There are certain expectations that come with a “Die Hard” film. The original is still, to this day, probably the best pure action film ever made. The “Die Hard” franchise is supposed to be the gold standard of action films. Even “Live Free or Die Hard” was an enjoyable popcorn flick better than most of the tripe out there. “A Good Day to Die Hard,” the fifth and hopefully final installment in the franchise, reeks of complacency.
This time, the action takes place in Moscow, where John McClane has traveled to see if he can bail his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) out of trouble. It seems Jack has lost touch with his family, leaving them to wonder if he’s a drug dealer. Instead, he’s a CIA agent. One would think Jack would just say he “works for the government,” but apparently he couldn’t be bothered to say that much to keep his parents satisfied. It’s no wonder then that it all blows up in his face when John appears, ruining a mission years in the planning. Now the McClanes are left to their own devices to get out of Russia as a group of thugs are hot on their tail.
One of the things that sets a “Die Hard” movie apart from other actioners is McCLane himself. Bruce Willis is always perfect as the cynical, New York cop who is very much aware who awful these situations are, and appropriately complains about it the entire time. He’s the epitome of the reluctant hero. Pairing John with his son, aka a younger version of himself, should have provided sparks between Willis and Courtney, who stole the show in “Jack Reacher” with nary a word spoken. Instead, most of the animosity between the two has come and gone. McClane is no longer the gruff, borderline alcoholic that’s alienated everyone around him. He’s a softie, very much willing to go along with whatever is happening, constantly telling his son he loves him. The only quip McClane can muster is screaming “I’m on vacation” four or five times. It’s a far cry from the original, which is chock-full of wonderful dialogue.
And that’s what the “Die Hard” franchise, and action films in general, have come to. Great characters, dialogue and story have been replaced with the loudest explosions possible. Aside from a cartoonish but entertaining car chase through the streets of Moscow, even the action in “A Good Day” is milquetoast, with the McClanes being attacked by helicopters not once but twice. Credit director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods for the dreadful mess “A Good Day” turned out to be.
What does it say about John McClane that running around Moscow killing bad guys while reconnecting with his son is considered “a good day” to him? McCLane has fought to protect his family in the other “Die Hard” movies: his wife in the first two, his home in the third, and his daughter in the fourth. Now killing villains is his way of healing family wounds? It’s preposterous. Just like the rest of “A Good Day to Die Hard.”