Lowdown: The relationship between John McClane and his estranged son heats up as they spend quality time together blowing stuff up in Russia.
When pondering a movie franchise brand, one has to ask oneself what that particular brand stands for. In the case at hand the brand is Die Hard, and if you were to ask me that brand has a few distinct values at its core. Notably, it pits an unlikely and unwilling hero, John McClane, into conflict with well organised, trained and prepared enemies who have vast numerical superiority and are about to do something particularly nasty. It features a formidable evil mastermind as the head of those enemies. And the resolution of the ensuing conflict has McClane enduring daredevil stunts just in order to survive. At the end, our unlikely hero beats the baddies despite the very unlikely odds.
Personally, I think everyone should be able to come up with the above values I have written. Alas, it seems obvious the makers of Die Hard’s fifth instalment, A Good Day to Die Hard, have failed to ask themselves the question I just raised. It is my impression they took this franchise solely as an excuse to put Bruce Willis through the motions of yet another action movie and do so without bothering with any shred of a background story or character development. After all, why bother the fifth time around? Well, big mistake! A Good Day to Die Hard (let’s just call it DH5) manages to be even worse than its predecessor, Die Hard 4.0 (or if you want to call it by that hilarious name given to it in the USA, Live Free [under constant NSA surveillance] or Die Hard).
The high rise building that grew to an airport in the first two instalments have now grown to the largest country on earth, Russia, where this movie of ours takes place. Oh, and Ukraine as well, even though this slight geographical issue does not get a mention; I suspect our moviemakers did not want to impose even this most minimal of challenge on their viewers brains.
Russia, now a corrupt oligarchy, has one of its billionaires put on trial by its would be corrupt defense minister. Enter the CIA in the shape of McClane’s son (Jai Courtney) to sort matters out the way Americans have been doing forever, using the force. Back home at USA, good old John McClane (Willis) receives the news his son is about to face Russian courts. Knowing nothing about his son’s recent adventure, only his rogue past, Willis does what any good father does in a movie and flies to Russia to reignite relationships with his son and potentially help. Alas, as is always the case in Die Hard movies, things blow up, literally. In DH5, though, there are two McClanes to sort things out, tag team style; by the time our pair is finished half of Russia’s cars have been smashed to their death and a nuclear ploy involving Chernobyl is averted. In the process, more than an hour and a half of our lives has been wasted.
Wasted, because Die Hard fails to live up to its core values. McClane is/are no longer the unlikely, reluctant, hero; the villains are far from noteworthy; and the challenges, while spectacular, are just the same as those in any other high budget, special effects driven contemporary action movie. Then there are the insults to viewers’ intelligence: a father/son relationship that develops through both sides referring to one another using four letter words. Or our heroes getting themselves out of a tight spot through movie magic (see “worst scene” below). It’s so bad it’s pathetic.
Our heroes are tied up, their guns removed off them, and are about to be executed by a gang of baddies that trapped them at a public library. McClane Junior manages to pull out a hidden switchblade and cut through his ropes while the baddies are distracted.
Then, at crunch time, we have McClane Senior reach out with his thus far tied hands, grab a pistol off the previously cleaned floor, and start a-shooting.
How the hell did Mr Senior get his hands untied? And where did that pistol materialise out of? Perhaps Die Hard 6 will help answer these metaphysical questions.
Overall: Look, I did not suffer watching DH5. As a collection of action scenes, it is not bad. However, as a Die Hard sequel? No crab cigar, I say. Or rather, 2.5 crabs out of 5.