A Good Day To Die Hard
The old adage that things grow better with age is one that must be tightly qualified. While it might hold true for a fine wine or many human beings in many cases the aging process is more akin to a container of milk rather than nicely marbled piece of beef. Unfortunately there is more dairy than steak in the latest endeavor to extend the highly lucrative ‘Die Hard ‘action franchise. The original three films instantly became favorites of my late wife and me with copies of the films on video tape, DVD and eventually Blu-ray perennial choice for a guaranteed evening of great entertainment. While the star, Bruce Willis remains an exceptionally talented actor perhaps it is time for detective John McClane to retire his trademark torn and bloody tee-shirt and leave crawling through vents and ducts to the younger generation. A few years ago the concept of more mature action stars caught on with the executives of the major film studios with a new sub-genre of geriatric action movies establishing a beach head in the local Cineplex. Detective McClane was taken out of mothballs to save the nation from cyber terrorism and reconnect with his estranged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in ‘Live Free or Die Hard’. Now a fifth offering, ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’, finds him in Russia falling into yet another set of dire circumstances and coincidentally saving another adult offspring, John Junior (Jai Courtney) known under his nom de voyage, Jack. Despite a poor reception and an initial box office failing to recoup the budget projections for home video, global theatrical and cable revues apparently warranted a six and hopefully final installment of the ‘Die Hard’ saga.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is rapidly becoming a recognizable name in her own right with appearances in the horror genre both in film and television but her time here is little more than a cameo showing her seeing Daddy McClane off at the airport and establishing father and daughter have reconciled. It also provides a bridge of continuity with the previous installments in the series. He is off to Russia because he has learned his son, Jack, currently taking Lucy’s place as estranged offspring, is pulled into an assassination ordered by corrupt yet powerful official, Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Jack is being coerced into testifying against Chagarin in return for a sentence consideration. As soon as Poppa John gets to the courthouse there is a massive explosion; something that inevitably follows John McClane around like his shadow. The device was intended disrupt the trial of Jack and former billionaire and current political prisoner, Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who has been instrumental in exposing the quagmire of corruption rampant in the country. Jack and Komarov seize the opportunity to escape and through a fortunate instance of happenstance run into John. Of course this would not meet the minimum requirements necessary for inclusion of the franchise if John McClane didn’t trip into a much grander and elaborate scheme. In a ploy to infuse a touch of justification as to how John Junior came to be to become involved in international intrigue; he happens to be an operative for the CIA. His mission is to help in a concerted effort to bring down the real target, Viktor Chagarin.
Of course what follows is highly predicable especially when you consider the action has to be duly punctuated with the mandatory assortment of bon mots, quips and one liners the iconic John McClane character makes on a regular basis. Some laugh in the face of certain doom; John McClane makes witty retorts, frequently while simultaneously emptying s clip of ammunition in to his adversary. One element of the ‘Die Hard’ series that might escape s cursory consideration us in each successive movie the locale is widened considerably. Initially it was a single building, moving on to an airport and its immediate vicinity. In the third New York City was the general local while number four extended the action considerably. Now the huge country of Russia once again zooms out the map with the mayhem going from Moscow to the other area immediately recognizable to the audience here, Chernobyl; the site of the worse nuclear power plant. While that tragedy is not directly germane to the plot, or what passes for a story line, it is a name with recognition and thereby suits the function. It is in that location that our intrepid father-son team will find files crucial to proving the case against the villain.
This is another facet of the franchise introduced in the third movie; the clue driven chase. One the location was expanded a plot device had to be found to compel the frantic movement from A to B. This is a reasonable feature used by storytellers for ages and it does serve to pull the various segments of the tale together while inserting another key plot point, the ticking clock. Deadlines have been a central contrivance for the franchise since the start. Although the specifics are modified the impact on the pacing remain the same; keeping the adrenaline levels maximized and the pacing at a breakneck speed. The final reveal that is in common to all ‘Die Hard’ flicks is when the true nefarious plot the master villain is poised to hatch. The original motive is never the true impetus behind the dastardly actions, there is always the hidden agenda behind it all.
While this penultimate excursion for John McClane contain all the required ingredients from family issues to plots within plots in this outing they fail to mesh properly. We have not only seen everything here in the previous four films but ‘Die Hard’ as a series of movies have become iconic in Hollywood redefining the big budget action flick amplifying the sense of over familiarity you will experience while watching. For any fan of the genre a sufficient degree of entertainment will be found here but more in line with faded nostalgia that anything that might provide a novel twist or surprise. The strength inherent in McClane has always been his ‘fish out of water’ appeal, a wise cracking but determined and resourceful law enforcement officer dropped in the middle in an international criminal’s plans, by this point McClane is an organic conveyance of death and destruction, something to hold the machine guns as they spray an impossible number of bullets into everything and everyone in the general vicinity. He has become one of the unstoppable solider villains he used to dispatch routinely. If hopefully the upcoming final movie will be able to give fans a sendoff worthy of this character’s legacy.
~~A Good Day To Die Hard~~ in High Definition - Theatrical Version and
Unrated Extended Cut