Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)


Cast: , ,
Director: John Moore
Country: USA
Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here

Editor’s Notes: A Good Day to Die Hard opens this Friday.

It should be noted A Good Day to Die Hard already has an interesting aspect going for it: it’s the first Die Hard sequel that was actually written as a Die Hard sequel. All of the past films were either meant as original scripts or adaptations of other works. Now the question is, would that be the only thing going for it?

Mr. iconic John McClane himself (do I even have to say who plays him) gets some disturbing news when he decides to track down his son Jack (Jai Courtney) and repair their damaged relationship: he’s become a spy for the government and has been arrested in Russia in an attempt to project a hot-topic prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch). No more than a couple of hours off the plane and into a new country does McClane find himself in car chases and gun battles in an effort to save his son, and stop a new group of baddies (led by Radivoje Bukvic) from becoming the new world terrorist leaders.

No more than a couple of hours off the plane and into a new country does McClane find himself in car chases and gun battles in an effort to save his son, and stop a new group of baddies…

Before a single frame was even shot, groans from the McClane fanbase were already heard loud and clear when it was announced who would be handling the writing and directing duties for John’s first out-of-country adventure: writer Skip Woods (Hitman, The A-Team) and director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne). They’re considered to be company “yes men” and hey, let’s face it; those titles aren’t that far off. Does this mean they’re bad at what they do? The general consensus would like to think so. Personally I think they both men have talent and can really showcase it on a good day. I don’t think they’ve even peaked yet. But did they peak this time, in Mother Russia? Sadly no. But it’s not for their lack of trying. So the question would be, under this circumstance, did they have a good day themselves?

Woods’ screenplay has a interesting structure to work with, having a father-son reunion right in the middle of a political terrorist plot. It’s inspiring, but on the creative meter that’s about as high as it goes. The flow, the circumstances, even the action setups are decent but nothing more, and it doesn’t help that key dialogue points that should have hit a home run struck out (there were maybe a few bunts). For Skip Woods, most of his work can link to all of that, but did he have a bad day? I wouldn’t say no. The screenplay is very no-nonsense, and it does do the audience the favor in a big way: it forms its pace into a compact 97-minute runtime, which makes this the shortest Die Hard entry yet (before this, the average runtime for a McClane adventure would be a little over 2 hours). Self-realization maybe? Probably not. Also the whole event takes place in roughly 24 hours, and I am a sucker for stories like that.

Turn around to see how John Moore handled this, and his reputation is even more topsy-turvy and disputable. Since his debut in 2001, all of the flicks he’s directed have had a general like-hate relationship (I wouldn’t quite call the first part love). He’s a director that has never quite shown that he can elevate a script’s weakness; in other words if the script lacks in any part, he won’t help out much in the principle department. But while he lacks, almost severely, in storytelling, he boosts in an overwhelming sense of bravado via action setups (I see a pattern forming…). I’ve been saying for years that, despite his flaws, the man can work the camera like a beast, and own shot compositions like a madman. He’s most creative when it comes to building the environment and visuals of an action scene.

While Woods’ script lacks in most areas, this is the first time that Moore actually hoists every scene he’s directing that doesn’t involve gunplay or things blowing up…well, at least he tries.

So having said that, did the duo combine to have a good day? While Woods’ script lacks in most areas, this is the first time that Moore actually hoists every scene he’s directing that doesn’t involve gunplay or things blowing up… well, at least he tries. The effort he makes to make this a unique Die Hard entry can be commended: the decision to shoot with flat lenses (to heighten the sense of John’s confusion in a new world), the lighting and shot composition choices he makes with cinematographer Jonathan Sela (the 2nd act really showcases that), and his casting choices certainly help his cause. While everyone’s believable in their role, having Bukvic play the main baddie was a solid choice (oh boy does he have fun with the role). In short, it’s not Woods’ best effort and Moore certainly does give it a worthy try, so the combination of the two equals a fine day. It’s certainly not a bad day, because hey, at least they made an effort. I’ve seen filmmakers with the same qualities just not care, and THAT is a bad day. Now if the two had just peaked here, for this film, we really might have seen something.

If this were any other action film, we’d probably welcome this with open arms. But us McClane fans, we’re tough mothers to please, and why shouldn’t we be? Let’s face it, the initial trilogy spoiled us; Live Free or Die Hard had the misfortune of having a story as cold feeling as its execution, so A Good Day to Die Hard really had to count. The reality is that it won’t for a lot of people. But you know who it’ll count for? Bruce Willis. It’s just plain honesty to say that he is the franchise, and to say that he still doesn’t love it with all of his being would be a slap in the face. But like Willis, McClane has changed during the course of the past couple of adventures. He’s older, quieter, harder, and… bald. But he still loves killing bad guys, he still deep down loves to be ‘that guy’, and he’s still sarcastic (this installment brings that detail back strongly after part 4 strangely reduced it). It’s not the McClane that the older generation has grown up to love, but you try telling Willis that there isn’t some fight left in that dog of a character. More than anything, his love for the 25-year-old NYPD officer is unmistakable, and it’s the main reason we still want to go along for the ride. While A Good Day to Die Hard might be lacking, you can’t help but cheer at the moments when Willis just lets it all out. He wants a Die Hard 6, and I say why not. An older outer shell isn’t a reason to stop telling the adventures of the ultimate “wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

But if he wants another go, then he’s got to trust the character with a more creative and proficient group of filmmakers. Note this: the possibility of a truly great Die Hard adventure is still within grasp. It just didn’t come this time. But I’ll point you in the direction of the bright side (as long as you don’t set your expectations too high): it doesn’t drag, the action scenes are quite a visual feast, and to comfort those from the last outing, it is better than Live Free or Die Hard.

Truthfully, it’s just good to see John McClane again.

65/100 ~ OKAY. A Good Day to Die Hard is not the next great John McClane adventure we were all hopeful for, but it’s not a stick in the mud either. And just to satisfy some curiosity out there, my rank goes 1-3-2-5-4.

Jaime Burchardt

My head's been consumed the art of movies & its creation ever since I was old enough to know what the word 'consumed' meant. The only way to reduce the pressure buildup is to write, edit, and direct. Chocolate milk also helps.
  • Chris D. Misch

    Good to know it’s better than Live Free And Die Hard! Great review!

  • Jaime Burchardt

    Thank you good sir.