The fourth sequel in the Die Hard series finds our hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) jetting off to Russia to find his long-estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has apparently gotten into some trouble over there.
Or has he? Turns out Jack is no hooligan, he’s a CIA operative on a mission. John didn’t know this, despite being a police officer and having been involved in all kinds of high-level operations himself which would result in him surely having connections to find this kind of information out but anyway… Other people that didn’t know Jack was in the CIA: his sister and his mother. I guess Jack’s estranged from the whole family.
Jack’s mission involves protecting a government whistleblower (Sebastian Koch) and his sensitive information regarding Chernobyl from Russian terrorists planning to lift a whole bunch of weapons-grade uranium. Because it’s 2013.
Of course John shows up at precisely the wrong moment and Jack isn’t very happy to see his ol’ dad.
We learn this when he sticks a gun in Pop’s face.
But the two must join forces and work together to take down the Russian baddies and hopefully mend their tarnished relationship in the process.
Now in his late 50s, Bruce Willis eases back into the role of John McClane with the same smirky badassery we fell in love with a quarter century ago. Though the character is hardened and a bit more arrogant than in previous installments, Willis still has that quality that makes people root for him no matter what.
It’s Bruno, bitch!
Much has been said about John McClane morphing from an everyman into Superman over the course of the 25-year franchise, and losing a lot of the relatable charm that made the character so endearing in the first film, but it can be argued that with everything the guy’s been through over all this time, it would seem natural that by this point, his fightin’ skills have improved and he’s become more of a confident and less reluctant hero, albeit comically indestructible (hilariously, groan-inducingly comically indestructible). My feeling is that the viewer has no choice but to go into the sequels with this standpoint in order to attempt to enjoy them.
Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) does a passable enough job as the junior McClane to secure him future starring roles in action films, possibly even a Die Hard spinoff franchise, which appears to be what they have in mind pending the box office results.
The plot, penned by screenwriter Skip Woods (The A Team, X-Men Orgins: Wolverine —which should tell you something right there), manages to be unnecessarily convoluted and predictable at the same time. Instead of one villain, we are “treated” to several, all evil Russians because again: 2013. None of them are at all frightening, unless your idea of frightening involves someone simultaneously munching a carrot and tap-dancing. Really. Hans Gruber had more delicious wickedness in his pinky toenail clippings than all the bad guys in this movie put together.
So does Bugs Bunny.
There are several twists that are meant to be SHOCKING!, but they’re pretty easy for anyone that’s ever seen an action movie to figure out. And when they happen, it doesn’t really add anything anyway because the whole plot is so bland and dated and stupid, nobody cares.
But who needs a coherent plot when there are cars, buildings, and helicopters being blown to shreds every five minutes, right? And director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen—which again should tell you something right there) doesn’t skimp on that at all. But it’s all quantity over quality and the action sequences rely far too heavily on unrealistic-looking CGI effects. It’s all so superficial that there’s never a feeling of danger or suspense. The quick edits and shaky cam not only make the action hard to follow but also boring. There’s an overlong and ridiculous car chase at the beginning that goes on and on and just seems like something we’ve seen a million times in a million other movies before.
It wouldn’t have seemed strange if Optimus Prime suddenly showed up.
And if you’ll allow me to mention the asinine plot again, amidst all this chaos and destruction, the Russian law enforcement is nowhere to be seen. Not one police car is ever shown. You’d think they’d be all over the place with the courthouse being blown up, armored cars being stolen and crashed, and hundreds of innocent civilians being maimed and possibly killed in the process.
But I guess they were too busy with that whole Pussy Riot thing.
The film attempts to create heart under all the blowing stuff up real good with John and Jack reconnecting after being on bad terms for many years. The problem is, we never learn anything about what led to the rift between them. Despite a decent chemistry between Willis and Courtney, without the weight of a back-story, the audience is never emotionally invested enough to feel anything when the father and son finally do reconcile. (Oops, SPOILER ALERT!)
Also on the family front, Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a second franchise appearance as John’s daughter Lucy, though her screen time is reduced to being Dad’s airport transportation. Disappointingly absent is Bonnie Bedelia as John’s wife Holly, a character I think many fans were hoping to see again. She is mentioned once, so it’s nice to know she’s still alive and didn’t get the mysterious unspecified cancer that so many wives and moms fall victim to in sequels.
John McClane, known for his wisecracking catchphrases, gets a new one in this installment: “I’m on vacation,” which he repeats approximately 452 times throughout the film. Now this would have been a decent addition if McClane were say, being held hostage at a resort in the Caribbean, or maybe inside a locked-down Louvre while on a tour in Paris, or even just drinking a beer in his backyard on his week off when Hans Gruber’s revenge-seeking son shows up, because all three of these scenarios, besides being ideas for better Die Hard movies involve him actually being on vacation. But in the movie, he is not on vacation, he’s there to find and help his son, so constantly saying “I’m on vacation” makes absolutely no sense at all. I would imagine there are plans to make a sixth Die Hard because “I’m retired” seems like the only natural follow-up. Then McClane can also remind everyone that he’s too old for that shit.
Despite all the early negative buzz, I tried my best to go into A Good Day to Die Hard with an open mind just looking for some fun action, but came out disappointed on pretty much every level. John Moore and Skip Woods stray so far away from the other films in the series that you wonder if they’ve even ever seen any of them. It never feels like a true chapter, only like a generic Michael Bay BIGSTUFFGOBOOM-fest. It’s a better day to stay home and watch the original Die Hard than to waste money and time going to see this movie.
Take a Drink: whenever John McClane says “I’m on vacation.” (even though he’s NOT ON VACATION!)
Take a Drink: whenever Jack refers to his father as “John.”
Take a Drink: whenever there appears to be an innocent civilian casualty.
Take a Drink: at every double-(and triple)-cross.
Take a Drink: every time something happens that would probably kill John or Jack but they walk away with barely a scratch.
Do a Shot: if you spot the reference to the first movie (Hint: It’s when someone dies and it’s one of the few good things in the movie)
Do Another Shot: at the “Yippee-ki-yay” line and then say it with more enthusiasm than John does in the movie.
One More Shot: for the cheesy freeze-frame closing shot that looks like the end of a Family Ties episode.