Mania Review: A Good Day to Die Hard -

A Good Day to Die Hard Clip

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Julia Snigir, Sebastian Koch and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
  • Written by: Skip Woods and Roderick Thorp
  • Directed by: John Moore
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Still some yippie in the kay-yay.

By Rob Vaux     February 14, 2013

 John McClane has a way of elevating any script he’s in. No matter how threadbare the scenario, no matter how many times we’ve seen it before, tossing that old grizzled icon in the middle of it suddenly makes it work. Without him, A Good Day to Die Hard is pretty second rate. With him… well, it ain’t perfect, but it sure finds a way to get the job done.

By now, everyone knows what to expect from the Die Hard franchise, and the producers have long since given up trying to justify the plausibility of the scenario to us. That it exists is more than sufficient, and with enough hairpin turns thrown in there, we pretty much stop caring about the logic once the bad guys come out of the elevator. This fifth entry takes McClane out of the U.S. for the first time, a smart idea heightened by the Cold War nostalgia of its Moscow setting. He’s there to help his son Jack (Jai Courtney), a lifelong screw-up who apparently got himself thrown in Russian prison. That’s before he busts out of a Russian courthouse with a high-profile defendant in tow: part of a complicated bit of espionage that McClane royally fucks up with his impromptu arrival. 90-odd minutes of heated yippee-kay-yays follow.

Credit director John Moore for refusing to dwell on superfluous nonsense. A Good Day to Die Hard easily ranks as the shortest film in the franchise, largely because we don’t waste time on any lugubrious set-up. The sinister plot unfolds along with the action, and we’re never entirely sure who we should trust (besides the two guys in the middle of it all) until we arrive at the whizz-bang finale. We need only understand why McClane is in Moscow; the rest arrives as a means of keeping the mayhem interesting.

And Moore certainly knows how to stage that mayhem right. The showstoppers involve a helicopter gunship – deployed multiple times to great effect – but he also manages a nifty truck chase in the Moscow streets, as visceral and hard-hitting as anything the series has yet produced. The simple plot keeps a handle on the action, ensuring that it leads us in an interesting direction instead of making sound and noise for their own sake. Moore also inserts some nifty little touches to elevate the overall intelligence levels, as when McClane’s policeman’s instincts throws a wrench into the elaborate international espionage thrown up in his path.

That, of course, is the name of the game in a Die Hard movie: set up an interesting scheme full of intricate tricks and double-crosses, then watch Willis’s blue-collar irritant go through it like a bull in a china shop. The actor knows this character far too well to drop the ball now, and adding his son to the mix keeps the fifth entry engaging. Courtney’s presence reminds us that saving the world still doesn’t solve this family’s dysfunction, and their halting, bickering partnership comes laden with the kind of domestic dynamic that you rarely see in action films. It lends the mayhem an additional amount of spice, as well as connecting us to the heroes the same way the previous four films did. The villains lack a certain memorability, but only because we’re not entirely sure who they are. Once they show their true colors (starting with Radivoje Bukvic’s tap dancing heavy), they feel right at home.

No one will mistake this for the best film in the series, and one begins to wonder how many times this sort of thing can happen to one guy. But Willis proves more than game and his character still has some life left in him. A Good Day to Die Hard elevates its boilerplate status with a lot of resolute competence, as well as a refusal to take its audience for granted. The formula has worked for twenty-five years; there’s still no earthly reason why they should change it. 


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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 2/14/2013 12:41:57 AM

Didn't half of these movies start out as scripts for other movies and rewritten with McCliain in them or something like that? After the last one with all it's horrible looking CGI blood an McClaine playing Captain America and jumping on a jet I think I'll pass until I get back from Thailand next year.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 2/14/2013 12:45:28 AM

Or unrelated novels rather.

SinisterPryde 2/14/2013 12:49:53 AM

Yeah, the first Die Hard was based on the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever" by Roderick Thorp (a sequel to his novel The Detective which was made into a movie with Frank Sinatra back in 1968) while Die Hard 2 was loosley based on the unrelated novel "58 Minutes" by Walter Wager.  Die Hard 3 and 4 were both original screenplays.

As long as this movie is better than Live Free or Die Hard I think I will be happy.

SinisterPryde 2/14/2013 12:53:16 AM

In a funny twist, the book Nothing Lasts Forever was originally bought and repurposed as a sequel to Schwarzenegger's Commando.

kalonthar 2/14/2013 4:04:52 AM

Unfortunately, the general consensus so far is that this is the worst of the Die Hard movies. Of course, LFoDH was very well recieved by critics and we all know how the fans feel about that one, so there will probably be a divide between the critics and the fans on this one. Of course, it seems most fans hate the 4th one simply because of the rating without looking at the movie itself, but that's beside the point.

VermithraxPejorative 2/14/2013 4:13:31 AM

The original Die Hard is a classic. After that, it was just taking a character and putting him into similar situations. Die Hard with a Vengance was good, but I couldn' t stand LFoDH! WAY WAY WAY over the top, even for a Die Hard film. I will definitely pass on this one as well!

Clownican 2/14/2013 4:36:55 AM

 Bunch of slack jawwed faggots around here. This movie will make you a god damn sexual teranasaur.

Wiseguy 2/14/2013 5:07:29 AM

I dug LFODH, the jet vs truck sequence is pure awesomeness

joelr 2/14/2013 8:50:08 AM

A solid "D", it's lazy filmmaking at best. Rote action, cardboard characters and a theadbare plot. It panders to the average, and doesn't have anything new, interesting or exciting to say or show. I'm all for big/fun action, but this movie is just pointless.

violator14 2/14/2013 8:55:31 AM

 Wow it's running pretty low at RT... Maybe the next film should be titled, "Just Die Already" ??

I still love Die Hard with a Vengeance. I could watch that one everyday.


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