Fifth "Die Hard" Film Will Make You Root for Death Review

A good day to die hard would be the day before anyone forces you to see Director John Moore's A Good Day to Die Hard. The film's awfulness pervades the entire movie viewing experience, never letting up in much the same way Sisyphus’s boulder never stops rolling back down. We may be thankful that at least it’s short (97 minutes).

Bruce Willis returns for the fifth time as John McClane, the tough NYPD officer we’ve seen save the day so many times before. Only this John McClane isn’t really the John McClane we’ve come to know and love; he looks old and run down, his dialogue and indeed his entire character seem to have been reduced to unimaginative one-liners, and any role he might have in saving this day becomes mitigated by the fact that he actually causes nearly every problem in the movie.

Soon after finding out his son John McClane Jr. (played by Jai Courtney) has some sort of legal trouble in Russia, McClane heads right on over there to try and help out. Only instead of helping out he manages, within mere hours of his arrival, to: completely wreck a CIA mission that has been in the works for at least three years; cause millions of dollars (or rubles) in property damage to Moscow; jump in front of a moving car, yell at the driver for hitting him, then yell at the Russian driver for not speaking English, then punch the driver and take his car because it is really important that John McClane talk to his son (who’s clearly in the middle of some kind of dangerous mission) right goddamn now. McClane may also kill several Russian motorists during the ensuing car chase, it’s not really clear, partially because of the nauseating shaky cam used throughout the movie.

So this is our protagonist, the guy we’re supposed to root for. Just gloss over this stuff for now. After all, he’s on fucking vacation, we shouldn’t hold him accountable! McClane reminds the audience that he’s on fucking vacation at least five times during the movie, apparently this should excuse any sort of misbehaviour on his part. Or whatever. Look, he’s on fucking vacation, don’t bother the man with your questions!

Unlike the elder McClane, McClane Jr. tries to adhere to plans and intelligent foresight, at least for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, events have spiraled so far out of control (due almost entirely to his father’s meddling) that he’s somewhat at a loss for words. At this point Willis starts to make fun of his son’s confusion, the beginning of a subliminal message of “intelligence is bad” that continues throughout the rest of the film. Another subtext of “emotions are inherently bad and should be made fun light of” joins in a little bit later as Willis asks his son if he needs a hug, his tone dripping with sarcasm and disgust . As another example, a bit later in the movie Willis asks his son, who has just sustained a relatively serious (for a main character with Plot Armor) injury, if he’s going to cry. Ahh, thoughtless macho-ism! Glad you could join us (on vacation!).

So far we have a protagonist that’s a shell of his former self and also the cause of the problem that is the catalyst for every other bad event in the film, bad dialogue, poor camera work, and subliminal messaging that should be at least borderline offensive to any thoughtful person. What else can we add to this mix?

Ah, let’s not forget the ludicrous plot! Halfway through the movie, we begin to understand that the villain has carefully orchestrated everything you see, despite being in prison for the last five years. How incredible! Except the events, several of which are timed down to the second, would not have been possible without Willis, a previously unknown variable, arriving from the United States at just the right time to screw absolutely everything up. So there’s that. Also for events in the second half of the movie to make any sense at all we need to assume that the sub-villian that the first villain is double-crossing is too stupid to pound dirt or is an amnesiac of some kind. Either way, the writers have made it nearly impossible to suspend all our disbelief.

Whatever, they were probably on fucking vacation!

Which is too bad, because someone needs to answer for the scenes we're made to endure. We see yet another bad guy with the power to kill the protagonist easily that muffs the opportunity by talking for five minutes and punching instead of shooting. Why does this action movie trope keep happening? It's lazy writing and just makes the evil characters seem to be stupid in a way that strains credulity.

In a movie that features both McClanes walking into the ruins of fucking Chernobyl with no kind of protective suits or even a Geiger counter, charing not a whit for radiation poisoning; in a movie that features bad guys with a magic yet flammable gas that completely does away with radiation in a matter of seconds (???); in a movie where a man pushing 60 falls at least five stories twice within 24 hours with no ill effects; in this movie our credulity is already strained to the breaking point. Stop it, it hurts. 

To give you a glimpse as to the scope of how deep the rabbit hole of this movie’s awfulness goes, let me assure you that even the product placement is bad. Product placement should ideally not be noticeable to the degree you feel advertised at; it certainly shouldn’t seem to the audience that every single vehicle in Moscow is a Mercedes. This might seem nitpicky, but when every single element of a film stands out in a bad way, it should be noted.

The single redeeming aspect of this entire movie is a short sequence when Bruce Willis first arrives in Moscow and is talking to his cab driver. This sequence is funny and very entertaining. In fact, I would recommend watching this one part on repeat for 97 minutes rather than subject yourself to the entire slog of this movie. I promise that even after seeing the clip over 100 times and perhaps coming to loathe it and my recommendation, it will still be more enjoyable than if you had seen the entirety of A Good Day To Die Hard.

Or, on second thought, go on a fucking vacation, as this is apparently license to do anything you please in a foreign country with no consequences (which I am assuming is how this movie got made).

"A Good Day to Die Hard" opens February 14, 2013 and is rated R. Action. Directed by John Moore. Written by Skip Woods. Starring Bruce Willis.

Richard Procter • Staff Writer

Richard Procter enjoys writing words about stuff he is interested in, and has done so for a variety of publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, and Decades magazine. He has an abiding love of portmanteaus and has never had a donut. Really. 


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