I’m not the kind of person who would dismiss a movie for lack of gravitas. I believe that, in the end, entertainment is the goal, and it doesn’t matter if a film achieves this by scaring you, engaging you on an intellectual level, or is just being fun. Although Die Hard 4.0 was a departure from the traditional Die Hard formula (as was the earlier Die Hard: With a Vengeance), I found it wonderfully over the top, well orchestrated, funny – the epitome of mindless entertainment. None of these things can be said about A Good Day to Die Hard.
In this most recent outing, John McClane (Willis) heads to Moscow to reconnect with his estranged son (Courtney), who – it turns out– is in fact an undercover CIA agent. It isn’t long before McClane senior and junior get involved in some hardcore Russian scheming and uranium stealing. Sounds simple, but is in fact extremely simple.
A Good Day to Die Hard is an absolute mess. It feels like the product of a bad screenplay and even worse execution, pushed through all the quality checks that should have seen this iteration of the franchise trashed. With a runtime of a mere 97 minutes (making it the shortest blockbuster in recent memory), the film appears to have been cut down to the bare minimum required to still supply a story that (somewhat) makes sense. “Don’t give them time to think about what they’re watching“, is what I assume director John Moore’s editing philosophy was.
Perhaps exacerbated by this reckless structure, is the film’s complete lack of believability. Of course, Die Hard exists within a silly, over the top world. However, in previous outings of the franchise, plot contrivances have made sense within that world. There is not a single plot advancement within this film that cannot be immediately discredited by a myriad of plot holes. For a while, one tries to see past these plot holes and contrivances – ‘it might get back on track‘, one hopes. Then comes a particular laugh out loud moment, in which we learn that our villain not only used to steal weapons grade uranium from Chernobyl, but – as our co-hero Jai Courtney explains – “He got a little greedy, caused the meltdown“. From that moment of unintended comedy gold onwards, the film completely loses its grip – you stop hoping for something better and just give up and wait for the end. Thankfully, it comes pretty soon.
In the film’s defense, there are occasional attempts at some sort of ingenuity or spark (failed attempts that is). The motivations of the villain are constantly shifting in a slightly interesting fashion – though resolved in a disappointing manner. There are two or three zingers with genuine comedic value, although that is to be expected when the film just throws bad jokes at the audience in the hope that one them sticks. Most of them are completely out of context, and quite annoying in their frequency. There are only so many times that Bruce Willis can remind us that he is – in fact – meant to be on a holiday.
On a technical level, action is badly orchestrated and vacuous. It has no sense of pace, and is rarely cohesive. The colour scheme is dark and muddy, and the music score is generic to the point of annoyance. Performances are similarly disappointing. Although Jai Courtney performs about as well as the source material allows him to, Bruce Willis looks like he really couldn’t be bothered. The rest of the cast are caricatures at best.
I came into the cinema just hoping for mindless fun. The film does provide a lot of mindlessness, apparently from most everyone involved. If you want the fun, go look for that somewhere else. Do yourself a favour and skip this stinker.