Plenty of action thrills despite an emaciated scriptMovie Review Thursday, February 21st, 2013
In case you forgot, the reason we have Bruce Willis is Die Hard, John McTiernan’s ridiculously entertaining 1988 action film about a wise-cracking lone cop trying to save his wife from a hostage-taking gang of criminals in an L.A. skyscraper. (Yes, it was his Emmy-winning role in Moonlighting that got him Die Hard, but Die Hard is what made Willis a movie star.)
There have been four sequels, two in the 90s that were not as great as the original but were still funny and thrilling popcorn films. Then they rebooted the franchise in 2007 with Live Free or Die Hard, which was absurdly plotted and featured equally absurd action sequences, such as a chase scene between a fighter jet and a car and a bunch of highway overpasses. It was a great ride, and I loved it. I was thrilled that they decided to make another Die Hard, but A Good Day to Die Hard is unfortunately the worst of the series.
Like the previous movies in the series, the plot of A Good Day to Die Hard is jumpstarted by the familial duties of John McClane (Willis). In this version, he is trying to reunite with his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been arrested for murder in Moscow. As John travels from New York to Russia, we discover that Jack is not the ne’er-do-well John seems to think he is; rather he’s a CIA agent charged with rescuing a Russian political prisoner.
Because it’s a Die Hard movie and Die Hard movies don’t operate in the real world, John runs into Jack as Jack is trying to make his getaway with the prisoner, Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Then there is a really long chase scene through the streets and highways of Moscow. One thing leads to another, and we end up at Chernobyl.
But if director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods want to take us back to the 1980s, I wish they had also taken us back to what made the Die Hard movies good.
Most importantly, they were relatively well written. McClane’s quips and cracks were actually funny in the previous films, and Willis delivered them with a sneer and perfect timing. In A Good Day, his delivery is dulled, but worse, the lines are mostly references to lines from the first film.
Similarly, the villains in the other movies, particularly Alan Rickman in Die Hard and Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With A Vengeance, were delightfully, even epically evil. The various Russian baddies in the latest film are barely memorable clichés. And the relationship between John and Jack is an outline of a shadow of an idea of a strained father-son dynamic.
Courtney, who was the kind heart of the first season of Spartacus, has the chops for action heroism, but he isn’t given much to do in A Good Day other than roll his eyes at his annoying father.
I must admit that despite the emaciated story and script, A Good Day to Die Hard still provides the requisite action thrills. The Moscow car chase did manage to make my heart race, and the final battle, which involves a massive helicopter and a crate full of enriched uranium, is an impressive feat of stunt choreography, CGI, and memories of Cold War suspense.
However, Moore is a pretty low rent replacement for McTiernan, and he is at fault for several confusing sequences in which characters and objects are moved in illogical directions.
I would have cared less about this if Woods could distract me with sharp dialogue or a sympathetic relationship between John and Jack.
No such luck. Instead, the explosions, crashes, and gun battles distracted me from the weak script.
A Good Day to Die Hard
Directed John Moore
Written by Skip Woods
Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch
At your local multiplex
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