At 57 years old, Bruce Willis has been involved in some undeniably outstanding and seminal cinematic masterpieces, not least among which being The Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction, Sin City and yes, even the original Die Hard.
In 1988 (a quarter of a century ago for the mathematically lethargic) Die Hard secured its place among Willis stalwarts when the Hollywood heavyweight first starred as New York detective John McClane; a streetwise cop with a smart mouth who single-handedly foils a group of East German terrorists as they attempt to steal millions from a hotel vault.
Though fairly implausible and most definitely tongue in cheek, Die Hard worked because of its relatively low scale fight scenes, its cheesy but witty dialogue, and the fact that McClane, for all his sensational feats of guerrilla warfare, comes across as a somewhat credible human being.
Four sequels later and all traces of these vital characteristics have long since been set by the wayside, with McClane having successfully rumbled a plot to free a Latin American dictator, beaten the brother of the original terrorist at his own twisted game and saved both his daughter and country from a group of cyber-terrorists plotting to bring American infrastructure to its knees.
Now, in his latest adventure, Detective McClane turns his attention to his son, who has run afoul of Russian law enforcement and is in need of his father’s help. Apparently.
The reality of course, is that McClane’s son Jack (Jai Courtney) is in fact a high-ranking CIA operative, and has been for a number of years. Estranged from his father, he is in the midst of a mission to bring a political prisoner from Moscow to the safety of the U.S.A. Inevitably, the mission is botched, and McClane naturally becomes embroiled in the operation himself, uncovering a much deeper plot and threatening national security along the way. All in a day’s work for fifty something year old on holidays.
Ultimately, A Good Day To Die Hard plays out much like a feature length cut-scene for some generic third person shooter, as Jack and John form the ultimate father/son team and cut down vast swathes of Russian thugs in exuberant fashion. If you have ever seen or heard of Army of Two, then you have a good idea of what A Good Day to Die Hard is all about. There are a few half-hearted attempts at inserting substance as the McClane’s attempt at various stages to reconcile their relationship and become a happy family again, though really these cringe-worthy conversations do rather more harm than good.
There are rumours of a sixth Die Hard in the works, which would bring the tally to equal that of the Rocky series. In many ways Die Hard is a lot like Rocky; the first perfectly acceptable, the second one less so and the next three absurd and embarrassing. Perhaps this trend will continue if a Die Hard 6 is produced; perhaps it will follow the line of the surprisingly poignant and thought provoking Rocky Balboa. In any case, Detective John McClane has earned at this point a more worthy swan song than was provided by A Good Day to Die Hard.