In 1988, John McTieran gave the world the greatest action film ever made. Die Hard revolutionised the entire genre and catapulted Bruce Willis to super-stardom. The premise was unbelievably simple: a skyscraper in LA was taken over by 12 terrorists trying to rob the $600m held in the vault and one lone cop had to stop them all. The razor-sharp dialogue, the blistering action sequences and the sheer thrill of the cat-and-mouse chase had everyone on the edge of their seats and spawned one of the most lucrative movie franchises of all time. And that’s where it went down hill. Anyone who appreciates the artistry of film, be it mainstream or independent, will understand my intense loathing for films which are made into franchises. Die Hard 2 (1990) was good fun, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) was pretty shoddy but had the combined appeal of both Willis and Samuel L. Jackson which just about saved it, and I personally hated Die Hard 4.0 (2007) for its narrative focus on cyber-terrorism, although it was well received by critics. A Good Day to Die Hard is quite possibly the worst action film I have ever seen. The difference between Die Hard and this abomination is staggering. I sat in the cinema for a mere 97 minutes, a shockingly short running time for a Die Hard film, and spent the entire time gawping in disbelief at how something so hollow, so poorly written and so genuinely awful ever made it onto the big screen. I find it impossible to believe that director John Moore has ever seen the original Die Hard, because what I witnessed tonight was so far from that game-changing masterpiece that I wanted to chuck myself off the roof of the cinema in complete despair
Bruce is back as world-weary veteran cop John McClane, this time travelling to Russia to find his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been arrested for assassinating the accomplice of a high-ranking corrupt government official, Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). During a confrontation with his son, McClane discovers that Jack is actually part of the CIA and is on a mission to protect political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who knows the whereabouts of an incriminating file which holds evidence about Chagarin which the CIA need. They are then pursued by the corrupt officials and their cronies as they try to get the file, and Komarov, to safety.
Fill that synopsis in with some blindingly predictable deceptions, big explosions and car chases and you’ve got the gist of what might just be one of the worst films of the decade. As much as I disliked Die Hard 4.0, the action sequences were, as they should be in a Die Hard film, enjoyable and exciting. Here, they are mediocre at best and painfully banal at their worst. I wasn’t expecting a cutting edge narrative from a film dubbed Die Hard 5 but if the action sequences in an action film cannot hold audience attention then something has gone very, very wrong. The dialogue is on a whole new level of horrific. Willis delivers every single one of his horribly clichéd lines in the same monotonous tone and it is evident that even he doesn’t believe in the script. Several are terrible one-liners during the wrist-slittingly dull car chases in which he rams his car into the tank of the baddies and says, “Knock knock!” and, “Guess who!” They’re so Arnie that even Arnie wouldn’t have agreed to them. The conversations between McClane and his son are so bad, so appallingly, eye-wateringly pathetic and vapid that I can’t possibly begin to describe them. There’s a borderline racist tone to McClane who, after purposefully standing in front of a car and getting hit by it, proceeds to punch the angry Russian driver in the face and shout, “Do you think I can understand anything you’re saying?!”, seemingly forgetting that he’s in Moscow and the locals aren’t obliged to speak English. The whole film is an exercise in how not to write dialogue. Or a narrative. Or anything that resembles a film.
There is no heart to this story or to its characters; there is never any sense, not even for a fraction of a second, that McClane or Jack are in any real danger (the injuries they suffer are shockingly superficial), nor is their relationship one we give two hoots about. The editing is nauseating; the cinematography in parts looks like a low-budget video game. The only redeeming feature about this film is in the penultimate scene when McClane and Jack crash through a window and land in a pool and Jai Courtney emerges in a wet t-shirt. However, this is completely disavowed by him finally calling John “Dad” which results in Willis participating in a saccharine, stomach-churning “conversation” in which father and son finally resolve their differences. Willis is such a good actor and it pains me that he lowered himself to this tripe. Courtney is forgettable, as are the villains, and neither can hold a flicker of a candle to Reginald VelJohnson or Alan Rickman. I have never seen an action film so boring, so soul-destroying and so utterly devoid of feeling. It made my eyes and ears bleed.
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), directed by John Moore, is distributed in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 12A.