Review: It’s Not You, It’s ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’

There will come a moment for Die Hard fans during the just-released fifth movie in the franchise in which they will question the meaning of life.

“Gee,” they will think, “I’m sitting in a seat eating (popcorn/Goobers/Sour Gummy Worms) with my (buddy/kid/long-suffering girlfriend) and I’m watching Bruce Willis hang out of a helicopter in all sorts of delightfully impossible ways with slo-mo explosions happening in the background. And yet, I’m not having a good time. I’m not happy.”

And they will go home and read Kierkegaard.

Put down Philosophical Fragments, friends. The problem is with the movie, not yourselves.

The film opens not, as you might expect, with Willis’s John McClane merrily blowing away a ne’er-do-well or hightailing it out of some toasty firefight or even drowning his sorrows in a dive bar.

It opens with two dudes speaking Russian.

One dude seems to be in prison and the other dude wearing an expensive suit seems to be taunting him and even though there are subtitles, you have no idea what they’re saying. There seems to be some disagreement about a file. And then you check your ticket to  make sure you’re in A Good Day to Die Hard and not some Russian artsy movie that finds meaning in the great suffering of life.

And then this vaguely familiar face pops up and blows away some guy in a Russian nightclub.

Then – oh thank Heaven – Bruce Willis shows up. But he’s not shooting anyone. He doesn’t even have a gun. He’s having a moody conversation. He’s apparently looking for a kid, some kid, and his cop buddy in the NYPD has found this kid in Russia of all places and, lo and behold, he’s the dude who blew away the other dude in the Russian nightclub.

And oh my goodness, he’s McClane’s son. I didn’t know he had a son. Did you know he had a son?

Eat some sour gummy worms. Meditate how life throws curve-balls.

Well, it seems like forever, but soon McClane is in Russia seeking out his jailbird son when all sorts of mayhem breaks out. One of the Russian dudes is a witness in a trial and for some reason Junior is there too. Then there’s a massive explosion which kills everyone except Junior and the witness, and then a paramilitary invasion led by a presumably hot girl in a gas mask.

Like McClane, the audience watches all this with bafflement. Then – at last! Something we can understand! – the gang sets off on a merry chase sequence through the streets of Moscow. Junior and the Russian witness dude are being chased by the paramilitary dudes in a light armored truck who in turn are being chased by McClane in a stolen Range Rover.

And, let me tell you, the filmmakers used their armored truck to the utmost. It sends cabs twirling through the air, it barrels through concrete, it leaps off bridges. And maybe, just maybe, we can forget all the complexities of Russian dudes and just enjoy a chase.

Except, it’s all a bit too much. And as the various trucks are rolling over cars on the freeway, one begins to worry, just a little, about the children that may be strapped into the car under McClean’s Rover or the nice cabbie that got hurled through the air. In order to make this fun, we have to know that no one got hurt, right? A few shots of shaken drivers climbing out of smashed cars with a story to bring back to the wife, right?

But in this movie, it’s pretty clear there were casualties.

And so the tone is off. We’re trying to have fun, but it nags at you. As does the fact that when we meet McClane Junior (Jai Courtney), he’s ambushing and murdering someone in a Russian club. The audience starts with the impression he’s a bad guy.

When we’re suddenly asked to consider that he’s really a good guy, as all of the McClean family is required to be, by Die Hard law, it just doesn’t jive with the whole blowing away a guy in a nightclub thing.

But I digress because the most ridiculous part of the movie is Chernobyl. Yes, Chernobyl. Somehow, the file which (spoiler!) is never really explained, has to do with the meltdown of Chernobyl. Somehow, someone got greedy and this, again it’s not really clear, caused the meltdown of Chernobyl.What the greedy person got out of the result, besides deer with three eyes, isn’t clear.

And the whole gang decamps to the former town, merrily battling their way through a decaying power plant.

This actually could be a good concept. Creepy, crumbling, radioactive Soviet facilities are the perfect backdrop for a gunfight. But it’s done so sloppily and we’re so confused by that time that the audience has lost the will to do anything but turn down the lights and play Swedish music.

Don’t despair. If you love Die Hard, let the memory remain pristine. Remember it how it was. It’s better that way.

Rated R for violence and language. Sexuality, beyond shots of the hot chick’s legs, is absent. 

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  • Lidymae

    You have to it’s just a MOVIE!

  • Chris

    Who’s ‘McClean’?? Do you mean ‘McClane’??
    I’ll be seeing it today I think, so I’ll give my review afterwards.

  • Rebecca Cusey

    hahaha. Yes. I do mean “McClane.” I live near a town named “McLean” so it must have morphed. I apologize. And I’m also highly amused at myself.

  • Chris

    I understand how those things can happen…the power of association!! 😉

  • Orlando

    Watching on Netflix Mexico there are no subtitles on the Russian parts 🙂 Kind of a funny movie in a sharknado kind of a way, enough said.

  • RambleMan

    Just fired this film up on Netflix and stopped, backed up, turned on captions, stopped, backed up, tried on a different device, turned on captions – nothing but Russian dialogue. Google brought me to your piece and others that not only summarize a poor movie, but also mentions that this Russian-only with no English captions happens quite a few times in the film. Stop, Exit, move on with life ignoring this Die Hard film ever existed. May as well be random duck noises if you don’t want your audience to understand the dialogue.

  • Maybe it’s a plot by Russian language schools to drum up business?