A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
In the original Die Hard, John McClane (Bruce Willis) confronted a terrorist and essentially destroyed a high-class office block storey by storey. We then moved up a notch in the stakes and destroyed an airport. Then we got to blow up bits of New York in outings three and four. A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) decides America has seen enough damage caused by John McClane and he’s unleashed on to an unsuspecting Moscow which is having one of its internal power struggles, this time between Komarov (Sebastian Koch) and Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). For these purposes, the McClane family is also fractured. I can’t think why but John and son, Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), don’t get on. Anyway number one son has been arrested and John thinks he’d better go and restore ties. Which is why he happens to be in Moscow when the shit hits the fan. Komarov is taken out of jail with Jack (can’t think how the CIA managed to arrange that) and they are transported to the court house for trial. Bombs go off demolishing the outer wall and the inner courtroom so Jack and Komarov escape only to be delayed by John who isn’t in in the CIA plot (after all these years, John still doesn’t have a CIA mole to report on his son). As a result, the planned extraction has to be put on hold and Jack heads for the safe house pursued by one of these unstoppable armored troop carriers that literally lets nothing stand in its way. If you asked for an explanation of where the production budget went, it was on cars to smash up in this interminable opening chase sequence. Oh and Russians care so little for their city they fire RPGs on the streets without fear of the consequences. I must have missed the memo identifying Moscow as the centre for criminal activity with the most unresponsive police force in the world.
So then the safe house ain’t so safe and before you can say Jack (Robinson) McClane, gun-toting bad guys are breaking in and they are running out. This gives John a chance to bond with Komarov. They have errant children in common and for all there will be bullets and explosions, this is to be a family values film with broken families mended by the time we reach the end. So where are we with the action (obviously there’s no point in discussing the plot because the only consistent truth about it is that, if it moves, crash into it and/or shoot it). Well, we have our team infiltrate a delightful ballroom which is then shot to pieces by the gunmen and an impressive helicopter gunship — never let it be said the Russians do anything by half. If RPGs are not doing enough damage, you can really let rip with the canons on this whirlybird. The increasingly obvious flaw in all this is that the McClane brand has endowed him with new superhuman invulnerability. In the good old days when he was fighting terrorists in the Nakatomi Building, he rapidly ended up looking as if he’d been through a shredder. You could see bits of him dropping off as the film inched forward. This time, he’s been in multiple car crashes, people have shot at him (with an RPG no less) and now our family duo jump blindly out of a window on the top floor of a tall building. Yes, I understand there’s a helicopter making a nuisance of itself, but it’s stretching what little credibility was left by having them not even pause to have a look down before jumping. “No!” “Look. We can make it if. . .” There could have been funny lines. Well, I jest of course. But they just smash through some scaffolding boards. People are doing essential repair work on this side of the building and there’s one of these tubular systems for getting rubble from the top to the bottom. And they just get out and walk away.
At this point, I’m in two minds as to whether I’m watching a Die Hard film or one of the one-person shooter video games. Die Hard used to be all about McClane taking on a “crazed” terrorist and triumphantly shouting “yippee-ki-yay” over this enemy’s prone body at the end (notice the tastelessness of the poster in referring to Russia where the producers hope to do a lot of business). It was a contest which took its time to establish who everyone was and then let the battle commence. Since John landed in Moscow (why did he go anyway? was he planning a jail break even though he can’t speak a word of Russian?) he’s taken part in a demolition derby and shot numerous bad guys. There’s no substantive villain set up as a counterbalance to John McClane’s improbable durability. If you go back to the original, where would we have been without Alan Rickman‘s magnificent Hans Gruber?
As it is, the scenes of bonding between the McClanes are just embarrassingly bad. The action just grinds to a halt. Except sooner or later it has to start again and this time we’re off to sunny Chernobyl (where the radiation sun never sets unless it’s sprayed with magic juice) and we can stage the big shootout to save the world from all the weapons-grade uranium the Russian bad guys have stashed there. Terrorists of the world unite, you can have as many dirty bombs as you need to dispose of the running hyenas of capitalism. So there you have it. This is a film lacking all focus. There’s no clearly defined villain we can boo and hiss at. We’re all over the map in Moscow (one of the fastest growing audiences for foreign films), ending up 400 or so miles away in a deserted factory site that could have been anywhere. Sometimes you can just close your mind down and enjoy dumb action, but not even that works here because the three major set-piece action sequences grow progressively more silly. A Good Day to Die Hard represents a new low in the franchise with Bruce Willis almost relegated to sidekick for Jai Courtney (who’s he?). It almost goes against the grain to call an action film dull and boring, but this qualifies in spades.