Arriving on a wave of negativity as a result of it receiving the Taken 2 treatment and being pre-cut for a 12A by 20th Century Fox, A Good Day to Die Hard was always going to struggle. At the time of writing, it’s languishing at 11% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and not just from a handful of reviews, 56 in fact. So is it really that bad of a film? No, not quite but it’ll entirely depend on how you approach it. View it with Nakatomi Plaza in your mind and prepare for disappointment, anger and outrage even; view it as a modern day action film and you may be pleasantly surprised. Now, that’s not us saying you should dismiss those two iconic words in the title – eventually it will have to be viewed in the context of the series and for us, it’s better than 4.0 and not even on the coattails of the original trilogy. What it is us saying is that not only should you temper your expectations, but you should also wonder why you ever expected anything different in the first place?
What little plot there is concerns our hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) taking a trip to Moscow to save his son Jack (Jai Courtney) from whatever trouble he’s landed himself in. This trouble involves all manner of slimy Russian politicians and bland henchman once it’s revealed that Jack is actually a CIA operative. In effect, the plot is just an excuse to find the McClanes in a series of increasingly ludicrous set pieces and, in true Die Hard fashion, get hurt… a lot. One issue is that like with Die Hard 4.0, it no longer feels as though John McClane just an ordinary guy stumbling into the wrong situation; instead it’s almost like he perpetrates it and no matter what is thrown at him, even at his age, you never really feel like he is vulnerable anymore.
That being said, director John Moore does deliver some strong set pieces, especially in the film’s first hour, packed with a gleeful amount of explosions and wanton destruction alongside some surprisingly subtle nods to the series. While the father-son bonding scenes are generally clunkers, Willis and Courtney are at home in the action with Courtney’s stoic CIA operative providing a nice counter to Willis’ more wisecracking approach (disappointingly only the sole one-liner works and then it’s repeated several times). It’s a shame then that for the fun ride the first hour or so provides, the film descends into an implausible and downright silly climax which while it provides one standout sequence involving McClane, a helicopter and a truck, repeats a sequence delivered earlier on in the film and to lesser effect. This isn’t helped by the script where writer Skip Woods seems to have thought it was a neat idea to end the film in Chernobyl, before someone turned around to him and said ‘what about the radiation?’ Hello, as it turns out, to a magic spray that makes a vault pooled with radiation liveable in less than a minute. Yes, really.
And now, what A Good Day to Die Hard UK review would be complete without that dreaded 12A cropping up? In truth, unlike with Taken 2, the cuts aren’t glaring (one interrogation scene has a rather sharp cut) and it’s hard to see that whatever will be added in come the inevitable ‘Harder Cut’ home release will make it any more of a Die Hard film for those perturbed by this version. It’d be nice if the uncut version didn’t play cute with the series’ catchphrase but aside from that, it won’t change the fact that ultimately, A Good Day to Die Hard is Die Hard re-targeted to the 21st Century audience. It’s loud, it’s dumb and, for the most part, a lot of ridiculous fun. Were it a standalone action film, it’d be welcomed a lot warmer than it has been and come Monday, there’s every chance that the commercial returns have been unaffected by the critical bashing. Die Hard 6 is likely to follow, just don’t ever expect a return to the days of Gruber.
Arriving on a wave of negativity as a result of it receiving the Taken 2 treatment and being pre-cut...