The problem with action movies sequels is the belief that bigger is better. The action sequences must be longer, the action more intense, the set-pieces must get bigger, the stakes must be higher, etc. etc. And more often than not, it often turns into a film made by a director who was under the belief that everything should just explode and damn any semblance of a story.
Which brings me to the fifth film in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Die to Die Hard, where John McClane travels to Moscow to help out his son Jack who appears to have gotten himself into a little bit of trouble with the locals.
First of all, I like the idea of the film taking the Die Hard franchise outside of the US for once, setting it in Moscow for most of the film (They go to Chernobyl towards the end of the film). Speaking from personal experience, Moscow is a city that has a lot of character to it. Okay, it’s mostly filmed in Budapest, but on paper it looked like an interesting change of location for the franchise. And did it, work? Well…Yeah, I guess.
Okay, let’s talk about Bruce Willis instead who is…um…okay as John McClane. Don’t get me wrong, he still has the charisma and sharp tongue that made him so popular in the first place. Plus, 25 years after shoving Alan Rickman’s West German terrorist out of a skyscraper, it is McClane himself who in this film amusingly is technically the funny-voiced foreigner. But with that comes the predictable fish-out-of-water gags with nothing new added to that story formula.
As for McClane Jr., Jai Courtney gives a decent performance as McClane’s Jack. You know, the son McClane mentioned in…Wait, McClane never mentioned him. Wow, their father/son relationship must have really been on the rocks.
That said, the character isn’t that interesting as a foil to his father. Sure, there is some fun to have watching two very different men trying to work together, with Jack McClane being a very sensible and methodical man whereas his father is the sort to improvise and act like a maniac. And sure, there is some more fun to be had with the two trying to get past their differences and work together as a team. And when they do, they are a pretty formidable team. It’s just a bit too formulaic. You know what’s going to happen with these two over the film, you know the character arc they are going to have. Hell, you can even work it out from the trailer.
Yeah, this film didn’t have a lot going for it. Oh sure, it’s perfectly watchable, but it’s just that: Watchable. There is a few interesting new elements added to the Die Hard formula, but most of them are ultimately old elements that the audience has seen about a dozen times before they were 10 years old in slightly less violent forms.
So if the story doesn’t have that much going for it, what about the action? Well, A Good Day to Die Hard manages to have the logical conclusion to this franchise’s biggest problem: It keeps trying to top the last film not in quality but in action.
Over the course of the franchise, John McClane has becoming more and more of an indestructible supercop. Did I enjoy the scene in the last film (Live Free or Die Hard or, if you live in the UK like me, Die Hard 4.0) where McClane jumped from a trunk and onto an airborne plane? Sure. Did the car chase scene in this film where it seemed like just about everything with wheels in Moscow was blowing up? Yeah, but this doesn’t excuse the fact that the Die Hard franchise really, really, really needs to go back to basics and to stop trying to top itself in terms of action. The series is so well loved because it was John McClane in a believable amount of peril, taking down bad guys and cracking jokes.
And really, is the action in this film really that great? There is a lot of it, but it’s often shot in such a confusing fashion that it often lacks coherence and you quickly stop caring. And while there are some good stunts here and there, most increasingly starting to look like director John Moore nicked them out a cartoon to the point that they either don’t look that god, or they just feel a bit “Okay, but it’s been done.”
And that’s what I guess is my biggest problem with A Good Day to Die Hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s watchable, but I can’t say I would recommend it to anyone other than the most hardcore of the die-hard, um, Die Hard fans. There is some good stuff and good ideas there, but it never feels like they live up to their potential, or not feel phoned in.