A Good Day to Die Hard - SideReel Review
The Die Hard franchise is reinvented once again in this dreadful fifth outing, which tries and fails to regain the lighthearted spirit of central character John McClane while also managing to underwhelm audiences with poorly done modern-action motifs. It’s a fascinating study in Hollywood-gone-wrong, as the last sequel saw a stone-faced Bruce Willis get upstaged by lame generational humor from Justin Long -- never mind the entirely out-of-place supporting role from Kevin Smith (complete with Star Wars jokes). Here, Willis lightens up his act, but is working with a terrible script by Skip Woods that continually misses opportunities and changes the dynamic from a heroic singing cowboy to an Ugly American jerk. Add in a stiff sidekick character (played by yet another bland, crew-cut actor, Jai Courtney), overblown, poorly shot action set pieces (McClane driving over cars monster-truck-style while yelling out awkward one-liners), and too many cozy dad-and-son moments, and the result is one clumsy blockbuster that might appeal to the easy-to-please crowd just as it pisses off fans who seem to understand Die Hard better than the filmmakers themselves.
The movie begins with a (seemingly reshot and clumsily inserted) scene of McClane at a shooting range being told that his son has been found in Russia and is about to go on trial. McClane heads off to Russia to apparently do something about the situation, but ends up bungling a planned CIA rescue (led by his son, played by Courtney) of a criminal who possesses knowledge of a computer disc desperately wanted by U.S. and Russian officials. The problem is that another group of criminals want him too, which leads to a series of chases throughout Russia that end in Chernobyl, where father and son learn to bond over irradiated soil and the destruction of a giant helicopter.
Really, there’s not much more to it than that. Father learns son is a CIA operative, son complains about not being good at his job, then dad calls him a baby (yes, this happens). Instead of Willis getting to riff with another dynamic actor (a la Samuel L. Jackson or Reginald VelJohnson), he plays dad bully to a young newcomer who only seems to know how to roll his eyes. The everyman-stuck-in-a-tight-situation template is thrown out the window too, with McClane never being boxed in and just jumping into every situation that comes his way. Director John Moore doesn’t help things one bit, as he approaches the film with a handheld aesthetic that’s the complete opposite of the tight, controlled style by John McTiernan that guided the first and third entries. John McClane is easily one of the big screen’s most beloved heroes, but retrofitting him with modern sensibilities just doesn’t work. If the franchise continues and untalented people are left to guide it, we’ll soon have as many awful Die Hard installments as good ones -- and that’s really the saddest thing about A Good Day to Die Hard.