bukvić
Alik, Chargarin's henchman
Skip Woods *
Release Date (UK)
14th February, 2013
© 2015 Benjamin Cox