Whenever people turn their minds to the Die Hard franchise, discussion always seems to focus on which entries are true to the spirit of the original. There were many complaints that Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard) simply wasn’t a Die Hard film, but rather a superhero movie featuring some bald bloke. Similarly, many complain that Die Hard: With a Vengeance broke the rules by not being set in a confined location. What’s more, I recently watched the conversation between Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith on the Die Hard 4.0 Blu-ray only to find that they both declared that film to be the first real successor to the original film. Now, to add insult to injury, I’m going to declare that A Good Day to Die Hard simply does not feel like a Die Hard film. Make of that what you will.
The movie sees John McClane (Willis) travel to Russia to help out his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who is currently in custody and awaiting trial. He soon discovers that Jack is in fact a CIA operative, and John’s very presence has ruined the operation. Now they have to get the mission back on track and make up as father and son within the space of the 98 minute running time.
This brevity is both a blessing and a curse. The Die Hard movies were in the habit of becoming more and more bloated, so a slim, pacy entry was perhaps just what was needed. Unfortunately, this feels rushed from the get-go. In fact, I had trouble keeping up with the twists and turns of the plot. This may be because I’m a bit dim, but I think it’s more likely that the narrative makes no sense. There are a number of double-crossings that seem illogical when you think backwards through the film, and they don’t have the sense of dramatic tension that they should.
Man of the moment, Jai Courtney, certainly looks convincing as an action lead, but the inane script doesn’t let him flex his acting muscles. Consequently, his work in both Jack Reacher and ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ was much more interesting. Willis does his usual action schtick, but again is let down by a script that keeps getting John to whinge “But I’m on vacation!” over and over, even though we know he’s not.
The action scenes are the only moments that impress, and even those are patchy. There’s a wonderful car chase that is almost ruined by shoddy and frenetic editing, and there is some stand-out slow motion ridiculousness that is only ruined by some bizarrely awful visual effects. It’s disturbing to think that, in ten years’ time, it will be the fourth and fifth instalments of the franchise that will look the least convincing, due to the terrible CGI work that appears in both.
I’m not sure what happened to this film. It feels like there was a lot of footage left on the cutting room floor, but at the same time maybe this chopping up occurred during the scriptwriting phase. As a consequence, it feels like a movie that’s so determined to have a brief running time that it hasn’t even tried to formulate a coherent plot. At the end of the day, however, this is one of those films you can easily switch your brain off to and still enjoy. As I said, there are no slow bits, and the action is well orchestrated, even if it doesn’t feel at all realistic. As such, it could be called a guilty pleasure.Rating: