Movie review: A Good Day to Die Hard
Some 25 years after the Germans tried, the Russians, too, fail to kill John McClane
Posted: March 13, 2013
Leaving the old USSR in smoke and slapdash. The fifth Die Hard sees John McClane and his son imprudently shooting up Chernobyl.
Every single Russian in this film is a bad guy or girl - some from the very beginning, while others only reveal their true colors toward the end. That is the kind of simplemindedness this film, the fifth in a series that is unfortunately dying a very slow death, evinces time and again.
Twenty-five years ago, John McClane (Bruce Willis) first appeared as a sweaty, bloody, vest-wearing detective caught up in a hostage situation on Christmas Eve. He was funny and clever, and the bad guys had no idea whom they were up against. Most recently, he returned in 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, in which he teamed up with a computer hacker to try and outsmart some even-more-criminal terrorists. That outing was not bad, but one could already feel the time running out for our former hero.
A Good Day to Die Hard pits McClane against a Russian defense minister and some villainous characters who always have a machine gun up their sleeve, but this is actually supposed to be a story about him reconnecting with his son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack and John haven't spoken in a while, and there is a general sense that father John's focus on work and persistent absence from his son's life have had a very bad influence on Jack.
When McClane learns his son has been arrested and is sitting in a Moscow jail, he flies over and suddenly finds himself in the middle of a shootout on the Russian capital's Garden Ring road, which leads to devastation of the kind we haven't seen since James Bond rolled a tank through St. Petersburg in GoldenEye. McClane has no problem taking part in such destructive activities, but he is also completely ruining his son's undercover CIA operation by wanting to discuss their father-son relationship while bullets are flying past them.
Directed by John Moore
With Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir
The setup is not only ludicrous but embarrassing. McClane is presented as a half-senile idiot who is unaware of the chaos his presence provokes at such a critical time. Of course, over the course of the film, his many years of professional gunslinging pay off because he still has a few things to teach his know-it-all son, but the film's first few scenes paint him as someone who should rather have stayed at home.
A Good Day to Die Hard takes place almost exclusively in Moscow before news that a central character used to work at Chernobyl causes McClane & Son to steal a car and drive to the site of the nuclear reactor in the middle of the night. They must have been unaware that it is more than 600 miles away and in another country, but apparently Russian border control is nothing to worry about, even when you have a boot full of automatic weapons (because, apparently the Chechens, whose car this is, keep these guns in their cars wherever they go, just for fun).
Bruce Willis tries to lighten the oppressing mood of mediocrity by reminding us constantly throughout the film "I'm on vacation" and throws in a yippee-ka-yay, too, but we just don't care. There is minimal plot to worry about, the visuals are edited together completely arbitrarily, with slow-motion shots sometimes inserted without much reason and fight scenes that are a mess in terms of spatial orientation.
Also, lest we read subtitles too often, the Russians, while addressing each other, sometimes switch to English for our sake!
If you insist on going to watch the film, your first instincts about the way it might turn out will be correct. At first, the father and son can't stand each other, because Jack pretends to be a tough guy and John hasn't reached out in so long. Jack even calls his father by his first name instead of "Dad." Shocker. So, what do you think happens by the time we reach the final shootout?
This is a sad day for the Die Hard franchise. The producers have gone from John McTiernan to Len Wiseman to John Moore, who cannot direct to save his life. He seems to believe the audience would grow to like a particular action if it gets repeated over and over and over again. He also undermines his film's sense of realism right at the outset by trying to convince us McClane, behind the wheel of a stolen Mercedes, has the upper hand when he plays bumper cars with an armored car on a Moscow highway.
This is a terrible execution of a bad idea. Don't be fooled by the title: This is just Die Hard V, and it's as bad as you think.
The film contains quite a bit of Russian dialogue. If you don't understand Russian and you don't understand the Czech subtitles that appear in local screenings, it would be better if you passed on this film. That is, in case you were still on the fence.
André Crous can be reached at