Against almost all odds Live Free or Die Hard turned out to be a really good action movie. It had its flaws, and was way more action heavy than previous Die Hard films, but it still was a solid establishment in the series. Thanks to this fact it was pretty easy to get excited for A Good Day to Die Hard. I mean, they established a formula that worked so why not just replicate it?
Why not, indeed. It seems that the folks behind the fifth film in the franchise had absolutely no clue what a Die Hard movie is, completely abandoning everything that has ever made the series good in lieu of some of the most incompetently made action sequences you’re going to see all year and a screenplay that was clearly written based on a quick read of the Wikipedia page for Russia. This is what you feared Live Free or Die Hard was going to be, only much, much worse.
I think the best place to start piling on this crap heap is with Bruce Willis, since he’s really the only thing that even remotely connects this film with the rest of the series. Bruce Willis clearly knows this movie sucks. He’s about as interesting as one of Hans Gruber’s dead henchman in every scene and it’s because he knows that the John McClane he created for the past four films is nowhere to be found. Probably around the fifth or sixth time the screenplay had him shout “Jesus Christ,” is when he decided that this one was just going to be for the check.
I can’t really blame him. A Good Day to Die Hard is relentlessly stupid to such a degree that by the end of the movie the screenplay is literally explaining away plot issues by telling us to simply not care about them. McClane heads to Russia to find his wayward son Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) who has somehow become involved with a giant conspiracy involving two high level Russian politicians. Turns out young McClane is a spy and old McClane messes up his spying and then must help him correct the mess up by shooting and blowing up most of Russia and Chernobyl.
Yes, you read that right. John McClane goes to Chernobyl. That’s where we’re at. Chernobyl.
If you haven’t already stopped reading in protest/frustration it’s only going to get worse. You can forgive a lot for good action. You can forgive even more for good John McClane one-liners. This movie has neither and thus shall not be forgiven.
Director John Moore has no idea how to direct action (or anything else for that matter). An opening car chase that is simply jam packed full of sequences that could have been truly fun to watch is so mishandled that by the time its over you feel like you were in one of the cars that blew up. Moore pieces together the action like he can’t remember the shot that came before. Almost none of the sequence holds together, and at points shots visually contradict each other. It doesn’t get much worse than this chase sequence, but it sure doesn’t get much better. The rest of the action is either the McClanes standing still firing big guns or a series of over-the-top sequences that could have worked if someone with any talent was directing, but instead are completely devoid of awe.
It’s hard to complain about a screenplay for an action film. After all we’re there to see stuff get blown up, not hear people talk. But there are a few key points that action film screenplays need to hit: one-liners, a semi-cohesive storyline, good villains. A Good Day to Die Hard has none of this. One of the reasons Die Hard is so awesome is because John McClane is an awesome action hero, but the screenplay relegates him to using the same unfunny joke (“I’m on vacation!”) multiple times and spouting yippie-kay-yay at the worst possible time ever. There is absolutely no rhythm to any part of the film and the supposed father/son relationship must have been written by people who had never seen any human interaction before.
Then there’s the villains, or lack thereof. One of the key elements to all the Die Hard films is a villain you really and truly end up hating because he’s put McClane through so much damn crap. A Good Day to Die Hard has a villain, but he’s almost a parody of the cleverly written bad guys that have come before him. Most of his actions and lines make no sense and when the film tries to establish a new villain because they realize the one they had isn’t working it’s one of the worst executions of a twist ever. Remember a large chunk of this awfulness is taking place at ground zero of Chernobyl, where, by the way, everyone is wearing Hazmat suits until suddenly no one has to.
There’s a lot to complain about in this movie, but the real travesty is how far from the Die Hard mark it is. John McClane has gone from a wise-cracking New York cop to a whining geriatric thanks to a screenplay and director that clearly didn’t understand what a Die Hard movie is all about. There’s none of the charm, humor or action that one should expect from a film with the words die and hard next to each other in the title. It’s not the bad directing or limp screenplay that really makes this film suck, it’s the fact that it has no idea how to be a Die Hard film.
P.S. The scene of Some Like it Hot subject Mary Elizabeth Winstead is grossly underused.