After rescuing his daughter and saving the US from financial meltdown by cyber terrorist Thomas Gabriel, John McClane is back and trying to rescue his other kid, John Jr aka Jack McClane and he heads to Russia to do it in the fifth entry in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard.
I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Jack doesn’t need any help as he’s actually a CIA agent, and not a criminal like John believes from the rap sheet he gets. John’s arrival throws a wrench in a carefully concieved plan to extract political prisoner Yuri Komarov, who has evidence that can put away high ranking Russian official, Viktor Chagarin. It’s a far cry from “guy stuck in a skyscraper with terrorists” and the plot is basically only used as an excuse to move from one over the top action sequence to the next. There is also the requisite Die Hard twist about what is really going on but it’s not particularly clever and the series probably needs a simplification back to the classic formula.
Bruce Willis is still pretty great as John McClane but he’s definitely not the same character as the original. In the original, he was make wise cracks and acting cocky so he wouldn’t have to realize how badly the odds were against him and give up. The cockiness is still there but at this point, John is a super solider, an expert in every weapon and vehicle and immune to injury. There isn’t even the slightest hint of hesitation when he gets into this latest scrape, he basically just shrugs and goes along with the insanity. Jai Courtney is a solid side kick, a big step up from Justin Long’s annoying Matt Farrell from Live Free or Die Hard but there isn’t the same sort of relationship building that John had with daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Live Free. Jack and John survive an over the top helicopter attack and that’s it, relationship healed. The villains are overall pretty generic. There is a vague attempt to make main villain Alik slightly interesting but they have barely one scene to establish his character quirks and no of what they establish pays off in the end.
Action wise, A Good Day to Die Hard is solid throughout. The realism is absent but the over the top sequences John and Jack survive are fun to watch nonetheless. Once things kick off, there is basically zero down time as John and Jack run around Moscow and eventually, Cherynobyl (in a ridiculous bit of historical retconning). There is an extended car chase that is pretty great to kick things off and there are two bits involving an attack helicopter that are over the top but entertaining. Things are definitely toned down from the ridiculousness of Live Free, where that movie culminated in John jumping onto a Harrier jet from a semi truck, but the action is still miles away from where the series started. Since John doesn’t even get injured anymore, even after surviving horrific car crashes and falling dozens of stories, there are not the stakes of the original, where one of the deadliest enemies John faced was broken glass on his bare feet. The action of modern Die Hard is on par with it’s contemporaries, like The Expendables, but it’s lost what made everyone love the series to begin with.
If you were turned off by Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard is more of the same; ridiculous action, generic villains and an indestructible superhero John McClane. If you can separate this movie from the franchise and look at it by itself, it’s an extremely solid action movie, easily the best one this year so far, but Die Hard as we now and love it ended with A Vengeance.