In the latest installment of the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard, audience members are once again asked to suspend all notions of reality to jump into the world of John McClane (Bruce Willis). With a survivability rate akin to the Road Runner, John and his son Jack (Jai Courtney) brave extreme car crashes, heavy enemy fire, oh, and radiation exposure at Chernobyl (maybe we will see the effects of that in future movies). Unfortunately, this good luck does not extend to the content of the film; the script is full of cornier than usual one-liners and a typical, yet also convoluted, action plot: Russian bad guys want nuclear material, American good guys try to stop them. I’m ready for something new from the franchise. I can excuse corny jokes, though the “I’m on vacation” shtick got really old after the third time it was used, but a boring, scattered plot is killer.
As opposed to the other Die Hard films, where it is up to John McClane to save the day, in this film, he is partly responsible for the conflict. Upon hearing that his estranged son Jack is imprisoned in Moscow, John sets off to free him. On the surface, it looks as if Jack has gotten involved with the wrong crowd. However, in reality, he is an undercover CIA officer who is assigned to protect Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), an imprisoned Russian billionaire, from his former partner Viktor, a prominent Russian official. Komarov has a key to a locker, which is allegedly full of incriminating information against Viktor; he was going to use this information as leverage in exchange for freedom. As it turns out the CIA is also interested in the information, so on the day of Komarov’s trial, Jack busts him out of jail. Unfortunately, John interferes and the extraction plan is ruined. It is now up to John and Jack to protect the asset and retrieve the information. Got all of that? When the action then shifts to Chernobyl, and a “surprise” twist emerges, the film is unsalvageable.
The best parts of the previous Die Hard movies are the villains. Alan Rickman (Die Hard) and Jeremy Irons (Die Hard With A Vengeance) were especially fantastic as McClane’s nemeses. In A Good Day to Die Hard, however, the main villain, Alik, is lacking. His signature characteristics are tap dancing and eating carrots… scary stuff. There were no mind games or witty dialogue; in fact, the “most chilling” thing he said to the McClanes was “I hate cowboys”. The radiation at Chernobyl was the scariest aspect of the movie for me.
Besides immortality, the running theme throughout the film was characters’ “daddy issues”. Jack resents John, and Komarov’s daughter seemingly resents her father. I will admit that the relationship between father and son was an enjoyable addition to the franchise. It was nice to finally see John interact with a member of his family throughout the whole film, as opposed to a brief hug before the closing credits or a two second phone call in the third act. However, the relationship storyline needed to be more fleshed out. The audience understands that Jack has issues with his father, but never find out exactly why. Is it because his dad worked a lot and didn’t have time for his family? Why is there so much resentment?
A Good Day to Die Hard is not the type of film you want to see only months after seeing a great action film like Skyfall, nor is it the way Hollywood should want to start 2013. If you’re a hardcore Die Hard fan, you may be disappointed by how far the franchise has plummeted. Speaking of plummeting, one particular scene at the end of the film, reminiscent of Die Hard, made me wonder if the studio has plans to hand the reigns of the franchise to Jai Courtney whenever Bruce Willis decides it’s time to retire. Was this his coronation into the world of Die Hard? Perhaps the studio is leaving it up to the box office to decide.
My Score: D