Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

By Matthew Huntley

February 19, 2013

We wonder how long the McClanes have been living in their car.

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How to to enjoy (or perhaps tolerate) A Good Day to Die Hard: immediately accept it as a disordered, full-blown action movie that pays no respect to reason, plausibility, second thoughts or story. Maybe then it can serve as a guilty pleasure, but I have a feeling most viewers will still opt to write it off, simply because it doesn't have the same level of charm, excitement or craftsmanship as its predecessors, which is what a lot of people will be looking for.

This is the shortest entry in the long-running Die Hard series so far, and at just under 100 minutes, the filmmakers have all but abandoned any attempt to develop the characters or story beyond mere pawns of the wall-to-wall action, which includes the usual heavy-duty chase scenes, explosions, shootouts, jumps through windows, crashing helicopters, etc.-you know the drill. But the faster you accept this is all A Good Day to Die Hard is going to be, the less prone you are to leaving the theater angry or disappointed. Heck, you may even like it, just as I did, as a superfluous exercise in special effects, noise and utter preposterousness. But then, maybe I was just having a silly day.

Ironically, what made the previous Die Hard movies so memorable was not their action (although this played a role), but the everyman qualities and observations of its humble hero: John McClane (Bruce Willis, who else?), who, I'm convinced, really will never die. No matter how old he gets, this guy will always be able to take a beating, and no bullet, knife, shard of glass, hard landing or shock wave will ever slow him down. But in this installment, there are few, if any, scenes devoted to McClane's personality. It's as if the movie doesn't have time for that and settles on him being just another indomitable action star, which is another thing you have to recognize (lest you run the risk of growing frustrated): the good guys are immune to everything, and in spite of what their bodies are put through, they'll ultimately walk away unscathed. A shot to the thigh, for instance, doesn't mean they still can't sprint across a rooftop.


So, once you accept this movie as pure, incredible action, and nothing else, you can check your brain at the door and judge whether or not what it offers is enough to stimulate you. I'm on the fence, as it's hard for me to acknowledge a movie as only visual and aural candy without at least one interesting character or story thread to give it weight. A Good Day to Die Hard starts off loud and obnoxious but I found it gradually got better as it went along; by the end, it's still loud, but it's also kid of fun, in a ridiculous sort of way.

This time around, McClane, forever an N.Y.P.D. detective, finds himself in Moscow, Russia to help out his son Jack (Jai Courtney), a CIA agent who's been arrested for assassinating a corrupt Russian official at the request of an even more corrupt Russian official named Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Little does McClane Sr. know this is all part of an on-going CIA operation to bring Chagarin down and rescue a political prisoner named Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Yuri allegedly knows the whereabouts of a very important file that could serve as incriminating evidence against Chagarin and plans on testifying in court against him.

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