With Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Rasha Bukvic. Written by Skip Woods. Directed by John Moore. Rated R for violence and language. 97 minutes.
It’s been 25 years since the first “Die Hard” movie, and if star Bruce Willis is getting a bit long-in-the-tooth for these explosive action movies, at least this is a better one to go out on than the bloated “Live Free Or Die Hard” (2007). In A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, Willis is back as New York City cop John McClane heading out on his most improbable mission yet.
His previously unmentioned son Jack (Jai Courtney) seems to be in trouble in Moscow and standing trial with a dissident named Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Komarov apparently has some file that will be very bad for the incoming Russian defense minister who is willing to trade Komarov’s freedom for the file. Meanwhile, the CIA is eager to get their hands on both Komarov and the file. Suffice to say you needn’t spend much time on these maneuverings. The file is the film’s “Maguffin,” as Alfred Hitchcock used to call whatever plot device had the characters running around but were of no concern to the audience.
Enter McClane, who is there to help out his son, from whom he has been estranged. Only things aren’t what they seem to be. There are numerous twists and reversals in the film’s 97 minutes, the first of the series to come in under two hours. That’s a plus, because there’s really only two things that need to concern us here. First are the chases, shoot-outs, explosions, leaping-off of buildings, and other absurd stunts that make up the bulk of the film. We’re in “Road Runner” territory here, with the action having to do more with cartoon logic than the laws of gravity or physics. A car chase through Moscow (played by Budapest, Hungary) involving two trucks and an armored vehicle that plows through the traffic is well worth the price of admission.
The thing that provides the real narrative thread here is not the political intrigue involving the mysterious file or what’s at stake; it’s the relationship between the McClanes. Indeed, if they could have held this up until June instead of opening it on Valentine’s Day, it could have been called “Die Hard: Father’s Day.” Apparently, the family that mows down enemies in a hail of machine gun bullets together… stays together.
“A Good Day To Die Hard” is not going to win a lot of rave reviews, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun if you can resist trying to take the proceedings seriously. It’s pure hokum, including the occasional wink at the audience that they know how absurd it all is, and then it’s on to the next big plot twist and action set piece. Willis smirks, Sebastian Koch (from the German Oscar-winner “The Lives Of Others”) lends some acting chops, and Courtney gives Willis someone to play off of as they hustle through the screenplay’s obstacle course. It’s probably a good day to end the series at last, but it’s an action-packed and entertaining finale.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.