A bad day for Die Hard.
Six years ago Len Wiseman found relative success with his attempt at reviving the Die Hard franchise from its twelve year cinema absence. While an ambitious combination of old-school heroics and new-age sensibilities never quite works in Die Hard 4.0, there are at least the familiar high-octane action set pieces to appease the fans and make it a watchable, yet inferior addition to the franchise. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the fifth, erroneously titled venture, A Good Day to Die Hard.
A quarter of a century has passed since the groundbreaking tower-block actioner set within the Nakatomi Plaza made a significant impact on the film industry, but Bruce Willis, to his credit, and unlike any other returning eighties action star, looks as much an action hero today as he did at the birth of his film career. His widow peak may have receded to baldness. He may not look quite as svelte in a white tank top. And his recent interviews give the impression of a crestfallen actor who carries little interest towards the role. But the Hollywood-hunk bolsters the same confidence, charisma and gutsy attitude that made him perfect for the role of John McClane in the first place.
The problem is that John Moore and Skip Woods, the film’s director and writer respectively, have taken the beloved character and transformed him into something else, something unlikeable. Throughout each of the previous films he was a foul-mouthed, wise-cracking, no-nonsense New York cop with an itchy trigger finger and an ass-kicking attitude, but the renewed McClane lacks any of the interminable character traits that audiences previously adored.
Not only is the iconic character let down by weak scripting and aimless direction, but McClane is also betrayed by the senseless money-making decision that plague the entire project from the moment it begins. By abandoning the coarse language, excessive violence and unflinching action that remain integral to the franchise in order to conform to a 12A certification and invite a wider audience, the filmmakers foolishly remove the key ingredients that made its predecessors so appealing. The result is a half-cocked action film where every moment of intensity is restrained by the limitations of its commercial intent.
Willis’ iconic John McClane is substituted to a supporting role to make way for the new hero of the franchise, his son Jack McClane. While a father/son action adventure is not original, it does carry a level of interest as it hints towards where the future of the franchise lays when John passes the baton to his son. However, the problem is that Jai Courtney gives little evidence of being able to carry a film alone. In comparison to his legendary father – a relatable everyman, turned reluctant hero who only kills bad guys because there’s no one else to do it – Jack McClane is a merciless, gun-toting emotionless bulk devoid of all humanity. Unfortunately, the apple has fallen very far from the tree.
Worst of all the latest Die Hard is absent of exciting action set pieces to even qualify for mindless entertainment. Criminally poor visual effects, a failure to suspend disbelief and the lack of a meaningful antagonist will only disappoint. If Die Hard 4.0 was where the franchise looked tired, then this painful experience will hopefully and finally see it laid to rest.