Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (JimmyO's take)
PLOT:When John McClane’s son Jack is arrested in Russia, the detective gets on a plane in hopes to help his troubled spawn. Once he arrives he soon comes to the realization his his boy is a CIA operative looking to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist.
DIE HARD is hands down my favorite action franchise. The first film is simply a classic and for the most part the sequels were much better than they had any right to be. So going into A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, my excitement level was pretty high. While director John Moore beats you down with explosions, gun fire and one insane freeway chase, he continues the trend started with LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD of turning Bruce Willis’ iconic character into a larger-than-life superhero with a chip on his shoulder. Honestly, the first time I caught the latest installment I enjoyed the hell out of it in a guilty pleasure sort of way. It was 97 minutes of amped up thrills with little substance aside from things that go boom.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reliving this franchise thanks to the re-release of the DIE HARD Blu-ray collection. That was after watching the latest film of course, and as I reconnected with the entire history, the issues with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD became very apparent when I decided to give it another watch. This is a flawed yet enjoyable generic action flick. You could certainly compare it to LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD as McClane continues to morph into an entirely different character. And with a couple of viewings under my belt and a chance to give the entire series a fresh look I found myself at this conclusion… as a “die hard” fan of DIE HARD it was an entertaining enough ride that doesn't live up to the previous films.
The flaws here are obvious as the series is straying farther and farther away from what it once was. Bruce Willis fighting bad guys under impossible odds is the basic outline and a good one at that. It can be argued that a character which has held up after twenty-five years should change with the times. However McClane’s tenacity is beyond anything you could ever imagine. Considering he is just a New York cop – and a few years older I might add – it seems that he has a harder time to die than ever before. Willis clearly is still having fun with the iconic John McClane and there is a sense that he may continue to return to this character. The question is with this direction, will he be some sort of freaking TERMINATOR at the end of it all?
In the latest adventure, the once reluctant hero finds himself on route to Russia to help his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for a pretty darn serious offense. It doesn’t take long for dear old dad to discover what is really going on and to aid his son on his mission. I don’t want to go into the plot too much here but the thieves this time around are looking to steal nuclear-weapons which would suck for everybody. That and it seems that Jack has followed in his father’s footsteps more than his father had imagined. At one point McClane asks his son if he wants a hug, Jack responds simply with, “We’re not a hugging family.” There is a lot of truth to that as there isn’t a lot of heart in this ammunition fueled flick.
The best thing about A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD is the relationship with Courtney and Willis. Watching them together was a lot of fun and for me the two actors make an explosive duo. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD would be a great day for DIE HARD fans if it leads to these two actors working together in another film along with Bonnie Bedelia (DIE HARD, DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) – Winstead shows up for a cameo here. The broken relationship in this family for another Christmas themed flick might be a good place to start. It would also be terrific to see another great DIE HARD movie that features a strong villain.
Speaking of villains, that is one of the problems with this latest installment. Firstly it would be difficult to really talk in-depth about them as it might give too much away. Secondly, most of them are not all that memorable. They die quite well and they are perfect fodder for father and son to shoot down and/or blow up depending on the specific situation. Not a one of these folks really stand out in any way and this includes the main nemesis that remains shrouded in mystery for most of the feature. Isn’t there another pissed off Gruber somewhere?
Director John Moore really went into this full steam ahead. The action is over-the-top with massive car chases with countless vehicles being destroyed. He even takes the action to Chernobyl in one of the biggest and loudest action set pieces I’ve seen recently. There are a number of eye-popping moments throughout and that sure helps the movie run its course quick enough. Still the cartoonish nature of all of this tends to feel a little clunky and beyond logic defying. Of course you can’t take all this very seriously especially when the McClane duo is smashing through a number of windows without a scratch. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD is a bombastic action flick, nothing more. With a flat script by Skip Woods and John Moore at the helm, that is what you get. For some viewers, this may not be such a bad thing.
Willis still works for me and unlike some I found Courtney to be a strong action hero on his own – the plan is clearly to hand over the franchise reins to Jack. After some really pleasant time revisiting the first four flicks, I was reminded how much more this series is than mindless action. The first three DIE HARD films are near perfect examples of how great a film like this can be – especially the first which may very well be my favorite film in this genre. Optimistic as it may be, I was able to still see glimmers of that in A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD even if it is just a “mindless action flick.” I had a decent time but I’m hoping next time we get a little bit of that old reliable John McClane back... and yes, I hope there is a next time.
|Extra Tidbit:||Should this be the end of the DIE HARD franchise?|