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Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Directed by: John Moore

Premise: The fifth film in the Die Hard series. John McClane travels to Russia to visit his son (Jai Courtney) only to discover that the younger McClane is a spy for the CIA. When the mission goes bad, father and son must stop a nuclear arms heist.

What Works: To give this film its most optimistic spin, the filmmakers of A Good Day to Die Hard provide a new Die Hard experience, pivoting the series from suspense and hard action to an espionage thriller. In that regard, the film’s design and tone echo the most recent James Bond films like Casino Royale and Skyfall, although it isn’t nearly as good as those features.

What Doesn’t: A Good Day to Die Hard was directed by John Moore, a filmmaker with reliable technical skills but whose projects are often soulless covers of older films such as his 2006 remake of The Omen and the 2004 remake of The Flight of the Phoenix. Moore’s entry in the Die Hard series is yet another disappointing effort. It’s a sloppy film that gives into the worst trends of contemporary action filmmaking. Like every action film since The Bourne Identity, the color palette is an ugly greyish-green and the cinematography alternates between shaky handheld camera work and overdone computer enhanced slow motion shots. The editing of A Good Day to Die Hard is awful, especially in the car chases in which sounds are out of synch and dialogue spoken inside of automobiles is heard in wide exterior shots. This is a far cry from the technical mastery of the original Die Hard or the visual flair and filmmaking competence of the other sequels. But the faults of the filmmaking hurt this picture even as a mere popcorn action adventure. The sterile look and the video game aesthetics eliminate any sense of grit, mass, or reality; nothing in this movie looks real and so it is never involving. To be fair, the stylistic flaws of A Good Day to Die Hard are no worse than many other contemporary action pictures such as The Expendables, The Fast and the Furious, and even The Avengers but these flaws are made worse by the inept filmmaking. The laziness of A Good Day to Die Hard infects the plotting and performances as well. The story includes twists and turns that are completely random, like the decisions of a desperate screenwriter trying to expand a thin screenplay to a feature length. The Die Hard series has always flouted realism to some degree but the filmmakers of earlier movies generally adhered to an internal logic that made the pictures credible. The filmmakers of A Good Day to Die Hard don’t even try. The climax of the movie takes place amid the radioactive ruins of Chernobyl but while the villains wear hazmat suits the McClanes are dressed in t-shirts and jeans. Aside from being a logical lapse, this also assumes a superhero invincibility on the part of the heroes that is a betrayal of what made John McClane and the Die Hard series interesting in the first place. The filmmakers’ disregard for the Die Hard brand is apparent in their treatment of the characters who are as thin as the plot. No one has a history, a motivation, or a desire. Everyone just runs and shoots while exchanging some lame banter in between. Bruce Willis, who has distinguished John McClane among action heroes and who has generally brought a lot of charm to the role, is just going through the motions here. In other words, he’s not really playing John McClane but a generic action hero. Jai Courtney is cast as the younger McClane and Courtney has no screen presence. He has the physical goods of an action star but the script does not distinguish his character’s relationship with his father the way Live Free or Die Hard did with Lucy McClane. What A Good Day to Die Hard ultimately does is complete the work that was begun in Live Free or Die Hard: the dismantling of the Die Hard series from a novel and interesting idea by processing it through the Hollywood system to the point that it no longer represents its origins. This is not a Die Hard movie; it’s a mediocre action picture starring Bruce Willis that happens to have the Die Hard name.

Bottom Line: A Good Day to Die Hard is a big disappointment. Everything that was interesting about John McClane and the Die Hard conceit is missing here and this is by far the worst entry in the series. But even among action pictures in general A Good Day to Die Hard fares poorly.

Episode: #428 (February 24, 2013)