I never thought Live Free or Die Hard aka Die Hard 4.0 was a completely merit-free afair. A good movie? No. A good Die Hard movie? Hell no! But as a generic action, skop, skiet en donder kind of flick, it was an okay-ish popcorn muncher.
A Good Day to Die Hard, Bruce Willis’ fifth outing as geographically and chronologically confused Det. John McClane, is not a good movie. Period. This is essentially the big budget version of an ADHD 12-year old, who’s just discovered the wonders of explosions, recording his mischief. While having a seizure.
Let’s get straight into the little bit of plot we have that actually makes sense. McClane has tracked down estranged son John “Jack” McClane Jr, played like Jason Bourne with extras muscles by Spartacus and Jack Reacher star Jai Courtney. Unfortunately for McClane, but true to his “wrong place, wrong time” heritage, turns out Junior is currently cooling his heels in a Moscow jail, cue Senior hopping on a plane to see what he can do to help out. But as Daddy McClane soon discovers, Jack is actually a CIA spook who intentionally got thrown into jail to break out political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) because he has a critical file that could spell the end for crooked, ambitious politici-
Actually, I’m going to stop right there. You won’t care about the plot anyway. I mean, why would you when clearly director John Moore (The Omen, Max Payne) and screenwriter Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team, Swordfish) clearly haven’t. The villains have no discernible goal other than double-crossing each other, the heroes kill/do more damage than said villains (at one point, Willis takes a shortcut by driving over and flattening the cars and presumably skulls of about 10 innocent bystanders with a Jeep) and clearly they employ psychics over at the CIA. How else would it be possible for them to plan a jailbreak of Komarov that actually relies on the villains also trying to break him out at the exact same time as they were?
This is the type of movie where people get shot between the eyes inside a closed room when there’s nobody in the room to actually do the shooting, where our heroes run around wearing nothing but their sheepish grins while the villains have to wear full haz-mat suits and where you apparently just spray something in the air to instantly get rid of all deadly radiation in an area that’s been flooded with it for more than two decades.
I’ve honestly seen bathroom ceiling mold exhibit more intelligence than this. It’s all just incredibly lazy work by Woods, whose script loses logic faster than Willis loses hair. No, this movie is all about blowing stuff up.
And I have to admit that Moore (who I’m guessing was stuck in a Syberian gulag for the last five years as punishment for unleashing his horrible Max Payne on the rest of the world) blows stuff up real good. Well, at least I think he does. It’s kind of hard to tell when his haphazard direction has the camera bouncing around worse than a Michael J. Fox and Muhammed Ali handshake.
In between seizure-ridden shots you may find some enjoyment out of one pretty decent, 15-minute long car chase through the traffic clogged streets of Moscow. Stunt drivers careen and crash around at high pace with a variety of vehicles using equal combinations of pin-point precision driving and reckless abandon to explosive results. It’s easily the film’s best action sequence, unfortunately it’s also the film’s first action sequence and everything is just downhill from there until you reach the final, badly CGI’d damp squib of an ending.
Now you may have noticed that I’ve spoken very little about the man of the moment, John McClane himself. And there’s a simple reason for that: This is not John McClane. At least not the one you know and love. Whereas Willis merely phoned it in for his previous effort, this is more like the “Broken Telephone” version of the classic character. On paper, you can certainly say that all the trademarks are there: the quips, getting beat up, facing impossible looking odds, the blood stained white t-shirt, etc. But it all comes across like such a cheap knock-off version, that I had to double check that this movie wasn’t actually starring Bluce Wirris.
And the father-son dynamic that was so heavily touted as the driving mechanism for the film consists of Willis merely treating his son as Generic Sidekick #1 for the latter half of the film, after simply shouting things at him for the earlier part. And boy, does he shout things. I never knew that John McClane suffered from Tourette’s. It’s a serious condition and he has my sympathies (Willis’s two “Motherf!@#ers!” are also the only reasons for this film’s R rating).
It certainly also doesn’t help that Willis doesn’t really have anybody on the side of the black hats bringing out the best in him. Radivoje Bukvic’s villainous Alik seems to mistake being quirky for being menacing, but then can’t even do that right, carrot chomping and soft-shoe shuffling his way right into villain obscurity. Hans Gruber is rolling in his very flat and misshapen grave.
Also, it’s been a while since I last saw Live Free or Die Hard, so can somebody please refresh my memory and tell me when it was that John McClane was given the Super Soldier Serum that enables him to be violently bounced around the inside of a rolling truck, and still walk out showing less damage than if a newborn baby had gently tossed a handful of marshmallows at his face.
In the end, it’s as if Moore and Woods tried to make a Die Hard movie based purely on what they once partially overheard somebody say about the classic movie. From another room. Under water. They try to make up for all their shortcomings with explosions, and while the human-magpie factor might mean that you’ll get a stupid grin on your face once or twice as a new bit of shininess shows up, there’s no denying this is easily the weakest of all of John McClane’s adventures.
If it wasn’t for Willis’ recent claim that we’re going to have more, I’d say that this is a good day for this franchise to just die now.