MOTW Review: "A Good Day to Die Hard"

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John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.
2.5

MRR Review: "A Good Day to Die Hard"

A Good Day to Die Hard could have been a lot better. And frankly, A Good Day to Die Hard should have been a lot better.

Standing as the fifth film in a 25 year-old franchise, viewer expectations played a considerable part in this disappointment. Audiences come to Die Hard movies with a specific set of expectations other than action sequences including a clever plot, a memorable villain, and situations that showcase the main character’s resilience and witty personality. That’s what is expected of Die Hard.

The problem with A Good Day to Die Hard is that it relies on the Die Hard name and some impressive action sequences to carry it. The clever plot and memorable villain are missing, and places for McClane to throw in a quip are sparse.

It’s possible the studio could have harmed the film in that the run time was 1 hour and 38 minutes compared to over 2 hours for all four previous Die Hard films (hopefully there’s a director’s cut). It’s a similar problem to when the studio required the fourth film in the franchise to be PG-13; it just limits the capabilities of the film.

The story-line is difficult to follow, and the few instances of clarity are overshadowed by much larger questions like ‘why are the villains chasing the McClanes?’ and ‘what exactly is Jack trying to accomplish?’

Granted A Good Day to Die Hard did have some entertaining elements: the Russian setting is interesting, John McClane trying to be the hero is always fun, and the inclusion of McClane’s son Jack and their strained relationship is both entertaining and at some points heartfelt. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t do enough to effectively tie it all together. Nothing is fleshed out for the audience and things just happen. If the audience can’t understand it, how are they supposed to enjoy it?

Director John Moore boasted about the car chase in this movie, explaining in several interviews how proud he was of the final product that took 78 days to shoot. Well I’m sorry Mr. Moore, but you ruined it with your “shaky camera” technique, which made scenes hard to follow and, well, shaky.

Mr. Moore, have you ever seen a Die Hard movie? What has made them so great even up to today is the witty, smart and creative banter between McClane and his partner, or even talking to himself. I would say the most critical failure of the movie is that both Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney were given terrible dialogue. And much of the non-action scenes are spent in extreme close-up, which doesn’t help the audience to see the chemistry between the actors. If Moore’s only intention was to blow things up and drive cool cars, it showed. Perhaps time would have been better spent on characters and story.

So, I end this review with a simple plea:

If Twentieth Century Fox decides to bring John McClane back to the big screen (and I hope they do because I love the series), then please do it right. Find a screenwriter and director who love the series, understand the essence of Die Hard, and have proven they can actually convey a narrative. I’m all about redemption, so thank the lord Bruce Willis has already announced “Die Hard 6 will happen.” Nobody wants to see Die Hard go out on a mediocre note.

2.5 Stars out of 5