“A Good Day to Die Hard” marks the fifth entry to the “Die Hard” franchise and the third film to come out in the last two months about an ass kicking senior citizen. The original “Die Hard” is a definitive action picture that can still make audiences cheer even after multiple viewings. Whether you love or hate “Die Hard 2” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” pretty much everyone can agree that John McClane made a welcome return in the sensational “Live Free or Die Hard” a few years ago. The previous “Die Hard” got just about everything right from the absurdly insane stunts, to the humorous dialog, to Bruce Willis’ committed performance. “A Good Day to Die Hard” has just enough fun moments for die-hard fans to take a gander. Regrettably, it remains the least impressive outing of this series.
The fact that John McClane’s children are now in their late twenties should make us all feel pretty old. We were introduced to a grown up Lucy McClane in the last “Die Hard.” Now it’s time to meet adult Jack McClane who is portrayed by Jai Courtney from “Jack Reacher.” After an extended period of estrangement, John travels to Russia to bail his distant son out of prison. As one would expect, it doesn’t take John long to get caught up in a number of car chases, explosions, and encounters with foreign villains. Turns out that Jack is working for the C.I.A. and is on a mission to protect a political prisoner who has evidence to put away a shady Russian bureaucrat. Against Jack’s will, Daddy McClane tags along to show his son how it’s done.
There are two saving graces in “A Good Day to Die Hard,” one of which is Bruce Willis. It’s no surprise that he fits comfortably into his most iconic role, cracking one-liners in the midst of certain death and chaos. The other redeeming quality is Jai Courtney, who does a solid job as McClane Jr. Unlike the mummified Harrison Ford and the miscast Shia LaBeouf in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” you can actually buy that Willis and Courtney are father and son. Screenwriter Skip Woods does occasionally recycle a clichéd plot device, such as having Jack constantly address his dad by his first name. What’s important though is that Willis and Courtney have good chemistry and make for a convincing team.
Despite what it gets right, some key elements are missing from this “Die Hard” picture. For starters, the villains are all mostly stock caricatures with thick accents. It’s a royal shame Alan Rickman had to be killed off at the end of the first “Die Hard” because this franchise could use Hans Gruber’s devious wit now more than ever. Previous “Die Hard” movies introduced a number of great supporting players portrayed by actors like Bonnie Bedelia, Redginald VelJohnson, William Atherton, Dennis Franz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Justin Long. All of these performers are missing in action however, leaving it up to Willis and Courtney to carry the show.
As for Director John Moore’s action sequences, they’re fun in a big, loud sort of way. The problem is that many of them overstay their welcome, particularly a chase through the streets of Russia. Willis and Courtney do get to make some memorable banter when “A Good Day to Die Hard” occasionally stops to take a breather. But at only 97 minutes, the film packs in just a little too much action and not enough story development.
While it might be sheer mindless escapism, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is at least more entertaining and playful than “Bullet to the Head” or a Michael Bay outing. Come to think of it, this has been a heavy weekend for enjoyably brainless entertainment with “Safe Haven” for the chick flick crowd and “A Good Day to Die Hard” for the guys. Maybe it’s the sugary, senseless sentiment of Valentine’s, but for some reason I’m the mood for cinematic junk food this week. If you’re in the same mindset, the newest “Die Hard” will likely get the job done. Those looking for an action movie with more substance however, should keep in mind that “Skyfall” just came out on DVD.
(Editor's Note: Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com)