As part of its promotion campaign for the new A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, 20th Century Fox is holding a day-long series of Die Hard marathons around the country, culminating in the opening night screening of the latest chapter in the franchise. With due respect to the Fox Marketing department, this is the last thing on earth they should be doing, because putting Good Day anywhere in proximity to the original Die Hard, or even to the lesser sequels, will just make its utter rancidness that much more apparent.
Good Day is by far the worst of the Die Hard series–in fact, the only things that make it a “Die Hard” movie at all are the presence of Bruce Willis and his trademark sneer, the character name John McClane and the fact that he says “Yippee-Ki-Yay, motherfucker” before the closing credits roll. Without those elements, it’s just a bigger-budgeted version of the Eurotrash action movies that Luc Besson manufactures every year like The Transporter, Colombiana and From Paris With Love. (It’s not even as good as the Taken franchise that’s become the jewel in Besson’s crown.) Good Day is relentlessly stupid and forgettable, without an ounce of the wit or ingenuity that made the first Die Hard a template for action movies over the past quarter-century.
Like The Last Stand and Bullet To the Head, Good Day takes into account the fact that its marquee star is aging. Skip Woods’ script (his pedigree includes Swordfish, Hitman and the A-Team movie) gives McClane an adult son, Jack (Jai Courtney), and as the story begins, McClane learns that Jack has been arrested for murder in Russia, and he sets out to help his son. Of course, as the trailers make clear, young Jack is actually an undercover CIA agent, and his arrest is part of a ludicrously over-complicated plot to free one-time nuclear industrialist but now political dissident Komarov (Sebastian Koch) so that Jack can get Komarov’s file on former partner Chagarin (Sergey Kolesnikov), who’s himself out to kill the convict before he can turn over that file. McClane arrives in Moscow just as everything is–literally–blowing up, and is instantly in the middle of the action. Several dumb plot twists later, everything ends up in Chernobyl, which as visualized by the movie is just another version of the same disused factory where every other action movie has its ending.
A few minutes into Good Day, it becomes clear that longing for the days of Alan Rickman and Beethoven on the soundtrack are pointless. It’s not that this new entry fails to live up to the standard even of the Die Hard sequels, but that it has no interest in trying. Even on its own terms, though, it’s a third-rate piece of work. Director John Moore, whose last flops were the remake of Flight of the Phoenix, the remake of The Omen, and Max Payne, tries to goose things up with jittery hand-hand camerawork even when he’s filming two people standing still in a room having a conversation (Marco Beltrami’s score also works overtime to force some excitement), but the only people who distinguish themselves here are the second-unit personnel who handled the expensive explosions, which arrive like clockwork to generate returns at the overseas boxoffice. There’s no momentum, and certainly no characterization, unless you count John and Jack’s inevitable movement from initial hostility (John was never around when Jack was growing up) to bonding under fire.
Bruce Willis has always been an actor capable of genuinely impressive work when he’s interested (Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, 12 Monkeys for example), but among the laziest of paycheck performers when he’s not, and it’s obvious that the only thing motivating him here was the size of his trailer. Courtney matches up physically with Willis better than Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in Looper, but he’s playing a very dull character, and he and Willis never get any kind of rhythm going. (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in a brief reprise of the daughter role she played in Live Free Or Die Hard–presumably paying for her ability to do Sundance movies–has much more rapport with Willis, so it’s too bad she only gets a couple of bookending scenes.) The villains are generic, and there’s hardly anyone else in the movie.
Although A Good Day To Die Hard deserves to kill the franchise, it might very well thrive at the boxoffice, especially internationally, where movies about things blowing up real good sell plenty of tickets. They should call the next one Die Embarrassed.
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