Given the influence of the original 1988 Die Hard film it would be a fair question to ask where A Good Day To Die Hard could go? So seminal was John McClane’s first outing that it’s still inspiring action movies more than 25 years on. A glance at this year’s Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down are so clearly Die Hard In The White House that it wouldn’t come as a shock if it were revealed that one, if not both, were originally pitched as another chance for Bruce Willis to utter the immortal line “Yipee ki-yay”.
This time John McClane (Bruce Willis) is heading to Russia in search of his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney). But Jack has been arrested for assassination and while standing trial is part of an elaborate operation to free political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). After a city destroying car chase, John helps Jack and Yuri escape only to discover Jack is in fact working for the CIA. With their safe house compromised Jack and John must help Yuri retrieve a file that can clear his name and incriminate Russian official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov).
In many ways A Good Day To Die Hard offers what you would expect from a Die Hard movie; big set pieces, McClane’s brand of dry humour in the face of danger, bad guys who monologue when they should be killing and a gritty brand of action which results in Bruce getting all bloodied up. But there’s something lacking here.
What made Die Hard, and part three Die Hard: With A Vengeance, so entertaining was McClane’s back and forth with the villains and, to a lesser extent his partners. Good Day doesn’t have a Hans or Simon Gruber for McClane to spar with. For the most part the villains here seem to chop and change according to what is more likely to pull the rug from under us. But without much interest in them in the first place it fails to elicit any kind of surprise. But more than anything A Good Day To Die Hard is lacking in banter department with a partner. Instead of Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-rolling of Vengeance or Reginald VelJohnson’s pep-talks of Die Hard, we get a father-son dynamic which never quite clicks. It’s forced down our throats that Jack is a chip off the old block, a John Jnr. in every sense and as such there isn’t any friction between them because they’re both too hardcore in the action stakes.
Director John Moore, who has form in the action genre with Behind Enemy Lines and Max Payne, at first insists on a Jason Bourne style shaky camera. While this works for the opening truck chase through Moscow, which continues the trend of the Fast & Furious 6 of wanton vehicular destruction, it soon seems like a misstep and becomes frustrating. There are some nice moments, McClane being hurled through a window by a spinning helicopter raises a smile, but for the most part you’re left with a feeling of; seen it all before.
Courtney, who is fast becoming a muscle for hire having starred in Jack Reacher as a violent mercenary, does a solid job of convincing as Willis’ son. He’s never given any more character than being a young McClane but his occasional Hulk-like rage just about works. Willis meanwhile could do this in his sleep. These days, more so than ever, he’s beginning to show his age. Approaching 60, he’s still the most appealing thing about any Die Hard outing but you wonder if it’s only a matter of time before he starts uttering Lethal Weapon’s Roger Murtaugh’s expression of being “too old for this…”.
Despite some solid action and fun stunts A Good Day To Die Hard never manages to lift itself from all the Die Hard imitators out there. It’s less the icon of action it once was and more Yipee ki-yawn.