Let’s talk about expectations.
Often times, action movie bars are set low. Give us explosions, give us fight scenes, and we’re satiated. As critics, this creates a dilemma — how exactly does one judge the film? Is it based on whether or not the film delivers the goods? Or can we still hold it to the same standard as “Argo”?
The first four films featured Bruce Willis’ character, John McClain, in the wrong place at the right time. He used ingenuity and wit to face a variety of terrorists. He was foul-mouthed and used a gun to his advantage. He defined ‘80s action, and the tradition carried over into the ‘90s and even into the new millennium.
The new film follows McClain as he heads to Russia to find his son, who was arrested for murder. He quickly realizes he is way in over his head as his son reveals he is a CIA agent tasked with stopping a terrorist from stealing weapons-grade uranium.
But does the standard hold up as the writers struggle for new McClain scenarios? Should we give the movie leeway?
Karsten Burgstahler: Absolutely not. “A Good Day to Die Hard” is a passible action flick, but given McClain’s history, I expected a lot more. The film lacks wit, and McClain is left with very few witticisms; he screams “I’m on vacation!” at least three times while he is shot at. Jai Courtney, as McClain’s son, is so stiff that any possible father-son dynamic is destroyed from their first screen time together. Also, characters yell “shut up” at each other. Come on guys, this is an R-rated action movie and we’re censoring dialogue? McClaine used to be free to say whatever he wanted. Even though the film reverted back to an R rating after “Live Free or Die Hard” earned a PG-13, the only difference seems to be McClaine’s ability to say his signature line in its foul-mouthed glory.
Austin Flynn: Even his yippee ki yay seemed underwhelming to me. Out of all the aging ‘80s action stars who have come out with a movie in the past month, you better believe I respect Bruce Willis the most, but that does not change how old he is and how that translates on screen. After the third jab at Willis’ age, I was just down right depressed for the guy and his franchise. The dialogue was dull, the action scenes were confusing and the movie was all around a bore to follow. Nothing in that makes a great action movie. It pains me to say this, but just like Willis’ action days I think this style of movie is a thing of the past. “A Good Day to Die Hard” didn’t even have a fitting villain, one key ingredient to make any great action movie.
KB: The villain! Thank you! “Die Hard” had an incredible villain in Alan Rickman’s Hans Grueber. The banter between McClaine and the lead villain was a key “Die Hard” trait, and this film stays away from a solid villain. The plot is so convoluted, and the villains so bland, that frankly you become numb to it. So much so that when the film reveals the grand “twist,” something the other films have strayed away from, it hits with a whimper, not a bang. The CGI explosions are curiously wimpy, too. McClaine always has been an action superhero, but he was often bruised up and was always human. Here, some of the stunts he pulls off are simply inhuman and over the top. In their attempt to deliver classic action, the writers overshot their target by a mile.
AF: I will say the final action scene of the movie wasn’t half bad, but really it was the only aspect of the film that I won’t forget within the next day. With the myriad of “shut ups” being said and the almost senile Willis there’s not much else I can say about the movie besides better luck next time. According to Willis, there will be a next time and with it the “Die Hard” franchise will have one last shot at giving Willis the finale he deserves, and quite frankly needs. He’s also going to be in a sequel to his coming of age action movie “Red”, but at least in that he’s supposed to be retired.