Over the last week, I’ve taken you through a quarter of a century of classic action cinema; indeed, some of the best Hollywood action there is. With each sorry tale, our poor protagonist has managed to defy odds and beat the pantomime bad guy and any nefarious scheme he may have had. What’s more, he’s always done so with a ‘Yippee-ki-yay‘ and a wry grin, to remind us that we are indeed watching a Die Hard film. While the ‘Yippee-ki-yay‘ inevitably appears in this, the fifth instalment of the series, there’s practically nothing else that reminds you are watching a Die Hard film, as opposed to your bog standard, unremarkable action flick.
I was instantly dismayed when the BBFC certification came up with ’12A’. Not only do I lament that I’ve just seen an action film that’s safe for pre-teens, but when we look back at the other Die Hards, we see that they are all 15 and above. With their rating, the BBFC have objectively told us that this is the least hardcore of the films. Boo!
Then there’s the plot. In this film, John McClane goes abroad – which confirms that the films are getting bigger each time: office tower, airport, city, interstate, international – specifically to Moscow, where he stumbles upon his son, Jack (Jai Courtney) working with the CIA trying to help a political prisoner, Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). In a largely predictable twist, Komarov is actually the bad guy, because he’s got some uranium-235… or something. I can’t actually remember if they explained what he was going to do with the uranium. His motives were discussed in a dull dialogue between father and son, and totally went over my head. A long story short, the baddie is very uninteresting.
The Die Hard films are also enjoyable just for McClane’s character, but though I tried to imagine him in this film, it’s undeniable that the character Bruce Willis was playing was merely a shell of one of the best action heroes. His sarky monologues have been eschewed from the series, replaced with some awful running gag: ‘I’m on vacation‘. Perhaps he means that the actual character has left Willis alone to run around without any witty banter. A scene where McClane punches an innocent Russian to take possession of his car seems to be the closest we get to the original character, a bad sign indeed.
As I mentioned earlier, a son, Jack, has been fashioned out of thin air and retconned into the series, providing a largely false emotional element to the film. This is clearly a follow-up to the daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), from the last film. The gorgeous Winstead reprises her role in this movie, but her onscreen time is minimal – another reason to dislike this film. That McClane must reconcile his differences with every member of his family has become a bit of a cliché. Maybe he’ll be saying sorry to his grandchildren in Die Hard 8: With a Colostomy Bag. Jack is fairly uninteresting; although he dislikes his father, he’s turned out exactly the same as the old man, shooting anything that moves and jumping out of windows without a second’s hesitation.
That just leaves the action, the main attraction in any Die Hard film, and trust me, there ain’t that much of it. The other Die Hard films hover around the two hour mark, but, at 97 minutes, A Good Day to Die Hard is the baby of the bunch. On top of the shortened time frame, the amount of violence seems miniscule compared to the rest. While action started from minute one in Die Hard with a Vengeance, I’d say we waited around half an hour for the action to kick in here. While the shooting scenes were rather forgettable, I was impressed by a car chase and a long slow motion shot of McClane and son falling through the air with a burning chopper in the background. Thankfully, this film didn’t get it all wrong.
While there were occasionally good moments, and I mean very occasionally, A Good Day to Die Hard was lacklustre right from the start, and is unquestionably the worst film of the series. Unimpressive on almost every level, this film could have fared a lot better if it had never been tied to the Die Hard series in the first place. This might be the Die Hard film that everyone chooses to forget, like that fourth Indiana Jones film that doesn’t exist. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone; a good day for this film series to Die Hard!