These old action stars just don’t want to let go, do they? We have Arnold hunting Mexican drug lords in The Last Stand, Stallone continuing his Rocky and Rambo franchises in addition to assembling the Expendables. And since apparently Bruce Willis doesn’t want to be the first old timer to quit, he’s still making Die Hard movies.
John McClane, however, is no James Bond, and the series has hardly gone through what you might call a “reinvention” over the past twenty years. While Bond gets classier films and a more subdued tone, McClane’s movies get dumber and with louder explosions than ever.
But it doesn’t matter. There’s just something about Bruce Willis as an action hero that its ingrained into our American psyche so that we like him when he shows up in an action movie, or even better, another Die Hard. Never mind that John McClane has been reduced to a catchphrase and a lot of yelling. He’s John McClane! Who cares?
Yep, that about sums it up.
Looking through that prism, I suppose A Good Day to Die Hard is relatively inoffensive, if not immediately forgettable. McClane flies to Russia when he learns his son Jr. has tried to assassinate someone. There he finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between a billionaire and the Russian defense minister, and learns that his son isn’t some hoodlum, he’s been working for the CIA in a multi-year operation that, surprise, John has just blown.
The rest of the film features McClane and son attempting to undo the former’s handiwork by protecting the persecuted billionaire and killing anyone who opposes them in the process. Hijinks ensure including epic machine gun fights, a fall off a skyscraper and a finale that takes place in Chernobyl that defies science in so many ways you lose count.
For a movie this lowbrow, it’s actually sort of hard to follow the plot which seems too complex for its own good. There are betrayals, then double betrayals, and by the end you just know that you want the McClanes to kill everyone just in case there are any more traitors lurking around. Which they do.
Tarantino, this is not.
This was supposed to be something of a big break for young Jai Courtney, whom you may know from early on in Starz’s Spartacus. He beat out many actors you’ve heard of for the role of young John McClane, though now in retrospect, perhaps many of them passed when they finally got a look at the script.
It’s a mindless action film that doesn’t commit any egregious sins; it’s just not very good. You likely won’t remember it for more than ten minutes after walking out of the theater, and we’ve come a long way from the early films which are still regarded as classics. This just isn’t the same caliber of movie, but by the time Die Hard 5 rolls around, what can you expect? That said, it’s not really an excuse. If Dredd can make a terrible idea into a good film, Die Hard should theoretically be able to do the same thing.
The immortal McClane might end up continuing to make movies, but I have a feeling his audience won’t last as long as he will.
2 out of 5 stars