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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It's never made clear what's so important about Chagarin or Komarov, at least in the eyes of the CIA, other than the former is a dangerous man who needs to be brought to justice. There's expectedly little substance to get behind in terms of the plot. The bottom line is one of Chagarin's henchmen, Alik (Radivoje Bukvic), stages an explosion to kidnap Yuri and John and Jack McClane find themselves in the middle of it, trying to do good. Before the movie is over, they'll have taken part in and survived a mostly incoherent freeway chase; a massive shootout and free fall from an upscale hotel ball room; thousands of rounds of bullets; and a couple of big explosions at Chernobyl, Ukraine, where the bad guys plan on stealing crates of enriched uranium, either to sell to the highest bidder or start a nuclear war, take your pick.

About the aforementioned freeway chase: it recalled moments from the reprehensible Bad Boys II (and other terrible action movies) in which the characters, who are supposed to be the heroes, show absolutely no regard for the damage they cause or the innocent people they hurt. At one point, McClane Sr. steals an SUV, stops mid-way on a bridge (causing an accident), and then backs up and drives off the bridge onto bunch of other cars as if he were at a monster truck rally. Did I mention there are people in these cars? Are we supposed to think this okay and acceptable because it's all being done for the sake of catching the bad guys? My heart started to sink because I was afraid the whole movie was going to be like this and I'd start to view the characters as heartless monsters who never stop to notice anybody but themselves and that I'd walk away sickened because this is being passed off as entertainment.


Luckily it's not all like that. Eventually, A Good Day to Die Hard calms down and pays attention, albeit superficially, to the relationship between John and Jack, who haven't spoken in years. In a rather pathetic attempt at emotion, John tells Yuri he screwed up Jack's life by not being there when he needed him and Jack overhears him. It's cheesy, but in a later exchange that has John saying, "I love you boy," it feels more sincere and we appreciate the humanity that's restored to the McClane character.

But there I go talking about things like character and humanity when I explicitly said these are the kinds of qualities A Good Day to Die Hard simply doesn't take into account. In fact, the movie seems to have been thrown together by second unit filmmakers, who specialize in stunts and action, which isn't to stay they couldn't make a good movie, but the narrative is so loose and silly, we simply laugh at it and enjoy the film for its sensation, or at least try to. In the end, the sensation was so non-stop and absurd that its sheer audacity won me over. Other viewers might not be as forgiving. Am I being too soft on it? Perhaps, but I learned long ago that when it comes to action movies that are only about action, if the filmmakers aren't going taking it any more seriously than you are, you might as well sit back and try to enjoy the ride. That's not always possible, I know, but in this case it is, even though I'm quite sure I have no reason to ever ride it again.

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