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Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

By Bob Garver 

Feb. 18, 2013. Lovers of blockbusters are usually quick to point out 1988’s “Die Hard” as a perfect example of how to correctly do a modern action movie. Sure it has a lot of explosions, gunfire, and cheesy one-liners, but it also has a tight script, attention to visual detail, and characters people either loved or loved to hate. Twenty-five years and four sequels later, it’s time for “A Good Day to Die Hard”. The new film also has a lot of explosions, gunfire, and cheesy one-liners, but the redeeming values never arrive.

Once again, Bruce Willis plays New York City cop John McClane. He learns that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is in police custody in Russia, so he travels there in hopes of helping him or at least seeing him for the first time in years. It turns out that Jack is an undercover CIA agent in the middle of a dangerous mission involving a political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) and his daughter (Yulia Snigir) and their feud with a powerful, corrupt politician (Sergei Kolesnikov). John unwittingly interferes in the mission, much to Jack’s initial dismay, but ultimately his father’s wisdom proves to be invaluable.

There are action scenes aplenty. I’m a big fan of the sequences where you lose count of the impossibilities. My favorite is a car chase in gridlocked traffic. With no roads handy, the characters come up with some pretty creative substitutes. But the action is mostly pointless shooting and explosions, much of which is done with unconvincing CGI and even more of which is done with terribly choppy editing. There should never be this much confusion as to how well your action hero is doing in a firefight. Also, most of the bad guys are essentially faceless. The original film saw McClane freak out the bad guys by learning their all names and casually dropping them into his threats. Here the only henchman worth remembering is Alik (Radivoje Bukvic), a West-hating pest who you’ll want to see hurt.

For me, the biggest problem with the film is Jack. The character isn’t interesting and Jai Courtney brings zero personality to the role. His chemistry with the senior McClane is almost nonexistent. I never saw him as anything more than an obstacle impeding Bruce Willis from carrying this movie like only he can. If the plan is to someday let Willis retire and hand the franchise over to Courtney, it will be one of the worst decisions in the history of sequels.

I feel the need to address the popular complaint that the film doesn’t have enough to do with the rest of the “Die Hard” series. This is an opinion that I do not share. For better or worse, there is no mistaking that this is a “Die Hard” film. Bruce Willis plays John McClane, we get a cameo from his previously-established daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the villains are surprisingly greedy, a death recalls a shot from the first film, and McClane gets to say his unprintable catchphrase (though he mutters it to himself gratuitously). Are fans expecting McClane to take on another member of the Gruber family? One tacked-on family member ruins the film quite enough, thank you.

“A Good Day to Die Hard” is a blatant attempt to cash in on the “Die Hard” name and it can’t even do that properly since starting the title with a “G” instead of a “D” means that it will forever be unable to be linked to the other installments alphabetically. Many fans will likely consider that a blessing in disguise. Lovers of blockbusters will be quick to point the film out as a perfect example of how some franchises just don’t know when to quit. 

One and a Half Stars out of Five. 

“A Good Day to Die Hard” is rated R for violence and language. Its running time is 97 minutes.

Contact Robert Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.