Feb 18 2013
Jonathan Kim is an independent film critic who writes and produces film reviews for Uprising and other outlets. He is a former co-producer at Brave New Films.
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
The original 1988 ‘Die Hard’ is one of my favorite movies of all time, and is in my opinion, nearly a perfect film. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it changed the action genre, not only by popularizing the incredibly intelligent villain who outsmarts nearly everyone (in the form of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber), but by rooting itself firmly in reality. ‘Die Hard’’s hero wasn’t a Stallone- or Schwarzenegger-esque indestructible, musclebound freak, but Bruce Willis’ everyman New York cop John McClane, a guy with a struggling marriage, a rebellious streak, and a dark sense of humor who not only displays fear, but gets increasingly injured as the film progresses. But all the things that made ‘Die Hard’ so compelling and groundbreaking 25 years ago have not just been abandoned, but aggressively rejected over the course of four sequels, hopefully ending with the fifth ridiculous installment, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’.
In this edition, McClane travels to Russia to help his estranged son, Jack (played by Jai Courtney), who’s been arrested for murdering a Russian official. But unbeknownst to John, Jack is actually an undercover CIA agent trying to help a Russian political prisoner named Kamorov (played by Sebastian Koch) who knows the location of a mysterious file that could incriminate corrupt officials and may have something to do with nuclear secrets. Jack begrudgingly joins forces with John as they rampage across Russia, miraculously surviving everything thrown at them as they pursue and are pursued by Russian bad guys.
The makers of the original ‘Die Hard’ were so set on emphasizing McClane’s vulnerability that they made the brilliant decision to have him not even wear shoes for almost the entire movie. Yet now, in his late 50s, McClane has somehow become more indestructible than Willis’ superhero character in ‘Unbreakable’, able to survive enormous car crashes, crazy gunfights, and multiple leaps off buildings with hardly a scratch, totally robbing ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ of any sense of danger or even reality. The wonderfully acted, even touching regrets McClane feels towards his wife and their failing marriage in ‘Die Hard’ have been replaced by the laughably inauthentic rift between McClane and Jack as they try to hash out what a bad dad McClane was between hails of gunfire.
While the underrated ‘Die Hard 2’ found humor in the improbability of McClane disrupting two terrorist schemes in his lifetime, the fifth installment has not a shred of irony or self awareness, instead trying to shoehorn laughs by having McClane repeatedly shout, “I’m on vacation!” which, by the way, he isn’t since he went to Russia to get his son out of jail. And while it’s a ‘Die Hard’ tradition to have there be a twist to the villains’ plans, it’s hard to understand or even give a damn about who these largely faceless bad guys are and what they’re up to.
You might say that it’s unfair or pointless to judge ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ against a classic that came out almost 25 years ago. But why wouldn’t you if the movie still has ‘Die Hard’ in the title and stars the same actor playing the same character? The only reason not to compare the fifth installment to the original is the fact that the original ‘Die Hard’ is so undeniably superior on every conceivable level, which only emphasizes the fact that the sole reason to make this sequel that doesn’t advance a story or improve on anything is solely to make money peddling a shoddy knock-off to a largely international audience. So please, instead of wasting your time and money on garbage like ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, do yourself a favor and just rewatch the original so you can marvel at what a truly wonderful movie it is and how well it holds up after all these years, while trying your best to forget that the last three ‘Die Hard’ sequels, especially ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, ever happened.
‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is rated R and is in theaters now.