The one thing that separated John McClane (Bruce Willis) from the rest of the ‘80s action heroes was that he had a sense of vulnerability to him. He was an everyman that took a hellacious beating and still managed to come out on top. The one thing that made Die Hard such a treasure was that it was McClane against all odds, surviving on a mixture of luck, good timing and moxie. You didn’t know whether or not he could survive; that was the beauty of the film. Even a dozen viewings later the film was so good at stacking the odds against McClane that the finale wasn’t perfunctory. It made him so compelling in the first two films of the franchise; he took a beating but somehow managed to defy the odds.
Slowly but surely, though, McClane evolved from being the antithesis of the dinosaurs Die Hard wiped off the cinematic landscape into being everything the old guard represented. And A Good Day To Die Hard is much closer in spirit to a film like Commando instead of Die Hard. It’s the exact thing that Die Hard rebelled against in the first place; John McClane has gone from being the everyman who takes a licking and kept on ticking to the invulnerable one man army that made him such a breath of fresh air in the first place.
McClane is back and this time he’s in Russia. His son Jack (Jai Courtney) has gotten into trouble and he’s going to try and do something to get him out of it. His son, though, is really a CIA operative trying to smuggle out Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a Russian dissident who has information the CIA needs. From there it’s an uneasy father-son buddy comedy that includes a ridiculous twist at the end that rounds out the utter farce that A Good Day To Die Hard winds up becoming.
The problem with the film is that John McClane has officially gone from being a plucky hero to being the one man army that is absolutely invincible and never in danger. The secret to a Die Hard film is that John McClane is always in danger. He bleeds, he gets beat up but somehow he manages to survive. He’s the ultimate plucky action hero, or at least he’s supposed to be. In Die Hard 5 he’s in no danger and resembles the sort of action heroes he was written as a polar opposite to. McClane survives scenarios in the film that would’ve killed him in Die Hard. It becomes a problem because this sense of vulnerability that makes McClane such a great character is lost; this is Bruce Willis as just another generic action hero who barely breaks a sweat as opposed to anything else.
Everything else follows it as a generic action film. It makes sense that McClane is a generic action hero because he’s stuck in a series of films that have become generic action films bearing the phrase “Die Hard” in them as opposed to being Die Hard films.
There’s an Extended Cut of the film, which isn’t all that different from the one released in theatres. A handful of the usual EPK pieces, a director’s commentary and the usual deleted scenes, et al, are included.
20th Century Fox presents . Directed by John Moore. Written by Skip Woods. Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Rasha Bukvic, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Cole Hauser. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated R. Released: June 4, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.