Reel Review – A Good Day to Die Hard: Yippee Ki Nay

Shawn McCormick / February 21, 2013 - 6:55pm

Bruce Willis is back as New York Police Detective John McClane in the fifth installment of the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard. Starring alongside Willis is Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) who plays wayward son John Jr. The New York cop decides to take a “vacation” to Moscow when he learns that his estranged son has come back on the grid after years of silence. McClane and his son escort a political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) to safety from a Russian Mob outfit. The movie twists, turns and double crosses as John McClane and his son must work together to try and save the world.

We have not seen McClane in action since 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, and coming off a similar hiatus is director John Moore (Max Payne, 2008). Moore has directed other action films such as Behind Enemy Lines and Flight of the Phoenix, so he is familiar with the genre.

The movie’s main focus is the relationship between father and son, which is tenuous to say the least. The first two movies in the franchise had a focus on McClane’s relationship with his wife Holly, while the fourth movie saw McClane’s daughter Lucy kidnapped. In Die Hard, the movie begins with McClane meeting his estranged wife Holly in Los Angeles and later finds out that she’s been using her maiden name of Gennero. There has always been an underlying theme to the series that McClane has put his job before his family, but goes lengths to try and repair their relationships and even save their lives. The storyline explains that McClane and his son have not spoken in three years, and the last time they did it was not on good terms, but McClane Sr. is determined to mend their relationship. This is the stereotypical plotline between a father who has not been there for his son, and a son who has gone to great lengths to exclude his father from his life. McClane Sr. tries to regain his son’s confidence as he has with his daughter Lucy, but McClane Jr. is not interested and shows this by calling him “John” instead of dad and telling him to “go home” on multiple occasions. Obviously McClane Sr. sticks around and proves his love for his son by doing the only thing he knows, “Kill the bad guys.” The theme of family has always driven the Die Hard series, and I felt that connection between John McClane as he tried to fix the relationships that were once there with his wife and daughter. However, with his son, McClane Sr. was trying to create a relationship that never seemed to exist which is tougher for the audience to connect with, and with these characters in particular, was awkward to watch on screen.

The action scenes in the Die Hard franchise have always been explosive and entertaining, but in the last two movies they have become truly exaggerated, even by movie standards. Two examples of this are McClane’s Herculean efforts of guiding a slightly tipped over 18 wheel truck back down to earth by turning the steering wheel, or by diving out of a speeding police car that hits a toll booth median and launches itself into a helicopter. Both the truck scene and helicopter scenes from Live Free or Die Hard had me scratching my head and chuckling, while the action scenes from A Good Day to Die Hard simply left me dumbfounded. The car chase scene lasts entirely too long, and has one of those exaggerated moments that I alluded to earlier. There is an impressive helicopter scene toward the end of the movie that leans toward the exaggerated side, but this alone does not cover the cost of admission. Scenes like these are becoming the norm in this series, and although they may stand out, they do little to add to the film. Other than the car chase and a helicopter scene this film has little to offer in the way of interesting action scenes, and just sort of plods along.

One of the main differences in this film from others in the series is that there is little to no interaction between protagonist and antagonist. In the original Die Hard, McClane interacted with terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) via two-way radios which added tension and comedy to the plot of the film. In Die Hard with a Vengeance, McClane must go through lengths to follow clues and answer the phone calls of Hans Gruber’s brother Simon Peter Gruber (Jeremy Irons) before he sets off explosions in New York City. Even in Live Free or Die Hard, McClane deals with cyber terrorist Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) through phone calls as he holds Lucy McClane hostage. Without giving away much of the plot, I feel that Live Free or Die Hard lacked the connection between hero and villain, and that took away connection between myself and the movie.

Between the plot, action and script, I was not impressed by the effort of all parties in the film. I felt that the action scenes and the relationship between father and son were exaggerated and lacked creativity. Although it earned top spot in its opening weekend at the box office, it only took in a meager $29.3 million, and it will probably struggle to top the film’s budget of over $92 million. Maybe John McClane should have stayed on vacation as it was not A Good Day to Die Hard and this movie did not live up to its predecessors, not even Die Hard 2. I give it 3 out of 10.

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Next week I will review Dwayne Johnson’s new movie Snitch.