Movie review: “A Good Day To Die Hard”

As many of you are no doubt drawing breath to observe, I’m late to this party, pal. This movie came out about two years ago and, scared by the savage reviews and unable to find anyone willing to waste their money with me, I didn’t go. Thank Christ for that. Calling this movie bad is like calling a box jelly an allergen. And normally I wouldn’t give a movie this bad ten full minutes, but I stuck this one out, like a hatefuck you’re determined to finish even though you’d rather have a sandwich and go to sleep. Why? So I could bitch about it to you. YOU’RE WELCOME.

This movie took everything important about “Die Hard”, a movie and franchise near and dear to my entire generation, shot it through the head, then tied its corpse to the hood of a minivan and drove it through the center of my soul. Gone is the human, frightened, freaked-out John McClane who found himself in a terrifying situation and made the best of it with the modest tools he either scrounged or improvised out of office furniture and scraps. This movie’s version of John McClane sulkily decides to go to Russia to extract his estranged son from a murky entanglement in some vaguely judicial Russian clusterfuck (which said clusterfuck is both over-explained, in that people never stop talking about it, and under-explained, in that we never actually find out what any party wants or even really differentiate between parties—they’re both older Russian dudes who are apparently trying to screw each other over because of a file, or maybe some uranium, or a file that’s kept in uranium, or possibly a uranium nail file, I was never sure. Apparently, there’s a file that has evidence against someone, and we’re supposed to believe that this file matters, even though the judicial process in Russia is represented by a sequence in which an armored troop carrier blows the sides off a courthouse and walks over the bodies of all the judges inside to kill a witness. Clearly the sort of place where evidence trumps all.)

But so anyway, McClane goes to Russia to pull his kid out of a jam, all the while pissing and moaning about his “ruined vacation”, a joke he makes three times despite never having been properly set up once. When McClane finally catches up to the kid, Junior (Jai Courtney) turns out to be a humorless meathead who first holds his dad at gunpoint, then drives off gnashing his teeth and saying (I shit you not), “Damn you, McClane.” He says it twice. I know because I hit myself with the remote the second time to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. It really is that bad. (The audience, incidentally, already knows that Junior is working for the CIA, because this screenplay was written during a tension shortage.)

While I felt bad for McClane’s strained, never-really-happy family life in previous iterations of Die Hard, this time round I found myself thinking, “Christ, they’re better off without him”. Because this version of McClane yanks a civilian driver out of a car, screams at him for speaking Russian (in Russia), then hits him in the head before stealing his SUV in order to drive over smaller cars while yelling “Sorry!” sarcastically out the window to the civilian drivers whom he’s crushing to death. This McClane makes fun of his wounded son for being “out of ideas” when his son has a piece of rebar the size of a Snickers bar impaled in his abdomen, before grabbing the rebar, mocking his son for wanting to go home, asking his son multiple times if he’s going to cry, then yanking the rebar out and mocking his son some more. This McClane walks barefaced into Chernobyl without hesitation, because this McClane is not the same man who asked himself what he was doing before every escape attempt from Nakatomi Plaza, who looked down elevator shafts and visibly panicked before realizing he had to continue, who radioed a friend for support and encouragement when he was hiding in a bathroom, pulling shards of glass out of his feet and whimpering with pain. This McClane isn’t our avatar, much less our friend. This McClane isn’t even human, if being human can be defined (as I think it pretty basically can) as giving a shit about your fellow humans, especially the ones who are related to you. Wanting to keep those people alive and happy is the most basic instinct we have, and it’s the one that allowed the original, human McClane 1.0 to overcome fear and self-doubt and unremitting physical pain to continue. Now, as I watched Bruce Willis unscrew his most iconic character’s head and shit down his neck, I found myself growing increasingly sad that no one in the studio, or the writer’s room, or the director’s chair, felt strongly enough about the character, or the audience, or the whole generation of people like me who grew up watching John McClane give a shit about other people every Christmas, to stop him.

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