“There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China.”
-Spock (Leonard Nimoy) from “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”
I guess it was only a matter of time before John McClane took his wanton destructiveness outside of America, and “A Good Day to Die Hard” finally transports him to another country where he can continue to piss off the bad guys and cause even more insurance companies to go bankrupt. What results is the weakest film in the “Die Hard” franchise, but one I honestly still had a lot of fun watching. As long as Bruce Willis is still playing John McClane, I know I’m in for a good time.
After repairing the relationship between him and his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead who has a brief cameo) in “Live Free or Die Hard,” McClane is still dealing with family problems as he discovers his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested in Russia for attempted murder. Unsurprisingly, McClane and his son have not spoken to each other for the longest time, so he travels thousands of mile by plane (not his favorite way to travel) to help Jack anyway he can. As soon as McClane gets to Russia, however, gunfights and explosions erupt all around him and he eventually discovers that his son Jack is actually an undercover agent for the CIA who is working to stop a nuclear weapons heist.
Now the plot for “A Good Day to Die Hard” is a bit convoluted as it involves one corrupt government official named Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) trying to blackmail political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) into giving him a potentially incriminating file. All of it leads to a loud and violent reunion between father and son, and it looks like McClane is going to have less luck patching things up with his son than he did with his daughter.
I found myself not caring much if the story didn’t make too much sense because I came into this latest “Die Hard” movie looking for a good time, and that’s what I got. I have to credit director John Moore for using mostly practical effects for this one instead of trying to overwhelm us with fake CGI effects. He also shoots a wonderfully nasty car chase with this enormous truck that obliterates just about everything in its path, and seeing it crash on the highway gave me one of those “whoa!” moments I am always hoping to see in action movies.
Moore also decided to shoot a lot of this movie handheld to give us a sense of McClane’s confusion as he’s in a place he couldn’t be less familiar with, and I’m glad he didn’t do it in a way that made me the least bit nauseous. He also spares us from making any stereotypical jokes at the expense of the Russians which I am thankful for. The days of Ivan Drago have long since passed us by, and McClane gets to have a funny exchange with a Russian cab driver who sings better than Pierce Brosnan did in “Mamma Mia.”
But even as the “Die Hard” movies become increasingly ridiculous, the one thing that still gives them a sense of reality is Bruce Willis himself. After a quarter of a century, he is still around playing John McClane and giving us one of the most human of action heroes. It is clear that Willis takes this iconic role very seriously, and has never allowed McClane to become a joke. We still relate to McClane and his problems even as he drives a truck over a dozen other cars on a highway, and we still root for him even as the action set pieces get increasingly silly.
Jai Courtney, best known for his role as Varro in “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” does good work here as Jack McClane. Being the son of one of the greatest action heroes in movie history is no easy task, but Courtney rises to the challenge and makes Jack a bad ass and not a whiner which I feared he might become. He shares a good chemistry with Willis throughout “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and it’s fun watching these two shoot the glass and defy the odds.
As for the movie’s main villain, that would be Alik who is played by Radivoje Bukvić. Of all “Die Hard” villains, Alik is the weakest but Bukvić still gives a spirited performance as a henchman with a love for dancing. His presence in the movie is not too prevalent, and the reason for that becomes clear as the movie goes on. But for the time he is onscreen, Bukvić does look to be having a lot of fun which is important. I’m sick and tired of watching villains who go after what they want and never seem to have any enjoyment in doing so.
At 97 minutes long, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the shortest film in this long running series. Moore, however, keeps us busy with plenty of gunfights and explosions, and he stages the movie’s climax at a well-known disaster site and uses a kind of helicopter we don’t see much of in the movies. While the action does get to be over the top here, I was still thrilled at what I saw. There’s really no way that John McClane could survive all this carnage that has been inflicted on him all these years, but it’s still fun seeing him beat the odds and coming out of this bloodied but in one piece (more or less).
This is one of those movies you could endlessly criticize in a lot of ways, but in the end I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was as opposed to what I wanted it to be. If you want to spend a lot of time comparing it to the original “Die Hard” you can go ahead, but frankly you’ll be taking a lot of fun out of the equation for yourself. “A Good Day to Die Hard” still delivers a lot of slam bang action the series is known for, and it makes you glad that Willis is still around to say “yippee ki-yay mother f—er” after all these years. It also brings the “Die Hard” back to its R-rated territory which should please those who were mortified at “Live Free or Die Hard” being PG-13.
Still, I can’t help but wonder how many pints of blood John McClane has left in his body after all these years. We have seen him covered with blood so many times that it’s amazing that he’s still standing. There must be deleted scenes from each “Die Hard” movie that show him getting blood transfusions because lord knows he can’t survive without them at this point.
And if there is to be a sixth “Die Hard” movie at some point, would it be too much to bring back Bonnie Bedelia? We miss Holly Gennaro!
* * * out of * * * *
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