A Good Day to Die Hard
Director: John Moore
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Detective John McClane rushes to Russia to help his son who has been framed by a powerful politician. Detective McClane discovers that McClane, Jr, is a CIA agent who has found himself involved in a conflict between the Russian Mafia and ruthless businessmen. Get ready for the chaos… 

Super-cop John McClane, one of the most successful characters of the late 1980s and 1990s action movies, has returned. Twenty years ago, the series of Die Hard films, along with others like the Lethal Weapon franchise, managed to change our idea of the American detective movie. In the first three Die Hard films, John McClane (Bruce Willis) was characterized by a comedic touch, lending a distinctive feature that audiences came to know and love.

Many years after the ending of that legendary era McClane is back, but he seems to have lost all his charisma. This fifth movie is not as unintentionally and haphazardly ridiculous as the fourth (Live Free or Die Hard, 2007) but it doesn’t manage to reach the same quality as the well-crafted original trilogy. Apparently, the eighties are doomed to remain beautiful memories, impossible to revive. Other examples of these failed attempts at recreating 80s magic include: Alien, Predator, Terminator, Indiana Jones, Rambo, Rocky, Conan and Total Recall.

In this particular film, the screenwriters appear unable to conjure up an idea better than reviving the over-used theme of conflict between the USA and Russia. Perhaps it is related to America’s fear of Russia’s newly restored economic power? It is not a coincidence that after Transformers, even the Die Hard franchise would end up in Chernobyl (in an improbable explosive ending in which Bruce Willis protects himself from radiation wearing only his legendary undershirt).

We must recognize director John Moore’s talent in shooting action: the beginning sequence is extremely effective in introducing viewers to the story, as well as the spectacular visual that is the first pursuit down Moscow’s streets. Unfortunately, the second part of the movie is predictable and unrealistic, and the story tries to cover up the flaws of the plot with killings and explosions.

Even the family theme that is present in every film within the franchise feels in this case artificial and empty. In A Good Day to Die Hard, father and son meet years after not speaking with each other, and, after risking their lives together, reconnect and reestablish their relationship. However, this ploy of recreating a familial bond feels cheap and does not compensate for the shallowness of the story. The movie lacks inspiration and freshness so much so that if the names of characters were changed, it could easily be confused with any other standardized action movie of our present era. Even the humour of McClane, Sr, and the energetic personality of McClane, Jr, appear fake.

McClane seems to have lost all humor and lacks his previous talent of making fun of himself, seemingly having evolved into a shallow death-machine. In the first three Die Hards, in addition to pursuing a noble cause, the hero experienced an evolution of personality and affections; in fact, the elimination of villains was intensely connected with his own personal growth. Nothing remotely similar takes place in this film, and the movie seems to be filled with pure violence.

A Good Day to Die Hard ends up being a mere imitation of the original trilogy, and, while it does maintain the esthetics of the previous films, it manages to lose most of the spirit these films were known and loved for. However, for action movie lovers, the film remains a good entertaining product. Those who grew up watching the first films of the franchise may miss the old generation of screenwriters who built the now fading glory of Hollywood. Some actors are trying to revive their own well-known characters as if time has not passed; possibly, more so for pride than for the entertainment of the viewers.

Problematic elements: scenes full of violence, tension, and cursing.

Raffaele Chiarulli

Raffaele Chiarulli is a graduate in the Disciplines of Art, Music and Entertainment and a PhD in Media Studies at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, where he attended the prestigious...