Title: A Good Day to Die Hard
Is It? A Good Day, I Mean? It might indeed be a good day to walk the franchise behind the woodshed and, how to put this politely, "send it to doggie heaven."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Mi-24 Hind gunships out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Dimwitted New York cop blunders into major intelligence op, attempts simultaneous damage control and father-son reconciliation.
Tagline: "Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia"
Better Tagline: "Not your father's Die Hard. More's the pity."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Detective Lieutenant John McClane (Bruce Willis), apparently on indefinite leave of absence from the NYPD, learns his son Jack (Jai Courtney) is being held for murder in Moscow. What he doesn't know is Jack is a covert CIA operative attempting to engineer the escape of Russian political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who's about to be imprisoned by a powerful Russian official named Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) because he wants a file in Komarov's possession that ... yeah, never mind. This being a Die Hard movie, things are rarely what they seem, and the only way to get to the bottom of it all is through a near-constant barrage of automatic gunfire.
"Critical" Analysis: As I scrawled in my notes while the end credits for A Good Day to Die Hard were rolling, "That was one of the most singularly ridiculous experiences of my life."
Granted, the Die Hard movies have never been about plausibility. At best you gave them the benefit of the doubt because the overall experience was that entertaining. The original Die Hard remains one of the greatest action movies ever made because it's an almost perfect synthesis of action, humor, character development, and style. Maybe McClane couldn't *really* catch himself while plummeting down an air shaft, and maybe that thing with the fire hose never would have worked, but who cares when you're enjoying yourself that much?
But over the course of 25 years and four ensuing movies, we've gone from mild eye-rolling to goggling incredulity. Worse, there's now a peculiar invulnerability that surrounds McClane here. In spite of the film's title, which suggests a possible posthumous changing of the guard (you could do worse than Courtney as the next John McClane), it soon becomes apparent dad is in no real danger. McClane's mortality has illogically diminished from the first movie on, and there's something laughable about an almost 60-year old cop outrunning 30mm machine gun fire and flipping off a Russian gunship as he leaps in slow motion out of an abandoned nuclear reactor. And did I really just type that sentence?
Now that I think about it, "laughable" is probably the best word to describe this movie. The opening car chase, which makes the auto property damage in The Blues Brothers look like that Aerosmith album cover, goes on for so long I could actually feel my synapses shutting down individually.
Worse than that, it's lazy. Do McClane and son need guns? They'll just break into the car some heavily armed Chechen thugs parked at a nightclub. Protracted car chase through downtown Moscow? Good thing an NYPD flatfoot can operate a Russian flatbed truck. Even Jack's allegedly smoldering anger at his absentee father is wiped clean by a few well-placed parental barbs ("Would you like a glass of warm milk?", offered after a piece of rebar punches through sonny boy's abdomen).
Lack of physicality is also a problem. In the past, much of our enjoyment came from watching Willis get the crap kicked out of him even as he kept coming back for more. This time around, the stuntmen are more obvious, the punishments less punishing, and the sense of danger all but gone.
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Although Chagarin's main guy talks and acts an awful lot like Marco from the first film. That's something.
Admittedly, I liked A Good Day to slightly better than Live Free or, but don't take that as an endorsement. There's nothing left to distinguish this franchise from any of the slew of imitators the original Die Hard inspired. 25 years is a more than respectable career for a cop. Time for McClane to hang it up.
A Good Day To Die Hard is in theaters today. Are you sure you wouldn't rather just catch the original on AMC instead?