There’s just no way around it. A Good Day to Die Hard (aka Die Hard 5) is a bad movie. But then, we knew that going in. We knew it’d be filled with over-the-top, unbelievable, self-parodying action. We knew it’d have a broad and simple plot and paper-thin characterizations, and probably would not make any internal sense. I mean, we’d seen Live Free or Die Hard, and that was already a bad movie.
And in this way, the movie did not disappoint us. John McClane goes to Russia in what he knows is a bit of a vain attempt to help his son, who is in prison for murder. Turns out that McClane jr. is actually a CIA agent with a plan that goes something like this: kill a bad guy, get arrested, offer to testify against this Political Prisoner so you can be in the courtroom at the moment that the (alleged) Big Bad tries to break him out so that you can break him out instead, and then get airlifted out of Moscow in the three minute window you have before the police move in so that you can set this guy free and get the Tell-All File about the (alleged) Big Bad that he’s holding onto. Of course, thanks to John McClane’s interference and the son’s ease at being distracted, that window is lost and we get our movie, a merry father and son jaunt across Russia, as they bond over alternatively racing away from machine gun fire and dishing it out in return.
As silly as the CIA plan is, it’s not nearly as absurd as what the bad guys are up to. The Political Prisoner agrees to go with the McClanes and to deliver the Tell-All File if he can also rescue his grown Attractive Daughter. She turns out to be a traitor, though – who has agreed to help the (alleged) Big Bad’s Main Muscle capture her father in exchange for Lots of Money. (Fortunately she gives herself away by being unaware of when there are traffic jams in Moscow). So now the Political Prisoner is in the control of the Main Muscle and his Big Gang of Mooks where they are taken into Chernobyl, of all places, where this Tell-All File is hiding. Only then do you find out it’s a triple cross – that the Political Prisoner is the real Big Bad, and that his Attractive Daughter was working with him all the time. He orders the death of the (alleged) Big Bad with the snap of a finger and shoots the Main Muscle in the head. The Tell-All File was a fake and the real MacGuffin of the story is a huge pile of uranium that the Political Prisoner intends to use to do Evil Things.
But then the funny part of all this is that apparently the Big Gang of Mooks are all apparently in on the Attractive Daughter’s betrayal as well – they don’t seem to bat an eye when their mission changes from getting a file to retrieving a huge pile of uranium, or when they stop getting orders from the Main Muscle (because he’s dead). So all this begs the question…why all the subterfuge? Why didn’t the Father-Daughter Team of Evil just kill the Main Muscle right away, as well as the McClane duo, and just saunter off to do their Evil Things? The answer of course for the (alleged) fun of surprising the audience with these amazing swerves of storytelling, and I guess for giving the middle of the movie something to be about.
In the end, everything comes to rights. The father and son bond, kill all the bad guys, and somehow wander out of irradiated Chernobyl without getting sick. And we know that both the younger McClane and the Die Hard series in general has truly come of age in the climactic scene where the junior hero throws the main bad guy off a building and into a spinning helicopter rotor. See, back in 1988, Bruce Willis wasn’t allowed to drop the villain to his death until the guy tried to do something stupid, like shoot the hero even though he was the only thing keeping him from falling. In the more enlightened 21st Century, our action heroes don’t need any such justification. You just need a villain who is planning on doing Evil Things, and who is kind of annoying. And thus ends a movie which even I will admit might be the most important fourth sequel to an action movie ever.
So…that was a long to say: bad movie, just as we expected. Why then, do I say that this movie is actually worse than you thought it would be? Simply this: Boredom. Not just for the audience, but for the cast, and specifically for Bruce Willis. The guy looks really bored. John McClane looks bored. I mean he grunts and yells and tries to throw out a few shout-outs to the Everyman that he was back in the original film, but overall he just looks Bored, with a little bit of Befuddled thrown into the mix. Bored bored bored. And if he’s bored, I’m bored. I mean, I know it’s an action film and not Shakespeare or whatever, but the guy just looks completely disinterested in what is happening around him, even with supposedly meaningful character-related things like reconnecting with his son. It makes all of it seem meaningless and irrelevant, even the gratuitous violence.
It’d make the movie very frustrating if I could just rally up the energy to care.