A Good Day to Die Hard Review
An Entertaining, Genre-Bridging Ride
I expected to read bad reviews for A Good Day to Die Hard. What I didn’t expect was to not come across a single positive review. However, only one review matters in America — the box office. If you’re looking to read just another review slamming the fifth entry in the Die Hard franchise, stop now. (Might I suggest reading some of the other wonderful articles that Immersion has to offer?)
A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t for everyone. It’s for people who love old-school action movies and Bruce Willis. That may not be everyone, but if you were born before 1990, it’s just about everyone. If you were born after 1990, then there’s something in there for you as well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The original Die Hard film skyrocketed Bruce Willis into superstardom. Many viewers still consider it their favorite Christmas movie. Ever since it came out in 1988, Willis has been a household name. He’s been a bona fide movie star for 25 years and shows no signs of stopping despite his 60th birthday only two years away. (Stallone’s still kicking even if the believability of him defeating Jason Momoa or Antonio Tarver is utterly laughable). A Good Day to Die Hard is evidence that after 25 years and five Die Hard films, Bruce Willis has still got it.
I promised a positive review of the newest Bruce Willis adventure and here I will deliver. Before 9/11, old school action films were on the decline and critics/audiences looked for a more cerebral action film — one that could entertain as well as keep you thinking. The answer was espionage action. 2002 was the year that old school action films and espionage films were put up against each other. Die Another Day and The Bourne Identity competed and Jason Bourne won. (This prompted the James Bond producers to reinvent 007 as a British Jason Bourne). I could go on and on about post 9/11 filmmaking in regards to action and espionage, but I’ll save that for a book.
In 2002, action movies were shown stage right. International espionage and counter-terrorism films became the new action. For example, the fourth entry in the Die Hard franchise Live Free or Die Hard stands as a testament to Hollywood’s attempt to make action more relevant. John McClane wasn’t fighting Hans Gruber, his disgruntled brother or a rogue military official. An angry former-CIA man wanted to expose the United States’ cyber-defense by way of cyber-terrorism. Bruce Willis wasn’t thrown together with another action star like Samuel L. Jackson in Die Hard with a Vengeance, instead Justin Long showed up in 2007 as the young, techie guy who knew all about these contraptions known as computers that McClane couldn’t figure out because they don’t come with a trigger. The box office proved that Bruce Willis was still a bankable name from an almost-forgotten genre despite the fact that John McClane couldn’t send an e-mail if he was given Wi-Fi, a laptop and a quiet room.
In 2013, the Die Hard franchise took another stab at making itself relevant again. They couldn’t play the technology card again, so director John Moore took the franchise out of America for the first time and shipped McClane off to Moscow. At first, I balked at the prospect of sending McClane overseas. After all, he’s a New York City cop — a tough, no-nonsense type, but still no Jason Bourne. Luckily, John McClane, Jr. almost is — and that is probably my biggest issue with the film: John McClane, Jr. (Jack) is essentially a secret agent, Jason Bourne-type (Willis even calls him “the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey”), but his planning and problem-solving skills are shameful. Of course, without these flaws, Jack wouldn’t learn that his father can still teach him a thing or two over the events of the film, which creates the audience’s emotional investment. Another issue that comes up is the film’s villains. There are a few seemingly unnecessary twists that don’t amount to much, muddying the villains’ motives for the audience. We’re never shown what’s exactly at stake despite the use of the word, “Uranium,” in every scene.
The combination of the old-school action hero (Bruce Willis/ John McClane) and the new age super spy (Jai Courtney/ Jack McClane) is what makes this film so enjoyable for me. A Good Day to Die Hard is an interesting look into the action genre of yesterday and today. It’s a mix of shoot-em-up, take-no-prisoner action from the 80s and 90s and the international espionage, covert action of the present. Willis continues to deliver as John McClane. The world changed just as much for Willis as it had for McClane, and Willis puts this flawlessly into his performance. Jai Courtney keeps his action resume rolling with another great turn following Jack Reacher.