|A Good Day to Die Hard
Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch
If you’ve been on Rotten Tomatoes or other movie related websites over the last 24 hours, then you may have noticed some not so kind words about A Good Day to Die Hard. Soulless, tired, messy, unfocused, these are just some of the buzz words being used to describe John McClane’s 5th outing. While I’m not going to dispute some of those claims, because A Good Day is far from perfect, but it’s also not the train wreck that some may make it out to be. Before I go any further, I’ll just throw this out there right now; I like this movie more than Live Free or Die Hard. It still can’t touch the original trilogy of films, but at this point, sometimes its okay to just be entertained.
Looking back on my thoughts about this movie, A Good Day to Die Hard jumps head first into the pit known as squandered potential. Had 20th Century Fox and the producers of this movie gotten someone with a little bit more talent and knowledge of the Die Hard series to write this movie and had they gotten someone who is a little bit more old school in their directing (read not video game style); then the reaction to this movie might have a different outcome. Those are the two problem areas with the screenplay being the most problematic. But Skip Woods, is no stranger to squandered potential (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team) so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.
McClane (Bruce Willis) is off to Moscow to find out why his estranged son Jack (Jai Courteney) is in prison for killing a man in a dance club. But Jack isn’t some tweeked out wayward criminal, he’s a C.I.A agent undercover and his prison sentence is just part of a bigger picture that includes freeing political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). So no sooner does McClane land in Moscow, on his way to the courthouse where Jack is to be sentenced, does all hell break loose (in the form of a break out and a car chase that was actually well shot). Yuri has the goods on a politician named Chagarin (Sergie Kolesnikov) that go back to Chernobyl. So it’s up to McClane and son to protect Yuri.
Seems easy enough to craft a movie worthy enough to carry the Die Hard label right? One of the staples of the Die Hard movies, well at least the original trilogy, is in its villains. Hans Gruber was the classic villain. And while his brother in Vengeance or the use of the military in Die Harder paled in comparison, at least they had character. The villains in A Good Day are faceless nobody’s, just fly’s in the ointment, as McClane said of himself in Die Hard. Their only function is to be around for McClane and son to shoot. And while A Good Day does feature the staple don’t believe everything you see approach when it comes to their villains intentions; that motive gets lost when you don’t have a good villain.
Then there is the small issue of John McClane himself: As with Live Free, this is a John McClane that is more cyborg than an actual mortal human that with the wrong move can die. It’s as if the screenwriters of the last two movies never saw the first 3. There is a moment in this movie where McClane is on a plane headed to Moscow. Now if you remember in the first movie, McClane was uncomfortable with the airplane ride and his seatmate told him the best way to relax was to take off your shoes and make fists with your toes. That’s why he wandered around Nakatomi without any shoes. Guess what doesn’t happen when he’s on the plane...no fist with the toes. It may seem like a throwaway moment, but it’s also a moment that could have shown us that McClane does have a past and lets the audience know that there is respect for the character.
Skip Woods also makes the mistake of putting McClane in the background as he and his son fight their way through the story. Last time I checked these movies are will always be about John McClane. Here he just seems to be along for the ride.
But even with all the bitching, there is still enjoyment to be found in A Good Day. The movie moves at a brisk pace (but that will happen when you don’t really have a good story to work through) and the action, while erratic with the camera work, are finely choreographed. Willis as always, is enjoyable as our favorite everyman hero. And while you may start calling for the time of death on this series, I won’t be so quick to do so. Give me a 6th movie with John Moore and Skip Woods returning, count me out. Give me a movie with a little more talent and time spent on getting back to the basics; I’m game for one more adventure.