A Good Day to Die Hard
screened after WW
press deadlines. Critic Michael Nordine deems it not the best day.
Critic's Grade: C+
2007's Live Free or Die Hard
was, to the pleasant surprise of many, the best entry in the Die Hard
series since we were first introduced to John McClane nearly two decades earlier. It was self-aware, funny and joyously over-the-top in a way that neither of the two intervening sequels were. John Moore's A Good Day to Die Hard
doubles down on that last film's maximalist approach and silly title but drifts away from nearly everything else that defines a Die Hard
. McClane has gone from a likable everyman with a knack for improvising to an indestructible super-cop. Too much attention is paid to barely-coherent action sequences and too little to the once-charismatic figure in the middle of it all. At the film's beginning, McClane flies to Moscow in order to help out his gone-rogue son; once there, things quickly escalate—as they are apparently wont to do whenever Bruce Willis' flagship character gets involved. This, it seems, is the oddly un-famous NYPD officer's plight: defusing the life-or-death situations he can't help but happen upon every few years.
In hindsight, it seems not only inevitable that the all-American cowboy of a cop would eventually fight the Russians but strange that it took so long to happen. This scenario yields a number of early pleasures: It would be self-defeating to deny the joy of seeing Willis yell “Do you think I understand a word you're saying!?” immediately after punching out an angry Muscovite. But such moments are overshadowed by the baddies' propensity to speak only English and the lazy plotting that leads to a radioactive climax in Chernobyl. Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods also fall victim to the same mistake made by many sequels to highly successful franchises: expecting us to care about the vaunted protagonist's stupid kid. (See also The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
.) There's little chemistry between McClane and his spawn, just a lot of strained father-son dynamics that mostly serve as bookends for action set pieces.
Moore and Woods also expend considerable energy creating an overly ominous atmosphere; this is a Die Hard
movie that, for whatever reason, wants us to be aware of its almost funereal seriousness from the outset. Every mundane scenario is teeming with unease, every seemingly innocent character in possession of several ulterior motives. The action explosions and gunfire are often exciting in spite of how little they hold up to narrative or logical scrutiny, but nevertheless leave one longing for the moments of levity that colored the previous entries. Which is to say: A Good Day
is a decent action flick, but change a few characters' names and it's barely recognizable as a Die Hard