Die Hard is perfect and one of the greatest movies of all time. I know that. You know that. And even though all they did was raise the level of absurdity and rewrite the same story, I really love parts 2 and 3. Especially 3, which brought back Die Hard director John McTiernan. Have you watched part 3 lately? It’s ridiculously fun. While it has its flaws (*coughKevinSmithcough*), part 4 was pretty good. I think Justin Long is genuinely funny and Timothy Olyphant always makes everything better. So even the “worst” movie in the Die Hard franchise is really good and better than most modern action films. Pretty good track record, huh?
Well, it was. A Good Day to Die Hard is the first bad movie in the franchise (which will hopefully end here). It’s not just a bad Die Hard movie, it’s just a goddamn bad movie. No way around it. It doesn’t take that long to happen either. About 15 minutes in, during the first big action piece, it’s all over. You realize that all you’re watching is a dime-a-dozen contemporary action movie complete with nauseating shaky-cam and disorientating editing. But what hurts the most is the way John McClane spends about 2/3 of the movie being nothin’ but a confused nuisance used for cheap laughs. It broke my heart.
Going into the movie, I knew that critics had been shitting all over it, but I refused to believe it was that bad. When the kid at the theater ripped my ticket and said “Die Hard, theater seven” I kinda got goosebumps. Here we fucking go, John McClane, the greatest reluctant hero of our time, back on the big screen again.
15 minutes later all hope was lost. John had caused a tremendous, devastating car chase through downtown Moscow. Literally, it was his fault. Loads of innocent people probably died or became horribly crippled because John had to screw up his CIA agent son’s undercover mission. His son Jack (Jai Courtney) was springing a Russian political prisoner named Komarov out of the hands of a corrupt official. John thought his son was in trouble, so he traveled to Moscow to lend a hand. Instead, he botches the CIA’s plans and gets a lot of people killed.
John talks to himself a lot in the movies. It’s like a coping mechanism. He does it in this film but his dialogue is so poor it makes him sound like a whiny geriatric with dementia. After stumbling out of a massive car crash he says shit like “But I’m on vacation!” In fact, he says “I’m on vacation!” at least five times through the course of the film (and he’s not really on vacation). And yeah he says the trademark “Yippee Ki-Yay Motherfucker”, but not to be a badass. He just sorta groans it to himself.
For most of the first half it’s almost like John isn’t even there. He caused the car chase, but after that the story just happens around him. There’s a scene in a CIA safehouse where Komarov, Jack, and another CIA agent are frantically gearing up, and John is like part of the background. In another scene, John is just sort of off to the side playing lookout while his son takes care of business. With Jack doing most of the work, the film could be interpreted as a “passing of the torch” to the next generation McClanes, but I don’t buy that. I’m all about progressing John McClane’s character, sure, but nobody wants to see a Die Hard without him. That idea is absurd and makes me feel weird so let’s shutup about it.
Once John and Jack start working together there are some nice, quiet moments between them. John sincerely regrets putting his job first and despite the wall he’s put up emotionally, he’s damn proud of the CIA “super spy” his son has become. There’s a brief scene in the beginning where John is driven to the airport by his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – who we met in part 4. He’s made good with her, so in part 5 he’s trying to make good with his son. I like that aspect. John’s an old man now, he knows he was a shitty father, and he wants to make it up to his kids. He’s a tough sonuvabitch, but he’s not made of stone. The “family” moments in part 5 were probably my favorite, because god forbid the action scenes in a Die Hard film kick ass.
I never thought I’d say it, but the best action bits involved heavy CGI. The car chase in Moscow is terrible. At one point, when the van being driven by Jake is spun around, I counted about 12 cuts in seven seconds. They change angles every possible beat and you can never tell how far away John is from Jack or the baddies. You see this type of shaky, disorientating camerawork and editing in nearly every modern action film and it SUCKS. It’s bad enough when they do it during hand-to-hand fights or shootouts, but during a car chase it’s absolutely psychotic.
In the trailer and TV spots there are clips of John and Jack jumping out of windows and crashing through floors of a building in slow-motion. Those two parts were the only action moments I enjoyed. They were CGI, which usually puts a nasty taste in my mouth, but they’re seamed in flawlessly and were pretty damn cool to watch. These McClanes, they’re indestructible.
You can’t discuss a Die Hard movie and not talk about the villains and they’re intricate, absurd terrorist plans. You can with this one though. The villains here are the weakest they’ve ever been in the series. They’re basically non-characters for John and Jack to mow down. Remember in part 1 when ALL of the terrorists had personalities and when John shot one you knew exactly who it was? Here they’re mostly in the shadows and die off-screen. They try to give them unique looks – one dude has bleached hair, another is shirtless with tribal tattoos – but none of them are actual characters. Also, if in real life I ever saw a shirtless man with tribal tattoos, I would call the police immediately.
As dehumanized as the villains are, I was more upset about John McClane’s descent into conventional action character territory. It honestly sucked to watch. The greatest fictional hero to ever come out of my home state* (New Jersey) and now his legend is tarnished with this shitty, shitty movie. God damn you director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen remake), you rotten hack. Who invited you to the party anyway, pal? Let’s all treat this film like a Star Wars prequel and pretend it doesn’t exist. Okay?
* the second greatest fictional hero to come out of NJ is Daniel LaRusso. Another movie I consider “perfect” alongside Die Hard is The Karate Kid, so you know I’m used to heaps of disappointment. I’ve pretended for years the Karate Kid sequels don’t exist. Especially the one where Daniel is a woman and the monks dance to the Cranberries. I’ll guess I’ll go to my grave doing the same for Die Hard part 5.- Patrick Cooper