In A Good Day to Die Hard — also known as Die Hard 5 with a horrible title — John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) is back at it again. This time, he takes the fun to the Russians in Moscow, to follow his son Jack, John McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney). Jack is a troublemaker and a chip off of the old block. So John thinks he’s in Moscow to save Jack from Russian prison.
Jack actually is a CIA operative on the tail end of a three-year mission to stop biological terrorism, until John screws it up. Now, Jack is what the CIA calls a “burnable asset,” also known as dead weight, and in need of redeeming. Thus Jack teams up with his dad to bring down the Russian bad guys. Sound a bit familiar?
Screenwriter Skip Woods (based on characters created by Roderick Thorp) attempts to tell the story of a father re-connecting with his wayward son. Being the same man who wrote The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hitman, and Swordfish, Woods knows his way around big action and big action heroes.
But one should never sacrifice the story for the action.
In classic Die Hard fashion, John and Jack experience one long day of death-defying action with a so-crazy-it’s-unbelievable car chase, lots of gunplay, explosions and deadly biohazards. Yet Jack and John hop up to continue with the action.
There’s too much unnecessary action and brutality. By my estimation, John should have died about seven times and Jack should have died three times. Characters get hurt pretty badly – shot, impaled, maimed with the butt of an assault rifle – but seem to escape with just a scratch. To bring some reality, director John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen, Behind Enemy Lines), had Jack end up with a limp, but that’s not enough.
There’s a difference between action and trying too hard to do it bigger and better. The latter, however, is what Hollywood executives think their primarily young, male expected audience want to see. Forget what the rest of us want. Is it too much to ask for action that doesn’t make one wonder why the character hasn’t bled to death from being impaled with a steel beam? To play devil’s advocate, though, the characters in Die Hard are just that: hard to die.
It was refreshing to watch A Good Day on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t have beautifully perfect and perky people falling in love against beautiful backdrops, thereby feeding the stereotype that these are the only things that can be considered romantic. But I digress.
Still Top Cop
Only Willis can say things like, “Yippee ki yi yay” and not sound cheesy. Aging by the minute, he still is worth his mettle, and like A Good Day, can still teach the new crop of action stars a thing or 20 a bout keeping an audience engaged for decades to come.Courtney, on the other hand, needs to loosen up a little more to achieve Willis’ cheekiness, which becomes more and more obvious as the film goes on. John has to use his wits and wisdom to get him and Jack out of trouble.
Good PlayThat said, Courtney and Willis do play well off of each other. Courtney, who cut his teeth as a gladiator and a bestie in Spartacus, is shifting out of the good-natured friend role and being daring. He has classic action hero attributes, and he can act pretty well.
If this is the filmmakers’ way of passing the reins to Courtney, he’s going to need a little more work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on Team Courtney, but the Die Hard franchise still belongs to Willis.
One can think of Courtney as a great complement. Now that he’s worked with Willis and Tom Cruise (see: Jack Reacher), Courtney is in the right position to be a leading man.
That said, there’s a reason why Willis is still around. He’s the Everyman Die Hard action hero.