A good day to let the whole franchise die out

Bruce Willis, presumably due to a clause in his contract with the Devil in which he gave up his hair, is returning as New York cop John McClane for a fifth time to battle evil terrorists. In this, the latest chapter of the seemingly never-ending series, McClane heads to Moscow to rescue  his sonJack (Jai Courtney), who is charged with murder and set to appear in court. McClane is unaware, however, that his son is working as a CIA operative, and in fact committed the crime in order to gain access to political prisoner and potential snitch Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). McClane’s arrival conveniently coincides with both Jack’s hearing and an attempt on Komarov’s life, and Jack’s subsequent attempts to smuggle him out of Russia.

Only minutes into the McClane family reunion, McClane Sr, Jack and Komarov all find themselves fleeing a heavily-armed gang pursuing Komarov, who are hoping to retrieve a dossier that could incriminate their boss. But against all the odds …  

With the first Die Hard now firmly anchored into the minds of film fanatics as the pinnacle of action cinema, opinions vary as to which of the sequels – if any – actually hold a candle to the original. It is worth noting that John McTiernan, director of the first two films, abandoned the franchise in 1995 after Die Hard with a Vengeance – and for good reason, it seems. Each of the subsequent follow-ups to the 1998 original have paled in comparison to the first. Die Hard with a Vengeance boasted a few merits, but this instalment has lost feeling of it being a Die Hard film. Len Wiseman unwisely fell victim to the same phenomenon with Live Free or Die Hard, taking the action across the entire Eastern seaboard in a war against a cyber terrorist hell-bent on holding the country at ransom. Aspects of each sequel work on some levels, but no longer share anything in common with the first film. A Good Day to Die Hard only exacerbates this issue further.

Willis’s McClane has devolved almost beyond recognition. By now, he’s had to accept the fact that the world has changed, and the methods he employed in the late ‘80s will no longer suffice to save the day. He’s developed from a lovable black sheep into a deranged sociopath, for whom it’s a tall order to function normally in the everyday world. When he finally does find Jack in Moscow, his son unsurprisingly wants nothing to do with him.

Much of the film’s shortcomings can be undoubtedly attributed to scriptwriter Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team), but in truth, Willis himself isn’t blameless, either. After two decades as the face of the franchise, Willis should at least have set the standards higher, as the rest of the cast can do little to help. Courtney’s Jack is far too lacking in complexity to hold any clout as a hero, and Koch, known for his roles in The Lives of Others and Black Book, can only hint at his underlying talent with a flimsy character and wafer-thin script.

Coarse and monotonous where its predecessors were clever and complex – where are the charming British villains pretending to be Germans? – it’s no exaggeration to call A Good Day to Die Hard the worst film of the lot. It struggles to entertain or evoke a reaction even on a basic level. Perhaps most worrisome of all is the knowledge that the suffering is far from over and that the franchise will continue.

As the title of this instalment suggests, perhaps Willis has actually deemed it a good day to die – and is actually willing himself to do so in letting the franchise live on. If that’s the case, he’s on exactly the right track with this film. Because as hard as it may be, Bruce, it’s time to die. Please try harder.

A Good Day to Die Hard



Dir: John Moore; US action/crime, 2013, 97 mins; Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sebastian Koch, Cole Hauser


Premiered February 14

Playing nationwide