I was already sharpening my knife, ready to skewer A Good Day to Die Hard. I had just written, on the notepad I keep at the ready during screenings, that this latest installment of the further adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis) contains no memorable action sequences. But then came the last 20 minutes.
During that grand climax, about the time that (obviously CG versions of) John McClane and his son Jack (Jai Courtney) hurtle out of a building and through the air past an exploding helicopter, taking time to turn and taunt the vehicle’s occupants as they do so, the film reaches an operatic level of dramatic absurdity that almost (almost) redeems the unremarkable business that preceded it.
The original Die Hard is the greatest Hollywood action movie ever. John McClane was a great hero then because he was just an ordinary police detective, and the film went out of its way to cause him pain. Remember that he spent nearly the whole movie barefoot and at a severe disadvantage compared to the gang of villains he was fighting. His situation felt so precarious because his weaknesses were so obvious.
Now, in Good Day, McClane is just a run-of-the-mill action hero. He has a sixth sense for when a seemingly safe situation “smells bad,” and he repeatedly jumps high from buildings to escape airborne assailants and walks away with only superficial scratches. The original movie’s classic line (“Yippee-ki-yay,” etc.), which flowed naturally from some dialogue about cowboys in that film’s script, is retread here as a non sequitur catchphrase for a nearly-superhuman protagonist.
The plot involves McClane’s trip to Moscow to see his son Jack, who was arrested for trying to kill a Russian criminal on behalf of Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a man being held prisoner by Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), a powerful member of the Russian government. Komarov has hidden a secret file on the past misdeeds of Chagarin, and it turns out that Jack is really a CIA operative whose mission is to get Komarov out of the country with the information. Meanwhile John ends up inadvertently disrupting Jack’s plan before, of course, helping to save the day.
Regardless, big stuff blows up, and there’s a whole hell of a lot of weapons fire. None of which is particularly interesting, as I said, until the ridiculousness of the final act. Maybe see some other movie and sneak into this one afterwards, just for the last bit. You won’t have missed anything.