A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
When bracing oneself to enter into a screening with the newest instalment in the Die Hard franchise, in at least some capacity there must be a sense of doubt or mocking distance. It’s somewhat inevitable given the circumstances. The original Die Hard film, perhaps the prototype for the great American action film, is truly a film that extends outside of its genre boundaries. Its expert simplicity of design, its memorable and threatening villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber and a seemingly unending level of subtext from its revisionist masculinity studies to Reagan era Cold War policy insights give Die Hard a longevity beyond its 80s action cohorts. From here on it becomes clear that John McTeirnan’s contributions to the foreseeable franchise will reign supreme, and thus anything outside of that remains riddled with scepticism. After witnessing the lifeless husk of a film that is A Good Day to Die Hard, one can only comply with such an unfortunate standpoint.
The tagline for the film “Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia” isn’t only a terrible pun; it also indicates that Die Hard has gone international by locating its narrative within the stronghold of action movie politics, Russia. Each Die Hard film has attempted to expand its scope beyond the confines of the original Nakatomi Plaza with varying degrees of insight. However, taking John McClane to Russia seems to be the most regressive decision thus far, even though its attempts to go international by theory aim to be progressive. An intensely bald Bruce Willis once again assumes the pivotal role of Officer John McClane as he travels to Moscow in an effort to find his distant son Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for an alleged assassination attempt. At the same time billionaire Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) is on trial for political subversion. He holds the information to the location of a file that corrupt Russian political official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) desperately desires as it has incriminating evidence about him contained within. As Jack McClane and Yuri Komarov’s stories become entangled, John McClane’s “vacation” to Russia simultaneously becomes interrupted and a race against various enemies ensues.
Director John Moore takes the helm in A Good Day to Die Hard and manages to make an already incoherent situation even more baffling. His action sequences (literally the one thing that can salvage even the driest of action outings) are beyond comprehension. In the initial action sequence as John McClane chases Jack and Yuri around Russian metropolitan streets in a 4WD (spouting constant witticisms of course), Moore’s camera seems incapable of framing anything at all. His images refuse to sit still for even a second and goes far beyond the point of immersion through technique into the realm of incompetence. Even in the off-site CIA boardroom, the camera zooms, cuts, pans and tracks with the empty rush of a child’s sugar high. Frenetic energy equals intensity in Moore’s cinematic mind, but his over indulgence exposes him a director without a clue, desperate to conceal the fact.
Much like the recent effort from action hero of yesteryear Arnold Schwarzenegger The Last Stand, A Good Day to Die Hard maintains a similar level of genre worship with seemingly no good reason to do so. Not only does the fifth Die Hard insist on re-calling familiar tropes, but it is also obsessed with associations with the 1988 original. Opening with Michael Kamen’s foreboding Christmas jingle, the comparisons continue with fervent enthusiasm with the only intention to reward the most passive of viewers. It’s an attitude emblematic of post-1970s Hollywood cinema, and in A Good Day to Die Hard it is a blatantly soulless example of such practices. Even the employing of a foreign enemy recalls Hans Gruber’s political intentions as America’s ultimate Cold War nemesis one again requires brawny defeat from a average Joe.
Never mind that the Cold War ended over 20 years ago; what’s more familiar to the action movie consciousness then an Eastern European terrorist? It’s a tired and dead ideology that has been dug up for no reason other than genre association that screams a dead end analysis. Thus, it marks A Good Day to Die Hard with total and complete indifference. There is literally no way to enjoy this film, yet there is also no way to truly dislike it. With a less than economic 98 minute running time, even still it manages to pass by without a modicum of investment or interest. Even writing this review was a chore, born completely out of apathy. If A Good Day to Die Hard is to be the franchise’s final bow (of which it most likely will not be), it is the least graceful and most ignorant yet.