Sunday, 24 February 2013

Film Review | A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)

There aren't many film franchises that go beyond three installments without the quality deteriorating significantly. After the first two sequels, things usually go downhill pretty quickly if they haven't already. Good fifth installments are even rarer. In fact, as I write this, I can't actually think of any film series that has managed a worthwhile fifth film. Sadly, A Good Day To Die Hard won't make answering that question any easier.

The Die Hard franchise is regularly held up as one of the strongest and most influential in the action genre, with the first film widely regarded as one of the most important action films ever made. Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard With A Vengeance both have their detractors, but are generally considered worthwhile continuations from the original. Die Hard 4.0 divided opinion further. By far the most throwaway of the series at that point, some enjoyed the high-octane thrills it provided whilst others derided the film for tarnishing the respectable Die Hard name. Which brings us to A Good Day To Die Hard, a film which not only feels like the greatest departure from what the Die Hard films have always been about, but which is also just really quite bad.

Bruce Willis as John McClane for the first time in the franchise actually comes across as bored in the role, and no wonder. Aside from a few semi-decent action set pieces scattered throughout, Willis is given very little of interest to do, and certainly nothing that feels particularly like McClane. The script gives Willis very little of the sharp-tongued humour seen in previous Die Hards, instead having him yell "I'm on vacation!" at regular intervals. Not only does this not make sense - McClane is in Russia to track down and bring home his son Jack (Jai Courtney), which at no point is ever put across as a "vacation" - but it's also a pitifully poor substitute for McClane's usual quick wit and smashmouth utterances of "yippee ki-yay motherfucker!" (mumbled halfheartedly at one point by Willis, and cut short again as it was in Die Hard 4.0 to help secure the film's 12A certificate).

Not that McClane has a great deal to crack wise about. A Good Day To Die Hard is a stiff and humourless affair from the start, taking itself way too seriously and missing almost every opportunity to lighten the mood. The relationship between John and son Jack is for a large part of the film genuinely hostile. The insults traded between them come across not as banter, but as acrimonious and really quite uncomfortable, akin to seeing a couple arguing in a supermarket. When father and son do inevitably end up on the same page, the previous sourness coupled with the lack of chemistry between Willis and Courtney means the relationship never rings true.

This is by far the shortest of all the Die Hard films by around half an hour, but it's certainly the most tiresome to get through. The plot is unnecessarily complex from the start, tying itself in more and more knots as things progress to the point of becoming nonsensical, contradicting earlier happenings through badly thought out twists. This is also the first time a Die Hard film has lacked a clearly defined central antagonist; what could potentially be seen as a bold decision actually turns out to be poorly considered meddling with the Die Hard formula that just goes further in making the whole thing feel carelessly and disparately constructed.

A Good Day To Die Hard therefore gives you very little to like about it. There are some good action sequences, but even these feel CGI-heavy and don't really offer anything that hasn't been seen before. There are also two or three moments which feel as though they're trying desperately to link what we're watching to the franchise's legacy, but these are too few and far between to impact on the film as a whole. In the end, A Good Day To Die Hard suggests that the time has come for Bruce to hang up the dirty white vest for good. That said, talk of rounding the Die Hard series off with a final entry in a second trilogy has already surfaced. Should that end up being the case, the best that can be hoped for is that number six will be a considerable improvement on number five, allowing John McClane to go out with some dignity and not as a shadow of how he started.



  1. Die Hard has certainly never been shy about going bigger with its sequels, but this time around the series really does feel like a shadow of its former self, with problems that people may have had with the last film. Solid review Lebamski.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Dan, and glad you enjoyed the review. It really is a shame when franchises that have both love and respect from so many film fans don't know when to stop and put out dross such as this. Die Hard 4.0 certainly had its flaws, but this had me longing for something of that quality.