US Release Date: 02-14-2013
Directed by: John Moore
- Bruce Willis, as
- John McClane
- Jai Courtney, as
- Jack McClane
- Sebastian Koch, as
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as
- Lucy McClane
- Yuliya Snigir, as
- Radivoje Bukvic, as
- Cole Hauser, as
- Amaury Nolasco, as
- Pasha D. Lychnikoff as
Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in A Good Day to Die Hard
Bruce Willis returns for the fifth time as the tough as hell New York cop John McClane. Only this time New York barely makes an appearance. As we learned with The Expendables (2010) and Red (2010), older actors can still make decent action stars. Willis, born in 1955, fairs better than any of his contemporaries.
After hearing that his estranged grown son Jack, has been arrested in Russia, John flies to Moscow for the trial. Just before it can begin, all hell breaks loose outside the court house with explosions and gun fire. John sees his son, with another convict escape and get pursued. John joins in on the car chase and we soon learn three things. The first is that John still has it. He survives several life threatening moments just within the next few minutes.
The second is that Jack is a CIA agent and his arrest was planned. The third is that John and Jack have serious issues with each other. Upon finding out that Jack is a spy, John jokingly remarks, "The 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey." For his part, Jack never calls his father "Dad." He addresses his father by his first name. Yeah, we know how that will play out.
Although John points out that he is there on vacation, he ends up partnering with his son to complete his son's assignment. Actually, the partnership is forced on them due to circumstances that involve more explosions and gun fire. Together they find themselves on the run in Russia with insurmountable odds against them. You know, a typical day in the life of John McClane.
One recurring theme of the Die Hard films has always been family. John's wife was in the first few films, while his daughter Lucy, was in Live Free or Die Hard (2007). She returns for a couple of scenes, but this time it is all about John's relationship with his son. It is the part of the film that could have really made this move great. How many father/son action movies have there been?
Unfortunately, A Good Day to Die Hard was directed by one of the worst directors of all time. John Moore was responsible for the pathetic, Behind Enemy Lines (2001) and the laughable Flight of the Phoenix (2004). Where he fails here is in the father/son moments that, had they been done right, could have added some real emotional content to all the action. Early on, John and Jack are protecting someone as they run through the streets of Moscow. They stop for a moment with Jack deciding to scout ahead. John takes this moment to talk to a man he just met about his relationship with Jack, who happens to overhear the conversation.
Later in the movie John and Jack spend all kinds of time alone together riding across country. Hmmm, this might just be me thinking, but would that have not have been a great opportunity for a scene with some exposition about why they have not spoke in so long. These two men never share their feelings. I am not asking for a teary eyed, "I love you scene." but a little emotion would have helped.
The only way these two communicate is with jokes. After Jack gets hurt, his father asks him if he needs a hug? Jack comes back with, "We're not a hugging family." To which John adds, "Damn straight!" We get it. These guys are tough, but seeing an emotional connection between them would have allowed the audience to get to know them beyond just how well they can take a punch or aim a gun.
The closest we get to a reconciliatory moment is when John and Jack are out numbered and out gunned, hiding behind a bar. John asks his son, "You remember the last time we talked just before you went away?" Jack groans, "Ah no! No, no, no! You're not gonna open up to me before we die! That's not your thing, John!" John asks, "What's my thing?" To which his son answers, "Killing bad guys!" You could argue that these two macho men are bonding through their outrageously exaggerated action scenes, but a few more lines of dialogue spoken at better moments would have helped greatly.
A Good Day to Die Hard is mindless popcorn munching entertainment, and it proves several things. The first is that Bruce Willis is still very much a viable action star. With Jack Reacher (2012) and now this, Jai Courtney is an actor on the rise. The last is that I was right when I wrote in 2003 that John Moore had no idea what he was doing behind the camera.
Bruce Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard.
Eric seems to blame most of this film's problems on director John Moore, but I think writer Skip Woods needs to shoulder his fair share of the guilt for this cinematic mess. The plot is nonsense and the dialogue bland. Gone are McClane's quips and witticisms and in their place he just sounds cranky and annoyed, as when he repeatedly whines, "I'm on vacation."
The action scenes are ridiculous and over-the-top. Apparently there's a shortage of police and military in Moscow these days as a car chase that traverses the entire city and destroys dozens of cars only brings one lone police car and then only when it's all over. McClane Junior and Senior are able to fall dozens of stories with just a few scratches. Junior gets a piece of metal to the gut, but once it's pulled out, it's never mentioned again.
McClane also shows a complete disregard to innocent bystanders in these scenes. During the car chase, he jumps in an SUV and literally drives it over several other vehicles, crushing them beneath his tires, regardless of who he might be injuring in those cars as he caves in their roofs.
Like Eric, I never felt any sort of emotion in the father/son moments. The writing isn't nearly good enough for that sort of thing. Willis showed much more chemistry with Justin Long in the previous Die Hard film than he does with Jai Courtney who's supposed to be his actual son.
Willis can definitely still do action believably. As this movie proves though, it takes more than action to make a movie good. This series has come a long way from Naktomi Plaza and each installment seems to get a little worse than the last.
Jai Courtney and Bruce Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard.
As Scott wrote, both the writing and the direction are piss poor. In fact, this latest entry in the creaky Die Hard franchise suffers the fate of too many of today's action movies; a dumbed-down storyline and exaggerated action sequences. From the moment father and son are reunited and find themselves being attacked, and Bruce Willis as John McClane calmly picks up the nearest piece of heavy artillery and begins firing it, while everyone else in the room dives for cover, this movie comes perilously close to self-parody. John Wayne was more subtle than this stuff.
Each entry in the series has tried to top the previous one and in the process it has gotten to the point of losing whatever connection with reality the original movie had. I agree with Scott about the utter ridiculousness of the big highway chase scene. In the real world McClane would have killed and/or maimed dozens of people when driving over their cars. In this movie there are no repercussions.
Eric, perhaps you took a bathroom break or just weren't paying close attention but they did include one emotional bonding moment between father and son. It happens near the climax and it concludes with John Sr. telling his son he loves him and John Jr. answering back, “Me too.” It's an awkward and embarrassingly sentimental exchange that seems out of character and odd at that particular time and place.
Bruce Willis has expressed interest in doing a sixth (and he claims final) Die Hard movie. If they do, I really hope it's an improvement over this clunker. John McClane deserves to go out in style. I do agree that Willis still has the goods to pull off the role. Now if only he can find the right script and director.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (2013)