Yippee Ki-Yay, John McClane is back. Not better than ever, but certainly back. Bruce Willis reprises the iconic action hero role for the sixth time, and proves once again that he can still hold his own as a legitimate action star 25 years after the original Die Hard. The first movie is a classic: one of those rare action movies that defines what the genre should always be from then on. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes the original so popular. I love it, but can’t properly articulate why. The stakes are high, are the action sequences work well, the cast is superb, the blending of humor into the film is absolutely perfect and appropriate. All these things make for a terrifically fun viewing experience. Plus, I’ve enjoyed each of the Die Hard sequels, including Die Hard 2: Die Harder, whose horrible title belies the legitimately enjoyable film underneath. It’s possible that the fourth installment, Live Free or Die Hard is my favorite of the series, because it’s the first one where McClane is noticeably aged and beaten up, and the villain is lightyears ahead of him in terms of intelligence and technological knowhow, but McClane just does what he does – blowing up bad guys – and it’s a blast.
A Good Day to Die Hard attempts to follow that dynamic, but what works so well in all of the Die Hard movies until this point is that they always found a good balance between the action sequences and the other scenes. This installment is cram packed with action sequences, to the point of it feeling like any other generic action movie while losing all of those great “McClane Moments” that made the rest of the franchise so much fun. The McClane character isn’t completely lost, and the scenes where he’s just interacting with other people and bestowing his trademark condescension are the highlight of the film, but they’re few and far between in this sequel.
The story is simple enough. McClane goes to Russia to find his son (Jai Courtney), and discovers he’s working for the CIA trying to keep a witness (Sebastian Koch) safe from Russian terrorists. So, with the many attempts to assassinate this witness, there’s a lot of gun fights and explosions and action movie plot twists, and fewer character scenes.
It was nice to see Mary Elizabeth Winstead reprise her role as Lucy McClane, John’s daughter, in this film, even briefly. It would have been great to see Adam Long return in those scenes as well, since Live Free or Die Hard ended with those two characters getting together, and now we’re left to think that that didn’t work out, and everyone’s favorite hacker is sitting in an apartment somewhere desperately trying to win vintage Transformers on eBay while digitally bringing down society one step at a time.
A Good Day is available now on Blu-ray (in an extended cut of the film) and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, but I would suggest just going with the 25th Anniversary collection of the previous Die Hard movies and have yourself a really good day.