‘Die Hard’ is back for another installment, the fifth chapter in a series that has spanned 25 years. Prior to this screening, I couldn’t help thinking, “Haven’t we already said all we need to say with this John McClane character?” Ten minutes into the film, I found myself grinning from ear to ear and holding onto both armrests, ready for a highly entertaining thrill ride. ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ might lack in story structure, but completely makes up for that with intense action sequences and two solid performances by Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney.
Director John Moore has taken a different approach with the franchise and given it a heavy dose of the Michael Bay treatment. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I’m no fan of Bay, but the guy can stage an action sequence and blow things up like no other. The only movie I’ve previously enjoyed from Moore was his first, ‘Behind Enemy Lines‘, starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman. His later films such as ‘Max Payne‘ and the remake of ‘The Omen’ proved to be poor choices. This fifth ‘Die Hard’ is more entertaining, more adventurous and more fun. Moore doesn’t bother much with character development or complex storylines, but rather starts the action bright and early and never lets up. Considering how terrible the franchise’s fourth film was, I think we needed something like this to make us fall in love with John McClane all over again.
Let me put your minds at ease; this film is rated R, unlike the last one, which was softened to PG-13. Here, we get some great kill-shots, a few dozen gallons of blood, and that famous catchphrase yelled loud and clear.
So, some time has passed and McClane hasn’t seen his son Jack (Jai Courtney) in many years. After a fellow police detective informs him that the kid is mixed up in some nasty business in Russia, as fast as you can say “Yippe-kiy-yay,” McClane is on a plane to re-connect with his son and bring him home.
Meanwhile, Jack looks to be in cahoots with some very bad criminals, leading to an arrest and trial in Russia. As you can imagine, one explosion follows another, as Jack and his partner-in-crime escape and go on the run from the people who want to kill them. The resultant chase scene might rank in my top five car chases in cinema history. I haven’t had this much fun with a car chase since ‘Bad Boys 2′. Lo and behold, Papa McClane shows up to save the day, but not without destroying 80% of Russia in the process. McClane then learns that his son has been working for the CIA as a spy, and the criminal he has in tow has some key evidence about very powerful people in Russia.
From here, we move through several shoot-outs and more explosions, until we end up in Chernobyl, where serious stuff goes down and a few of our characters reveal twists of their own. The climactic fight scene will feel very familiar for fans of the past films, which made me giddy, like I was back in 1988 again.
The banter between father and son here doesn’t feel forced or silly. It seems sincere, and is very funny at times, just as some of the dialogue in the previous films has been. The comedic timing is perfect. The hand-to-hand combat packs a punch. Willis proves that he still has what it takes to fight man-to-man, as well as use any sized gun with ease. Never at any point did I think he was too old of this sh*t. Courtney also proves to be a badass (like he was in ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Jack Reacher’). He and Willis have great chemistry together. And of course the action sequences are top-notch. It’s as if Moore went to Michael Bay training school and graduated first in his class, minus the super quick cuts, which makes the viewing experience better and the action more intense.
Despite its silly plot and predictability, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ leaves me excited for a sixth film, which is already in the planning stages. Willis has proven that he’s still up for a good fight with plenty more bad guys to kill. Packed with some fun references to the previous films as well as some funny moments and high-octane thrills, I can’t wait to watch this again and have a blast with it.
[Editor's Note: I've turned off the Comments on this post in order to direct further conversation to our follow-up poll post, where spoilers may be discussed. -JZ]