There’s no denying that “Die Hard” is one of the greatest action series in history. Bruce Willis made his career playing New York cop John McClane, the witty anti-hero who spouted one-liners as he blew away terrorists. Through four movies, McClane fought bad guys in everything from an office building to an airport to New York City to the entire eastern United States.
Now McClane takes his unique brand of justice to Russia, in a day that will see him reunite with his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) and save the world from evil Russian arms dealers. Anyone would probably see that as a good day, but unfortunately “A Good Day to Die Hard” is anything but.
“Die Hard” may be a series of action movies, but they always focused on McClane’s witty antics and how he’s constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time. McClane was always the focus, even in the films where he wasn’t working alone. With this new film, McClane feels out of place from the minute he lands in Moscow. His entire role here is more of a casual observer, with McClane’s classic wit reduced to cheesy one-liners and forced arguments with his son.
The reason the original “Die Hard” was so effective was because John McClane was simply a regular guy caught up in a terrorist plot. He had no special weapons or backup, the way James Bond or John Rambo did. McClane was just one man trapped in a building full of bad guys.
As each sequel came out, McClane morphed from an average joe to a typical action hero, spouting one-liners every other minute and surviving nearly impossible action stunts. This trend continues with the new film, where McClane is almost unrecognizable from the McClane audiences loved from the last films. Bruce Willis phoning it in doesn’t help either, as he’s clearly doing this for a paycheck and not out of a need to revisit the series.
McClane’s development comes from him reconciling with his son, but at no point does the film slow down enough for this to work. The film is driven more by the action than the father-son plot, and the rivalry between the two McClanes feels more forced than anything else. Jai Courtney certainly plays McClane’s son John “Jack” McClane Jr. as a capable action hero, but he’s never developed enough and his chemistry with his father is nonexistent.
While the action is well-staged and quite entertaining, the characterization that made the previous “Die Hard” flicks so much fun is sorely lacking here. All we’re left with is another mindless, generic action film, one that happens to have “Die Hard” in its title. One could easily claim that the filmmakers wanted to make a by-the-numbers action film then promote it by adding the “Die Hard” characters, and it really shows. Stripped of everything that made it what it was, it’s a shame that the “Die Hard” franchise literally died hard.