'A Good Day to Die Hard' Review By John M
Everything that was great about the Die Hard franchise is ripped away leaving nothing, but the shell of its former self.
I didn't get to see Die Hard in the theater in 1988 when it first came out as I was just nine years old, but I did get to see it a two years later on VHS with my older brother. Seeing it for the first time I was just amazed by the film. The action was spectacular, but also gritty and down to earth. I still remember the scene where John McClane (Bruce Willis) had to walk across glass in his bare feet and the painful scene of him pulling the glass out as he talked to Sgt. Al Powell played perfectly by Reginald Vel Johnson from the great sitcom Family Matters on TGI Fridays. Boy I am showing my age. Back to Die Hard the film is one of if not the best action film of all time, but it isn't just the action that makes Die Hard so great. It was the relatively simple yet good plot, but more importantly it was the actors, characters and the chemistry between them added to that is the great villain. Bruce Willis played John McClane perfectly showing charisma, a sense of humor, pain and all the other emotions. In his greatest role Alan Rickman played the villain Hans Gruber joyfully. He plays him so well that you end up liking him in the end even though he kills so many people. The chemistry between Willis and Vel Johnson, and Willis and Rickman was wonderfully done. All of that added so much to the action, and that is what makes Die Hard so great.
The Die Hard films continued that way with Die Hard 2. Was the plot worse then the first film? Yes, but the film was long enough to be fleshed out and in the end worked. Did the bad guys have as much presence as the first film? The answer is no, but William Sadler and John Amos did a pretty good job as the villains. Of course Bruce Willis did a great job. The action was also great as the film takes place in a blizzard at Washington Dulles Airport. Die Hard 2 was a few steps down from the first film, but it was still a good action film. Die Hard returned to greatness with Die Hard with a Vengeance. The film takes place in New York, and has perhaps the best plot of the Die Hard films. It is simple yet complicated. The action is of course amazing especially the scene around the Federal Reserve. I won't give anything way for the few out there who haven't seen the film, but it is extremely well done. What really puts this film over the top in greatness and almost to the level of the first Die Hard is again the chemistry between the characters and the villain. Jeremy Irons plays Simon Gruber, Hans's brother wonderfully and with zeal. The chemistry between Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Irons is well done. You can just see that the actors are enjoying their roles and having a good time.
After Die Hard with a Vengeance the franchise went dark for over a decade. The franchise was brought back to life with 2007's Live Free or Die Hard. The film had was directed by the decent action director Len Wiseman, and I am surprised that he didn't have his wife Kate Beckinsale playing Maggie Q's role, though that would have been a beautiful step up for the film. The film was a lackluster action film, and a disappointing continuation to the Die Hard franchise. I did like the chemistry between Willis, Justin Long and Mary Elizabeth Winstead who played McClane's daughter. The action was decent, but what really didn't work were the plot and the bad guys. I like Timothy Olyphant he's a decent actor and has done a wonderful job with his role on Justified, but he just didn't work as the bad guy as did Maggie Q. They both seemed out of their elements or their characters were badly written.
I was hesitant about Live Free or Die Hard especially with its PG-13, and after I saw the film I thought they should have let the franchise fade away while it was on top so I was really hesitant about A Good Day to Die Hard, but I was willing to give the franchise one more chance. Sadly for me the franchise has died on a sour note. I was very disappointed with the film. That's not to say I hated the film its well...just like I said I was just plain disappointed in the film and how far the once great franchise has fallen.
A Good Day to Die Hard plot is the worst of all the films following two bad Russian men in Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) and Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) who once worked together. Yuri supposedly gets some kind of conscious and Chagarin wants to stop him from talking as well as getting a file from Yuri. The CIA and John McClane's get son Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) somehow involved. John McClane who's been searching for his son for some reason (The film doesn't go into any reason why his son disappeared) and finds him in Russia after he finds out he is in jail. John goes to see his son at a courthouse, but unfortunately for him men who work for Chagarin interfere blowing up the courthouse yet they want Yuri alive. I know the cell he was sitting is was tuff, but that explosion was extreme and I think most likely would have killed him. Also another problem with the scene was the explosion took place in the side of the building, but yet there were over a dozen guards in the front of the building so where were they while heavily armed men walked into the court house. That's just one of the problems with the plot and action. The plot continues as Jack helps Yuri escape and runs into his father. Things continue to get out of hand for the McClane men. There are some twists and turns with the plot, but it is paper thin, with plot holes and unbelievable. Perhaps if the film was longer then it's very short running time of 97 minutes it could have been better.
That is one big mark against the film the next is the acting/chemistry of the actors and characters. The two villains along with their side kick Irina (Yuliya Snigir) have absolutely no presence or have an ounce of depth. Jai Courtney was just dull as Jack McClane. He had no charisma or chemistry with Willis, and his acting ability is serviceable at best. The underrated actor Cole Hauser is underused and is only in the film for a few minutes. The only supporting actor that has any presence is Mary Elizabeth Winstead again playing Lucy McClane. In her two scenes you can see the chemistry she had with Willis that was also there in Live Free Die Hard. I actually wish she was given the lead role playing John's daughter instead of Jai. I think John's daughter could kick some ass also after all she is a McClane. Of course the only main actor who had any presence was Bruce Willis. He single handily keeps A Good Day to Die Hard from being an abysmal film. He brings his charisma to the film even with the badly written dialog that was given to him. He also shows again that he still got it. Out of all of the action stars of the 1980's and 1990's from Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren to Arnold Schwarzenegger he's the one that has shown the most that he hasn't lost a step with age.
Now that's two big marks against the film. The third is the action. Of course there are a lot of explosions, loud noises, bullets, fights and guns, but it is just Oh hum or boring, uneventful just plain not exciting. There is an overly and I mean overly long car chase scene through Moscow that wished it had the intense feeling of the much shorter and better chase scene in The Bourne Supremacy. I mean again you have a huge chase scene, but you don't see one cop car until the very end. I know many would be busy with the explosion at the court house, but come on where are the police. There is the terribly done action sequence at a hotel and an attack helicopter. Again I know Russia is a corrupt country and Chagarin is a corrupt politician, but come on like the Russian police or military would let an attack helicopter fly freely around Russia shooting up building. There are a few other actions scenes and a terribly done climax, but that should be enough to let you know how bad the action is.
Maybe I should blame all this on the writer of the screenplay and the director. The screen play was written by Skip Woods the same guy who did the writing the films Hitman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team and this film. Having been the writer for Hitman tells me all I need to know about Skip in that he is an average at best action writer and a terrible character/ dialog writer. John Moore I think might be a decent director by some and I did enjoy Flight of the Phoenix, but he is uninspired director who is terrible with action. Combining these two should have sent off flags to Fox that this film was headed in a bad direction and put a stop to it, so I blame the studio also for this mess of a film.
I'm sure A Good Day to Die Hard will make a ton of money after all it is the dead season for films, but it doesn't deserve it. To be honest I hope the film bombs, so Fox will put this once proud franchise to rest instead of trying to destroy the legacy of the first three films. Do I recommend A Good Day to Die Hard? The answer is obviously no. The story is paper thin that doesn't work along with plot holes. I'm sure some who don't know good action when they see it will enjoy the action sequences in this film, but the action is disappointingly bad, but that is just how it is today with the majority of action films today. The acting/chemistry is non-existent and the writing/directing is horrible. I highly advice everyone skip this film. If you need a Die Hard or action fix go rent or by the first three Die Hard films.