A Good Day to Die Hard

For all Willis’ enduring screen presence, there are just too many opportunities missed in this film, writes OLLIE BARTLETT.

a good day to die hard Bruce Willis jai courtney john mcclane ollie bartlett sebastian koch

If you want to see Bruce Willis in a dirty vest, there’s only one film to see this month. He’s certainly not alone in exploiting eighties nostalgia for the action heroes of old, and with his recent roles in The Expendables 2 and RED, he’s nailed the art of lazily running through a film with a machine gun. So, does A Good Day to Die Hard continue the Die Hard series’ decline in quality? Or is it a return to form for Willis as maverick cop John McClane?

In A Good Day, McClane takes his distinctive blend of collateral damage and wisecracking to Russia, looking for his estranged CIA operative son Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack is mixed up in some political intrigue involving the show trial of Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch).  However, as this is a Die Hard film, the show trial is explosively interrupted when a group of heavily armed terrorists attempt to abduct Komarov. A destructive car chase, some gun fights and a hostile father-son reunion later, the stage is set for John and Jack to run round the old Soviet Union, looking like an angry turtle and a furious turnip respectively.


Given director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne) has a reputation for lowbrow entertainment, a series as action-packed as Die Hard should provide him with plenty of opportunities. Sadly, a lot of these are missed. A Good Day ends up shamelessly evoking memories of the first film, while failing to recognize many of the factors that made it successful. The few bad guys with any personality are squandered, and their antagonism is mainly manifested in speeches in which they discuss how much they hate American staples like freedom, democracy and apple pie. The lack of compelling villains seems to be the series’ most pronounced weakness, although the main baddie in A Good Day is slightly better than the embittered hacker of the last film.

The 12A rating neuters most of John McClane’s cathartic swearing and wisecracks, which is a shame: they would have made the character more believable during the hairier moments. The initial car chase is confusing and dull (not least because Bruce seems half asleep at this point), but the final scene involving a helicopter ranks up there with the series’ best.  At a mere ninety-seven minutes, the film would have benefitted from having another solid action sequence, preferably featuring someone other than anonymous henchmen. That said, Willis still has a lot of screen presence, which is fortunate, really, given that Courtney spends the first half of the film being an unsympathetic, glowering killjoy.

Of all the available films starring extremely old action heroes (The Last Stand, Bullet to the Head), this is probably one of the better ones. But don’t set your expectations too high. And if you do go, I’d recommend mentally inserting your own swearwords to punch up the dialogue. (Yippie Ki-Yay, etc.) It won’t quite push it up to an evening of four star entertainment, but it’ll still be worth it.