A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)


Info SidebarHere’s the thing about action heroes: They are not bothered about retirement. They go where the action takes them, even if the destination is the roof of a collapsing building and the only way out is a fiery helicopter that’s spiralling out of control. Consider Roger Moore as James Bond. By the end of Moore’s tenure, he was pushing 65. He was still required to jump through hoops and juggle chainsaws. He was also required to walk away with the dame who could easily have doubled as his granddaughter. The stunts he found himself in became comedic, almost as if Moore performed them with a wink to the audience, beckoning them to squint and fool themselves into trusting his physicality.

Now consider John McClane, who is not 65 in A Good Day To Die Hard but whose children are undoubtedly old enough to foster their own. He has to combat an armoured truck with a jeep. He has to shield himself from endless enemy gunfire (this isn’t much of a problem; he knows he’ll never get hit. No action hero does). On several occasions, he and his son Jack have to smash themselves through windows, fall tens of stories, through awnings and such, into fortuitously placed swimming pools. We might have believed this back when Bruce Willis had hair. Now he just looks cumbersome; he’d be more agile in a wheelchair.

A Good Day To Die Hard is the fifth movie of the franchise, and it is exhausted. It has forgotten everything that made the earlier pictures so tactile and inviting. John (Willis), who used to carry a cowboy swagger over his shoulder, is lost for words here, as if the screenplay, penned by Skip Woods, trips over itself and forgets to issue him with dialogue. His sentences never seem to complete themselves; the complete ones don’t last longer than 2 or 3 words. At one point, as he tiptoes his jeep over the roofs of cars, he sticks his head out the window and apologises to the unfortunate commuters below. The John McClane of Die Hard (1988) would not even have stuck his head out the window.

The plot involves a Russian political prisoner (Sebastian Koch) and a crooked Russian politician (Sergei Kolesnikov). The prisoner is said to have information that could be detrimental to the politician’s career, and it’s important that this information (which is in the form of a file) be brought to the surface.

Naturally, the CIA is involved. Their best man is on the job; none other than Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), the second of John’s estranged children. Jack’s mission is to abduct the prisoner, provide him shelter and recover the file. Things, shall we say, don’t go as planned. Jack gets arrested for murder, and John is forced to fly to Moscow to bail his son out. Thus sets up the ageless Hollywood convention: The battling relatives who bond over a tragic incident and forget all past failures.

Indeed, before long, Jack and John are like the best of friends. We don’t know what John did to distance himself so dramatically from his family (the only clue we have is that his police work came first); in A Good Day, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that John and Jack push forward to the next risible stunt. I suppose you could argue that such perilous circumstances, like the ones our heroes find themselves in here, would habitually bring even the worst of enemies together, but a little exposition goes a long way. A Good Day has none of it. It treats its characters like toy soldiers, placed strategically on the battlefield and allowed to move only when they are picked up and placed in a more threatening (or threatened) position.

This is an action movie that is all about the action. It is shot in a dizzying handheld style that zooms in on random objects arbitrarily and meshes its fight scenes into indistinguishable clouds. It looks as messy as it plays. The previous film, Live Free Or Die Hard (2007) also had dizzying action sequences. Some of them tested the boundaries of my patience. But they were always under control by the characters, which made them passable. Here, not even the characters are under control by the characters. Everything is flat, rowdy and incredibly ugly. John McClane, take my advice. You should seriously consider retirement.

 

Best Moment | Some of the exchanges between John and Jack.

Worst Moment | Every single ridiculous stunt.


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