Bruce Willis last revived the ‘Die Hard’ series in 2007, just before the ‘Expendables’-centric boom of action films with elderly stars began which now seems to be in full swing. Arriving within a month of new starring vehicles for Stallone and Schwarzenegger, it’s no surprise to see him now returning to his most famous role yet again.
While ‘Die Hard 4.0/Live Free or Die Hard’ wasn’t all bad, the studio’s decision to make it PG-13 rated led to it not really feeling like a ‘Die Hard’ film, and had Willis’s character bared a different name, it could have easily been passed off as a standalone.
Appearing some 25 years after the original, the fifth instalment, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, aims to return the series to R-rated territory, and while some violence and profanity is present, it still suffers from some similar problems to the last one.
This time, John McClane has travelled to Moscow to rescue his estranged son, who’s been living there for a number of years and has now been arrested.
As his son, newcomer Jai Courtney takes a stab at being the new Bruce Willis, but when the real one is performing right next to him it’ll take more than that for him to leave much impression. Even so, Willis himself, who’s become quite amazingly prolific over the last year or so, does seem to be on autopilot again here, being as dependable as ever, but not bringing anything special to the table. He never feels like the ordinary guy caught in a difficult situation that he did in the original, coming across as more of an unstoppable superhero.
Where ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ has focused most of its efforts though, is on the action sequences. Almost as soon as McClane Senior arrives in Moscow he’s greeted by a large explosion, leading directly into a road chase-come- orgy of vehicular destruction. Not content with this massive amount of carnage, the film barely pauses for breath before leading into a huge shootout.
A lot of the action beats are reasonably well done, but when presented as such a relentless onslaught it just becomes a bit much to take in. Over its brief running time, what little story there is becomes increasingly irrelevant to the father/son bonding via shootings and explosions. The villain is also totally unmemorable, a fact hammered home by a misjudged visual reference to Hans Gruber.
‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ seems to be aiming for nostalgia appeal, but its only real strengths are a few of its action scenes, and to make a great action film, you need more than just some good action.
Note: I didn’t see this in the UK, but have just learned that the studio has self-censored violence and swearing from the film there in order to receive a child-friendly 12A rating, which is all likelihood will weaken the film even further.