In 1988 director John McTiernan cast Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard and the rest is history. I could write a book on the sheer brilliance of the film however I wouldn’t be telling you anything you didn’t already know. The following two films were well received however Die Hard 4:0 (or Live Free and Die Hard) was successful in splitting opinion. Did it feel like a Die Hard film, is Bruce Willis too old for this shit, and was Kevin Smith solely responsible for ruining the film? Personally, I thought the film was okay however the questions were valid and that’s why I was incredibly sceptical of the fifth entry in the franchise. What made matters worse was the news that the studio would be releasing a toned down cut for the UK despite the film earning an R rating state side. Needless to say, I didn’t enter the cinema with high hopes.
The film finds John McClane heading to Moscow after learning that his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested. Before he’s even had a chance to see the sights, McClane is witness to a major attack on a courthouse which involves a daring escape from his son and political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). John soon learns that his son isn’t a criminal and in fact works for the CIA. He got himself arrested to get close to Komarov whom the CIA are interested in as they believe him to be in possession of a secret file that can incriminate corrupt Russian official Viktor Chagarin. Chagarin was behind the courthouse assault as he wants Komarov silenced; unfortunately he didn’t count on John McClane crashing the party, a man that kills bad guys as naturally as people breathe.
The film is dumb, loud and has been savaged by critics. That hasn’t stopped people turning out to see it and not without good reason as A Good Day to Die Hard is a lot of fun. Within the first 15 minutes, we’re subjected to a brutal gun fight and relentless car chase which is particularly impressive for its use of real stunts. And it doesn’t really let up. The film keeps a frantic place throughout keeping the action rolling at a high tempo. It’s also not without its humour and the chemistry between Willis and his on screen son is refreshing. They manage to share moments and discuss their family problems without any schmaltz getting in the way of the bloodshed, with one particular scene paying homage to the relationship between Indiana Jones and his father.
The film’s weak point however it is the absence of a strong villain. Radivoje Bukvic’s Alik hints at malevolent genius (most notably by tap dancing in front of the captured McClanes) however he pales greatly when compared to the Gruber brothers. Yuliya Snigir looks amazing peeling out of a catsuit but offers no additional screen presence and although he’s pulling the strings, Chagarin never feels threatening enough.
Is McClane too old for this shit? Well maybe Willis has seen better days however he more than holds his own with the younger Courtney. Both men complement each other making A Good Day to Die Hard a very entertaining buddy movie. Like its predecessors however, the film suffers from its rating with McClane unable to utter his famous catchphrase which seemed a little odd due to a few F-bombs being dropped anyway. One of my main issues with Die Hard 4:0 was how noticeable the cuts were to lower the rating. I didn’t find it as obvious this time around; however with Taken 2 receiving the same treatment (only to bring out a harder cut on DVD) it’s becoming an unfortunate trend. Despite my appreciation of the movie, I can’t say the same for the studio. Marketing the fifth instalment at a 12 year old audience despite them not being able to see the first one is peculiar. In fact, the same audience that goes to see it in the cinema won’t able to buy the DVD if it released with a higher classification. It could be argued that it’s irresponsible and may encourage children to seek out the more violent films in the series. Fans may also be tempted to download the US cut and watch the film as intended rather than spend their precious cash on a watered down product.
Does it feel like a Die Hard film? I’d have to say yes. It’s fun, humorous and has over the top set pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in the original. There are a few nods to the previous films and it’s clear Bruce Willis is still having fun. Plus Kevin Smith doesn’t reprise his cameo if that’s what was putting you off.