When is a Die Hard movie not a Die Hard movie? Bruce Willis is back in action as John McClane, the heroic New York cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or at least, that’s how the story is supposed to go. Over the course of five movies John McClane has suffered the same fate as Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs, almost in reverse. We fell in love with Riggs because he was vulnerable, edgy and teetering on the brink. He was also a smart ass. By the end of part four Riggs was a family man, a comedy sidekick and a lot less interesting.
John McClane has always been endearing because he’s human, vulnerable, flawed and deeply compelling. He’s also a smart ass. A Good Day to Die Hard pitches McClane as a superhero, indestructible, inhuman and incredibly grouchy. The sparkle has gone, but what do you expect from a guy who’s saved the world four times over and still works in the police force? Alas, fans of the Die Hard series will struggle to make any connection between this and the previous films (even 4.0 had some decent wisecracks), and as much as it pains me to say it, you’re much better off viewing part five as a standalone action picture.
In which case, A Good Day to Die Hard is a spectacular movie that throws logic and reason out of the nearest skyscraper window. After some very brief introductions Willis is back to what he does best, stirring up a storm in Moscow, taking part in one of the most ridiculous car chases ever committed to film. The body count is astronomical; I mean really, the devastation it causes would put Michael Bay to shame. Willis shouts at pedestrians as they get in his way, apologising profoundly as he drives over vehicles, destroys a highway and kills thousands of tourists in nonchalant fashion. It’s big, dumb fun. A little insensitive, maybe, but I loved every minute.
Willis hooks up with his estranged son and for a while they’re both angry at each other. They argue, they fight, they beat the shit out of global terrorists and destroy a few helicopters along the way. Then they reminisce, find a connection, beat the shit out of some more global terrorists and fall through a lot of exploding buildings. It's 96 minutes of non-stop action, disengaging for sure, but fantastically entertaining if you take it at surface value. John Moore knows how to direct action and he orchestrates the chaos with blind efficiency, which is actually a compliment because there’s little else to recommend about this routine action thriller.
If you’re hoping for the latest Die Hard movie you’re in for a night of disillusionment and disappointment. At least Holly gets a mention, even if Lucy's scene - glimpsed in the trailer - is mysteriously absent. A Good Day to Die Hard forgets everything that made the series so special in the first place, namely John McClane, memorable support, witty one-liners and celebrated villainy. I would’ve settled for Christmastime. Approach it as a standalone action movie and there’s fun to be had, not least in the blatant disregard for tall buildings, highway maintenance and human life.
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” Just don’t expect John McClane. He’s probably back home watching Roy Rogers and ordering pizza. AW