Die Hard Death Knell

The latest offering of the action-packed franchise is an unworthy iteration

By Chris Heller
Published on February 14, 2013, 6:10am | Comments

Almost a quarter-century after Die Hard premiered, the travesty of John McClane lives on. He's bruised and balder, wrinkled and wearier. Whatever once seemed charming or thrilling about him has been trimmed away or strangled into formulaic submission. And yet, against any sense or good will, the old man keeps trudging ahead, a parody of the wisecracking cop he once was.

Yippie-ki… yay? Not in a long, long time.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard picks up the reins from its miserable predecessor, Live Free or Die Hard, which kicked off the "revival" of this franchise six years ago. McClane (Bruce Willis, natch) travels to Russia on "vacation" after learning that his son Jack (Jai Courtney) was arrested for assassinating a corrupt politician's crony. Papa John lands in Moscow just in time to ruin Jack's undercover spy operation -- it turns out his baby boy is a CIA agent, tasked with extracting a jailed government whistleblower named Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) -- which sets off a long, incredible, impossible race to do… something. I don't know what, or why, but it involves several explosions and many automatic weapons.

It's not as if there's no reason behind what happens. There is logic to A Good Day to Die Hard -- it's just stupid and lazy. Director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods conjure motivation out of thin air to keep the McClanes on the hunt in Russia, while a late twist manages to both ape Alan Rickman's tremendous work in the first Die Hard and insult anyone foolish enough to trust these filmmakers. And that's after everybody treks to Chernobyl, where, apparently, radiation poisoning is no longer a serious concern.

Confused? It doesn't make much sense to me, either.

A Good Day to Die Hard seems barely related to Die Hard, but it's awfully similar to something else. Perhaps you're familiar the works of Rainier Wolfcastle? He portrays comically intense men who shoot, stab, and suffocate any villain foolish enough to plot corrupt misdeeds. He's a cartoonish parody of an action hero, in no small part because he is literally a cartoon character on The Simpsons. Despite that handicap, though, there are only two differences between Wolfcastle's ridiculous films and this one: self-awareness and a third dimension.

I'll admit to softening up to moments in A Good Day to Die Hard, much like a scorned lover might be tricked into a one-night stand with an ex. A sardonic line here, a wry glance there, and I feel the tiniest inkling of what made Die Hard great. In brief spurts, Willis wrings the last few drops of wit out of McClane, even if he can't will himself to utter the character's famously explicit catchphrase without exasperated disdain. Once in a while, the movie's outrageous action sequences aren't sliced into a rapid, dizzying mess, but, rather, edited as a consistent narrative that organizes and explains what's seen on screen. And, most praiseworthy of all, John McClane's son is not played by Shia LeBeouf.

Starring Jai Courtney, Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Rated R
97 minutes
Now playing
Area theaters

Make no mistake, though -- A Good Day to Die Hard is a joke, a ridiculous blue-and-orange tinted eyesore. It's the cinematic equivalent of a leisure suit. Do not see this movie. Instead, get your hands on a copy of Die Hard -- that spectacular, as-close-to-perfect-as-it-gets original -- and watch it at home. I promise you, from the bottom of my heart, it is a better choice. If you still aren't swayed, try following these instructions before heading to the movie theater: Estimate how much a ticket costs (plus popcorn and a drink, if you really want to treat yourself), take that money out of your wallet, and immediately set it on fire. That way, at least you'll realize you're wasting it.