Eating some warm apple pie at a baseball game, while listening to Elvis and simultaneously watching Star Wars, all on a sunny afternoon in the middle of June. What could possibly be more American than that? Leathered New York Detective and figurative “cowboy”, John McClane donkey-punching the foreign accent right out of your greedy terrorist tooth-box, that’s what! Bruce Willis’ iconic movie character, John McClane, is a legend. He’s been smugly smirking, scowling and begrudgingly eliminating villains, in the most entertaining of ways, for over 25 years. Just like every other stubborn, jaded American cowboy, he doesn’t know the definition of giving up. But at age 57, maybe he should look it up, because that’s exactly what this movie did, was to give up.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Right off the bat on the cold-open, we’re treated to a musical score and slick espionage-esque sequence that did all but ask for a martini, shaken, not stirred.
John McClane’s son, Jack (Jai Courtney), gets stuck in a bad situation in Russia, and what do you know, dad figures that he’ll just fly on over there and see about busting him out of the klink, probably with the old, “metal-file-in-the-birthday-cake” trick, but most likely by wiping half of Russia’s population off of the map. No problem. After all, he’s John, “I kill Grubers” McClane, the super-cop from New York, right? Wrong. It is a problem.
McClane is supposed to be a begrudging hero who inadvertently gets dropped into someone else’s problem, and only says “yes” to action, out of some innate, basic sense of respect for the law and the love for his family. He starts in heavy on himself. He works too much, his contributions to his estranged children are funneled through a paycheck, his marriage is on the rocks, he couldn’t possibly want to have to get involved in any more trouble in his miserable life, but he has no choice but to catapult himself into the middle of a someone else’s shitstorm, and even though John always saves the day, he doesn’t even want any credit for being the hero. He’s just doing his job. All in a day’s work. Now piss off. But, from very early on in this movie, the new John McClane is obnoxiously smug and presumptuous about everything. But, I digress…
While being dropped off at the airport by his daughter, McClane, while wearing a smirk on his face that looks like he just pulled it out of his pocket like a prop, smugly slaps us in the face by “promising” his daughter that he won’t, you know, do exactly what he does in every other fucking movie. “Oh, shucks, dad, you’re not gonna do it AGAIN, are yah? Tee-hee, LOL. Be safe.” Hey, if the audience behaves, they just might deserve to see ooooole’ John McClane muster up an inch and a half of “Ohhhh, alright” and put on another show for them. Not only does John see it all coming this time, he’s loving every minute of it. He’s now a narcissistic super-soldier.
A plot catalyst is fired up, and the tsunami of, “Say, WHAT?!?!?” begins. The next hour is a series of corny, chemistry-less father-son arguments and tongue-in-cheek bonding moments right in the midst a slew of implausible action and never-ending plot-twists being handed out like Halloween candy, that almost made me surprised that Willis didn’t look right at the camera and start laughing. Apparently some evil guy, (Sebastian Koch) wants something from some other guy (Sergei Kolesnikov) in order to do bad things. Guy #2’s daughter shows up, and the plot gets laughably complex for a one-liner, American action flick. Insert lots of shaky, quick, impersonal camera work and confusion, to boot.
It’s DIE HARD, for Han’s sake, why not just let the audience put away their Xanax and just have fun watching the movie, right? The first Mission: Impossible had a less convoluted script.
A Good Day To Die Hard constantly volleys between absurd action, passionless “bonding” dialogue between father and son, and ego-boosting scenes about how being a “McClane” carries the inescapable weight of being a hero. These two guys sound more like primadonna Jedis than cops.
To make matters worse, the movie makes non-stop references to the original movies. The insanity crescendos at the end when one of the most memorable scenes in action cinematic history, from the first Die Hard, is recreated, with an ego-ish 1-up maneuver.
Everything and everyone in this movie just floated through the motions. No Die Hard vibe, no Die Hard mojo, it didn’t even appear to be John McClane on the screen. It was Bruce Willis collecting a paycheck. The movie could have been called, “Kill The Russians” starring Jason Statham and Channing Chatum, Tatum Channing, Chatum Tanning, Tim Tebow, whatever the hell his name is, and it would have been the same exact movie.
It should have just been called, “A Good Day To Try Harder.”