This was not a good thing.
The film starts out like some kind of Cold War-era espionage movie run through the Bourne-filter (though with much less style than it seems the first Bourne films have) before we are reintroduced to Bruce Willis’ John McClane.
From there we hit the movie’s first major roadblock, John (or really Bruce, let’s be honest now, there doesn’t seem to be even the pretense that this is the character who graced our screens in the first three films in the series) heads to Russia to help out his estranged son who, it appears, has been arrested for murder (amongst other unspecific crimes) – why John doesn’t just do what a regular New York cop would do, contact the authorities, I’m not sure but off Bruce goes to Moscow.
While, in an action movie, I am well aware real life logic does not apply, what has previously set the Die Hard films apart from, more often, straight to video/DVD fare, is that McClane is an unwilling hero stuck in a situation where he has no choice – here, despite a few lines of painful dialogue, he seems to be seeking out the action.
Once we get to Russia, and are through most of the movies poorly handled exposition, the action starts with a huge car chase that really just ignores any common sense, or real sense of excitement or tension, and so the film continues.
Bad script aside (Bruce Willis essentially keeps repeating three phrases regarding his age, vacation and the fact he’s a father), the action feels so cartoony that there is genuinely no sense of jeopardy to be had.
From beginning to end, despite being shot at, facing armoured vehicles in a normal road jeep and swinging from the back of a spinning helicopter, there is a never a feeling that McClane (or his bland and near pointless macguffin offspring) is likely to meet a sticky end, leaving the majority of the film as a series of spectacular looking but heartless, and generally too drawn out, action set pieces.
Aside from these sequences we get a story clearly trying to offer a parallel relationship to McClane and his junior in the form of a former Soviet big-wig and his daughter but, because the characters are so poorly drawn, all it does is add an extra person to get involved in the big climax at Chernobyl (yes, apparently it’s a half hour’s drive from Moscow and there is a gas that can clear up the radioactivity in seconds) rather than offering any form of extra insight.
In the end, if A Good Day To Die Hard had starred Steven Seagal and been released on DVD it would have been a fun way to spend 90 minutes, sadly, as its had more money put into it and features Bruce Willis it is on the big screen and doesn’t provide the sense of ironic detachment that can make Seagal an icon of bad action cinema.
I remain intrigued to see the uncut version of this when it comes out on Blu-ray as the British release is known to have been cut by the producers to make it a 12A, but I don’t see how any extra swearing or gore is going to help make the plot anymore than at best third-rate or help make the script anything other than a string of clichés about Bruce Willis’ age, fatherhood or the fact he’s supposedly meant to be on holiday not shooting non-specific Russian maybe-terrorists.
While the original Die Hard helped birth and solidify the conventions of action cinema as we know it A Good Day To Die Hard feels like the death throes of a genre in need of being put aside in favour of something with a bit more heart, brains and edge like The Raid has proved action cinema can be.
The guys from 24LPS have also reviewed A Good Day To Die Hard, so here’s their review: