The original Die Hard has become an action classic, and is a point of reference for many moviegoers when it comes to this genre. Unfortunately, trends in the action flick industry have dramatically changed over time. Twenty-five years after the original picture, this franchise is churning out its fifth entry. The trends followed in order to appeal to younger audiences can be seen in the movement from the trilogy to Live Free or Die Hard with its PG-13 rating. This enraged fans of the action classic, especially since the main character, John McClane, is known for his brutal violence and explicit language. With A Good Day to Die Hard receiving an R-rating, the fans have hoped for this entry to return back to its roots. Unfortunately, they won't find what they've been waiting for from this picture. It contains some extra blood and a couple cuss words, but it would take a lot more than that to truly return to the original roots.
New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia when he hears that his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), is in a great deal of trouble. Once he arrives, he's surprised to discover that he's a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist. Reluctantly, Jack begins to work on the mission with his father in order to team up against the enemy. However, he soon realizes that he has more in common with his father than he could have ever imagined. Through the gunfire and car chases, they ultimately realize that family is truly important, and they're willing to protect each other no matter the costs.
Writer Skip Woods doesn't bother with establishing much of a setting, as he jumps into the meat of the action rather quickly. John McClane makes his way to Russia as soon as he hears about his son, Jack, being in danger. Once he finally sets eyes upon his son, the film's first cat-and-mouse game is put into effect. Despite the crazy stunts, John has been seen as an iconic action star, due to the fact that people view him to be an ordinary man in extraordinary situations. Well, he's been dehumanized in Woods' screenplay. This isn't the character that Die Hard fans have been absolutely enchanted by. There's almost no emotion displayed through this character, and his dialogue is disappointing. He cusses a few times, but all of the humor has been ripped away from this character's grasp. Get ready for a lot of repetitive one-liners that simply don't work. Once he gets a moment alone with his son, John attempts to have a heart-to-heart conversation, which ultimately backfires. Writer Skip Woods could have done something truly interesting with these roles, but he makes them as one-dimensional as they could possibly come. This especially affects the film's attempt to make the viewer relate to this father-son relationship. The dialogue is so awkward and forced between them, that it isn't even convincing that they're related.
While I won't release the identity of the antagonists, I will say that they are even more disappointing than the characterizations of our leading roles. None of them are menacing, in fact, they don't even receive very much time on screen. When the 'bad guys' are this flat, it's difficult for the audience to be motivated for the 'good guys' to prevail. Regardless, we never feel as if John and Jack are in any real danger. I understand that action flicks require us to stretch our imagination of the human endurance, but this goes way over the top. How does a man flip a car several times at a high speed to simply walk out without a single injury and begin running? John and Jack are seemingly invincible, which makes it feel as if they aren't in any real trouble. A Good Day to Die Hard tries to to create twists to plot points, but those very "twists" make this action flick fall into a category filled with clichés. You'll be able to guess every single "big reveal" in advance. Skip Woods clearly wants to make the film come full-circle with the messages and values seen from both perspectives, but it feels far too contrived and unimaginative for it to take any type of effect.
Those who are used to their Die Hard features being over two hours long will be upset by the fact that the fifth entry only runs 97-minutes long. Writer Skip Woods wraps up the plot in an extremely dissatisfying fashion. The ending isn't only messy, but it's lazy. Woods takes the easy way out and finishes on an unbearably conventional note. Instead of telling the story of how John and Jack ultimately became closer from the entire ordeal, we're provided with one last slow-motion shot as we sit in our seats wondering what this could have been. A Good Day to Die Hard should have been the perfect opportunity to communicate John's growth with his son, but the tug-and-pull relationship they share becomes quite tiresome as the narrative continues to play out. This is one hollow plot that should have been filled with a lot more substance, as the character we once cared about is nowhere to be found.
While the screenplay is an absolute mess, the cast delivers what they can. Bruce Willis continues to be entertaining on the big screen as John McClane, even despite the disappointing material he's been given. With the right material, Willis could easily show that he's still a great action star. Jai Courtney offers a similar amount of promise in the role of Jack McClane. He's believable and works well with Willis on screen, but doesn't get the chance to show the extent of his skills. Courtney suffers from being provided with a one-dimensional character that doesn't allow any room for growth. The constraints on these roles could have been loosened up to allow them to become a little bit more genuine, which would have helped the movie return to characterizations found in the original. It would have been interesting to see how Willis and Courtney could have carried this motion picture if they were given a stronger screenplay.
Director John Moore is known for his work on the less-than-stellar picture Max Payne. He falls right on track with the progressive trends in this genre, as he strives to make up for a disappointing screenplay with a lot of over-the-top visuals. While it doesn't change how bad the screenplay is, there are a couple exciting action sequences to be found. One of them follows a car chase, which occurs closer to the beginning of the feature. Moore has incorporated some impressive stunt work with these vehicles, which is guaranteed to keep your eyes glued to the screen. However, if you find CG work distasteful, then there will be portions of this feature that will leave you raising an eyebrow in disbelief of its obvious presence. Those who are looking for gun fights and huge explosions will find the final act to be entertaining, but it isn't enough to pull this one across the finish line.
This action flick is overflowing with issues, but it's still worth a rental for action fans. If you're a Die Hard fan, then you'll most likely be picking this picture apart. John McClane is absolutely gone, and he's been replaced by an emotionless and indestructible man with repetitive dialogue. This is a missed opportunity to progress the franchise in the correct direction and establish growth within John and his son, Jack. If this movie wasn't involved in this franchise, it would be your run-of-the-mill popcorn flick. Unfortunately, it's the fifth entry and it remains in the fine lines of the typical genre conventions. The action scenes are decent, but big explosions and other special effects aren't enough to cover the mess that's underneath. A Good Day to Die Hard is worth a rental with a group of friends, at the very best.