The Die Hard films have never been think-pieces but most of them have been fun, exciting and inventive and the original film undeniably changed the action movie landscape. The fifth instalment in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard is almost completely devoid of these redeeming features and is such a ludicrous right-wing fantasy you would be forgiven for thinking it was a parody of the Die Hard series.
The murky, confusing and ultimately redundant storyline of Die Hard 5 has Bruce Willis’ John McLane character popping over to Russia to visit his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who, unbeknown to Dad, is a covert CIA operative. When Jack becomes embroiled in a deadly conspiracy involving the Russian underworld and a secret stash of nuke-ready uranium, Bruce and not the proper authorities, is there with guns blazing to save Junior.
Sure, there are big, elaborate action sequences including massive explosions and car chases that span and almost destroy, Moscow but the action is so implausible it verges on scientific impossibility. At one point McLane and son are tied up and surrounded by elite assassins with machine guns and the good old American boys still manage to free themselves and kill everyone in the room. Some action scenes have a visceral realism but most of them are silly and passionless and involve fake looking CGI that seems to have been plucked from a computer game.
This film could have been part of a Republican Party election campaign such is the baseball bat to the face subtlety with which it wields its political agenda. Characters lovingly refer to the glory days of the Reagan era and the film plonks us in that symbol of Soviet sneakiness and corruption, Chernobyl. It also kindly informs us that those Russians who seem to be our friends are just waiting to turn on us.
Aside from the fake looking action and the right wing propaganda, the worst thing about this film is Bruce’s lacklustre screen presence. He doesn’t phone in his performance, he texts it. Sure, he kills about 500 people and delivers a few quips but there’s no passion or goof ball charm. We can cope with a stupid film if Bruce is there giving it his all and wielding destruction with a big smirk but he’s so moribund it’s like he’s been in his trailer listening to Morrissey. The John McLane character is the franchise’s lynchpin and with Bruce’s personality going AWOL, this film has no centre. Aussie Jai Courtney does an ok job as the younger more dynamic hero but he can’t make up for the missing McLane charisma.
Almost as disappointing as Bruce’s somnambulistic performance is the absence of the classic fruity villain so vital in previous Die Hard instalments. There’s no Hans Gruber here just a few unmemorable Russian mob stereotypes. Also, apart from a fetishized femme fatale, women barely make an appearance in this film.
Die Hard 5 doesn’t exactly enhance its credibility by making the 58 year old Willis seemingly indestructible. He smashes through windows, falls through 10 storeys of scaffolding and walks around Chernobyl in a t-shirt all without even incurring so much as a limp. Hilariously, there also seems to be and endless supply of empty vehicles lying around Moscow just waiting for Bruce to hop in and cause road carnage.
Maybe the days of the lovably lunk-headed action film are over and we just don’t have the tolerance for something we might have enjoyed with beer and pizza 20 years ago or maybe this is just such an enormous dog its flees could carry off an elephant.
Nick’s rating: One and a half stars.
Director(s): John Moore
Release date: 21st Mar 2013
Running time: 98 mins.
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