It's easy to forget what made John McTierman's Die Hard such a landmark in action filmmaking. Its claustrophobic, localised setting, surprising depth of character and perfectly pitched tone coupled with its iconic set pieces, gripping pacing and wry one-liners made it an instant classic that has spawned endless rip-offs and four sequels. There is an argument to be made that all of action blockbusters of the 1990's owed a debt to Die Hard; most notably Speed and Air Force One, who essentially adapted the formula directly onto a bus and plane respectively. It is amazing then, that A Good Day To Die Hard director, John Moore has managed to omit every aspect of what made the 1988 original such a classic.
Die Hard 5 sees John McLane (Bruce Willis) jet off to Russia in an attempt to retrieve his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney), after learning that he has been arrested in Moscow. However, on his arrival, McLane quickly learns that Jack is a CIA operative on a mission to prevent the theft of some nuclear weapons. Despite their turbulent relationship, father and son must team up to stop the warheads ending up in the hands of the foreign 'scumbags' (sic).
There is so much wrong with A Good Day to Die Hard that it is hard to know where to begin, but the majority of the blame rests with Hitman screenwriter Skip Woods. Gone are the quips, witty soliloquies and punchy dialogue; instead we are treated to a preposterous script made up of generic, action movie clichés, affected eccentricities, Cold War racism and some badly observed father/son schmaltz that would feel sub-par on daytime television. Amazingly, Willis' McLane seems somewhat sidelined and, for the most part of the film, is resigned to reacting to the action with the odd sardonic comment. The lead role is bequeathed to the charisma-devoid Jack, played by walking Creatine tub, Jai Courtney: an Australian actor of with no discernable talent beyond adopting a convincing American accent.
There is a clunkily directed and completely over-the-top car chase in the opening act, that those who are that way inclined may find diverting, but the other action set pieces are so soaked in poorly-rendered CGI, that even Michael Bay fans will find them testing. John Moore, who turned down 2007's Die Hard 4.0 due an unsatisfactory script, has produced a film that is badly shot, woefully paced and utterly charmless. Suspense, peril and humour are all absent in what will undoubtedly be McLane's last outing. Those with an iota of affection for the glory days will want to avoid at all costs. A Good Day to Die Hard is quite simply, a really bad film.
Uncharacteristically, John McClane goes out with a whimper in a cynical, joyless fifth instalment that has surely dealt the franchise its fatal blow.
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