Right, well, first off, I’d love to hear the shortlist of rejected titles. A Good Day To Die Hard? A $97million budget and that was the best title you could think of? Even Bruce Willis, in his now-famous One Show interview, seems baffled by it: “It’s like, have a sandwich and let’s go shopping – then Die Hard.” Quite.
As that painful interview highlighted, Bruce ain’t so sprightly these days; soon eligible for a free bus pass in the Greater London area, Bruce and his perfectly bald head today resembles a joint of gammon. John McClane in 2013 is barely recognisable from his original 1988 appearance, and it’s not just hair loss: as with the last sequel, A Good Day To.. really has nothing to do with Die Hard as we first knew it.
The biggest problem is that it never feels like John McClane’s film. If anything, he’s guest-starring in his son’s CIA-flavoured action film, and could probably have sat the whole thing out, without making any significant difference. The ‘plot’ (if it is not too insulting to the history of storytelling to call it so) goes: McClane heads to Russia to get his estranged son out of a fix, only to handily discover his son is a super badass action hero too; father and son subsequently kick Ruskie’s ass, and soppily patch up their differences along the way.
The turning point comes halfway through the film when all the major plot points are revealed in a startlingly stupid conversation between McClanes Sr & Jr, essentially boiling down to “You know Chernobyl? Well, these guys did it.” Then they go to Chernobyl. (And in doing so share the same spectacular lack of taste as last year’s Chernobyl Diaries by highjacking a human tragedy.) “Are we really going to Chernobyl?” asks McClane Sr, on the drive to Chernobyl. I shared his incredulity. Really? Chernobyl?
But you could hardly expect the fifth entry in an action franchise to deal in nuanced storyline or depth of character. Director John Moore deals primarily in explosions, gunfire, and explosions. And, to be fair, on this slim front he mostly delivers – the action is competent, muscular, exciting. There’s a fun shaky-cam car chase, and lots of noisy, dunderheaded gun battles. Indeed, before Chernobyl is mentioned, the first act actually starts with a lot of promise. It inevitably gets all rather silly, but even the finale’s CGI-enhanced action is watchable and thrilling.
So I didn’t hate A Good Day To Die Hard, despite it giving me plenty of reasons to. We’ve lost the suspense, claustrophobia, and wit that earlier incarnations of the series could boast, but it’s not necessarily the zero-star turkey embarrassment that some outlets have suggested.