Review: "A Good Day to Die Hard" Is a Pointless 90-Minute Action Sequence

Even Bruce Willis looks bored.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Director: John Moore
Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, Cole Hauser
Running time: 97 minutes
Rating: R
Score: 3/10

About halfway into A Good Day to Die Hard, the film's anonymous, forgettable Villain No. 1 has good guys John McClane (returning star Bruce Willis) and his son, Jack (Jai Courtney, from Spartacus: Blood and Sand), on their knees, at gunpoint. The older McClane, true to form, sneers his way through the whole encounter, prompting Baddie, "It's not 1986 anymore, you know," which comes off like a lame wink-wink moment from screenwriter Skip Woods, except that the original Die Hard opened two years after that, in 1988. Your facts are backward, Skip.

But, alas, the Bad Guy has a point. Back in the '80s, action movies kicked ass with charm, lo-fi grit, and unpredictability; today, they're largely about brainless, wham-bam, thank-you-ma'am spectacle, and A Good Day to Die Hard—the fifth and worst entry in Willis' once-consistent franchise—is a loud, lifeless video game.

The shoehorned plot is a throwaway: McClane learns that his kid, now a CIA spy, has been arrested in Moscow. Jack's there for a mission involving a political prisoner he's supposed to keep alive in order to obtain secret files about potentially destructive weapons-grade uranium. Clearly disinterested (it's all over Willis' own I'm-too-old-for-this-shit face), McClane hops on a plane, ends up stuck in Russian traffic, and, within minutes, gets caught up in a high-speed armored truck chase. Seconds after, the reckless old man is side-by-side with a the by-the-books Jack as they run, jump, crash through glass windows, and kill dozens of goons. Don't worry, mindless popcorn munchers: The occasional, laughably meaningless asides where McClane half-heartedly apologizes to his bland son for being a mostly absentee dad do very little to detract from the frantic but dull action set-pieces.

Director John Moore, coming off the 2008 video game adaptation/disaster Max Payne, isn't concerned with any emotional stakes or even a logical reason for A Good Day to Die Hard to exist. Making Michael Bay's Megatron flicks seem like HAL 9000 fare, Moore's brand of exaggerated action (marked by rampant explosions, unwieldy helicopters, and slow-motion shots of people falling from high places) is all boom and no pulse. Which makes Willis' lackadaisical performance fitting, since, by the end of A Good Day to Die Hard, he's turned the previously likable, scrappy everyman hero John McClane into a joyless, snarky curmudgeon—one who'd rather blow up a bald, tatted, musclebound bad guy than throw a single punch or exert any energy beyond the stuntman's responsibility. If this were 1988 (or '86, for that matter), there'd at least be verbal jab before the explosion. The times really have changed.

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Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)


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