The 400-Word Review: A Good Day to Die Hard
By Sean Collier
February 14, 2013

This sequences represents the Hard portion of the title.

As the old-guy action movie trend rolls inescapably onward, we now find ourselves facing sequels to comeback films. The Expendables, that great omnibus collection of old guys still shooting things, begat The Expendables 2; whatever remains of Sylvester Stallone (himself returning to old-guy action just this month with Bullet to the Head) will probably trot out yet another Rambo sometime in the near future.

And so too must McClane roll on, as Bruce Willis is here to collect another very large check.

When the Die Hard franchise returned from a 12-year hiatus to ask whether we would rather Live Free or Die Hard, a great many people bought movie tickets. What’s more, critical reception — which had eluded the original film’s two timely sequels in the 1990s — was favorable, making yet another flick an inevitability. Throw in a nonsense title and an equally unintelligible tagline — A Good Day to Die Hard and “Yippie Ki-Yay Mother Russia,” respectively — and we’ve got an early-year tentpole with blockbuster potential on our hands.

The plot, which seemed to arrive sometime during post-production, has McClane’s grown son Jack embroiled in a complicated Russian assassination. When father learns of his boy’s arrest, he buys a ticket to Moscow, which would seem to be a little out of police jurisdiction. Soon after arriving, John learns that his offspring is working for the CIA and promptly fouls up a three-year operation. Ain’t that always the way?

Someone turns on someone, someone reveals what the bad guys are actually after, someone double-turns on someone else — you know, a Die Hard movie. The lean script serves mainly to connect four large action sequences, which easily fill about two-thirds of the movie’s runtime; while the resulting 97-minute film is lean, at least the producers know what the audience came in for. Destructive car chases! Repeated, escalating explosions! People jumping off of things with wanton disregard for what’s below! Helicopter-induced mayhem!

The action sequences are at least fun, if not particularly intense; John and Jack survive improbably often enough that, after about half an hour, you’re pretty sure they are patently unkillable. Willis remains charming, although he has to work overtime to make up for ho-hum Jai Anthony, who lazily ambles through his turn as Jack. Will lessons on fatherhood be learned? Certainly. But more importantly, will villains die in satisfying close-up? Would it be Die Hard otherwise?