I have to admit that there was something brilliant about releasing A Good Day to Die Hard on Valentine’s Day. Up against the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, Die Hard offered an ironic alternative as well as a new installment in an iconic franchise. Unfortunately, the best part of A Good Day to Die Hard was the scheduling.
In the movie, John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia where his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), is in prison. Jack has been working with the CIA to break political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) out of prison. Komarov has been locked up by his former business partner Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) because he threatened to blow the whistle on their involvement with the Chernobyl disaster. Just as John arrives on his “vacation,” an explosion rocks the courthouse where Jack is slated to testify in Komarov’s trial. The two escape and Jack’s precise escape plan is thrown off by his father’s ill-timed interference. As the story progresses, John continues to try to help Jack, who doesn’t want any of it. They’re pursued by Alik (Radivoje Bukavic), one of Chagarin’s henchmen, who uses Komarov’s daughter, Irina (Yuliya Snigir) to draw him out of the escape route.
The major problem with A Good Day to Die Hard is the ridiculous plot. The film is like a Cold War hangover and it feels cliched and strange that in 2013 the villains are Russian businessmen. The film falls back on so many tropes used in the first Die Hard, but with the passing of time these elements are just stale and dated. Further, John McClane’s knack for getting into incredibly dangerous situations and walking away almost unphased isn’t as much fun when he’s about to crash a helicopter loaded with weapons-grade uranium. Overall, the movie is a caricature of an already silly franchise and it takes the fun out of the experience.
In other ways the movie is too on-the-nose. The structure of the story revolves around the pairing of John and Jack foiled by the pairing of Komarov and Irina. While the father-son duo fight through their estrangement, bonding over assault weapons and explosions, the father-daughter duo serves as their mutual enemy. This structure could work well if it weren’t so heavy-handed. The problem is exacerbated by the obvious ways that John passes the torch to Jack. Even in their names, it’s painfully clear that we’re supposed to see Jack as a younger John. By the end of the story, the affection between John and Jack is so corny and dramatic I had to roll my eyes.
The action of the film is pretty good, though. There are several intense moments that got me on the edge of my seat. It’s amazing and funny how much damage John McClane can cause in a matter of minutes. Those parts of the movie work, even if not in a way typical for action films. Still, the script seems like little more than a string of trite dialogue connecting showy battles.
As the script is dreadful, so is the acting. Bruce Willis delivers a pretty solid performance of a role he could probably play in his sleep. Jai Courtney on the other hand seems pretty well aware of how bad the script is even as he’s performing it. As Irina, Yuliya Snigir is creepy in the wrong ways. Her early scenes are fine, but in the end she makes it look like Irina is in love with her father and it genuinely distracts from the admittedly convoluted plot.
All in all, I didn’t expect A Good Day to Die Hard to be good. I went in expecting an entertaining, if pretty silly night at the theater. The movie is so bad, however, that even if I enjoyed parts those parts couldn’t redeem the rest. For cultural tone-deafness and a terrible script, I rate A Good Day to Die Hard 1/5 stars.
A Good Day to Die Hard was written by Skip Woods and directed by John Moore. It runs 97 minutes and is rated R for violence and lanaguage.