‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:41 am,

A Good Day to Die Hard Review Die Hard 5 starring Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney A Good Day to Die Hard Review

The franchise name and leading man are the only things elevating this silly, forgettable action romp.

A Good Day to Die Hard sees John McClane (Bruce Willis) heading to Moscow to help out his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who is seemingly headed for prison due to some brazen criminal acts. Little does McClane know, his son is actually a CIA operative who is trying to sneak a convict named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) out of harm’s way before his ex-partner (and current political leader) Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) can get to him.

When John inadvertently blows Jack’s operation out of the water, it’s up to both McClane boys to put aside their differences long enough to evade Chagarin’s thug Alik (Radivoje Bukvic), his band of killers, and get the evidence against Chagarin that Komarov is protecting. Once they have that evidence in hand, they can do what McClanes do best: Kill a whole bunch bad guys.

There’s a point at which any long-running franchise begins to fall into the realm of self-parody, and for the Die Hard franchise, this fifth installment officially marks that point. Through a combination of a thin story, even thinner characters, terrible dialogue, spastic, murky filming and outrageously cartoonish violence and stunts, the title of this film - A Good Day to Die Hard - is not just a name, it’s a proclamation that this series is now ready for the graveyard.

Sebastian Koch in A Good Day to Die Hard A Good Day to Die Hard Review

Willis, Courtney and Koch in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’

Indeed, without the presence of Willis’ iconic character, the film would be a forgettable B-movie action flick. With Willis in it, the appeal is obviously greater – though the experience of actually seeing McClane back onscreen is decidedly less so. Whereas the previous installment had fun with the fact that John McClane is a hero of a bygone era, A Good Day to Die Hard is more content with reducing the iconic character to a generic machismo bad guy-killing machine – one who is so used to this crazy routine that he is impervious to pain, emotion, vulnerability and really anything besides biting sarcasm and cheesy one-liners. That’s all to say: If you didn’t already know the character’s name, it’d be hard to tell this was, in fact, still John McClane (as opposed to, say, Frank Moses, the protagonist from Willis’ other popular action franchise, RED).

Willis himself seems to be going through the motions (read: a paycheck), unconcerned with probing the character for new depth or insight (if there is even any left to find). Most of his screen time NOT mowing down enemies with a stoic look on his face is spent poking and prodding at Jack in a way that’s more drill-sergeant than concerned father. Not exactly the makings of a strong emotional core, but at least Willis seems to be having fun with all the silliness and mayhem.

Jai Courtney as Jack McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard A Good Day to Die Hard Review

Jai Courtney had a breakout role as a henchman in the Tom Cruise action/thriller Jack Reacher, and here he again shows signs of being a capable action leading man. While being handed some pretty terrible lines to deliver, Courtney nonetheless has the physicality (if not quite the charisma) to mix it up with Willis, and enough attitude to offer a few fun rebuffs to the elder actor’s expert timing and delivery. As a character, Jack is very, very, thin – and while Courtney tries to fit in some layering through inference or expression, it’s not nearly enough to make Jack a three-dimensional character – and definitely not a worthy successor to the Die Hard mantle.

The script by Skip Woods is as ridiculous as many of the other films he’s penned (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Swordfish, Hitman), and is in large part responsible for why Die Hard 5 stands as the worst in the series (so far). The movie barrels through the opening setup and exposition so fast and so poorly, it’s hard to have a sense of the ground under your feet before the explosions and mayhem kick into high-gear (and never let up thereafter). As stated, the dialogue is laughably bad to the point that I wondered if it was meant as parody. (John’s repeated utterance of the phrase “I’m on vacation!” and Jack’s repeated utterance of “Damn you, John!” certainly suggested as much…)

We tear through Moscow (where apparently there is no police force whatsoever – even when crooks start shooting up city blocks with military helicopters) before being bounced out to Chernobyl (yup) for the big, stupid, finishing act. Along the way we’re asked to leave pretty much all semblance of the real-world behind, in favor of cartoonish action fantasy and gaping holes in logic. For a franchise that has, in the past, smartly played upon the idea of law enforcement’s response to terrorism, this is a pretty far (nearly unrecognizable) departure.

 A Good Day to Die Hard Review

Yuliya Snigir in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’

Add an array of villains who are no more than nicknames with big guns (“Dancer guy,” “Blonde guy,” “Shirtless guy”) and you have a bunch of Russian actors being put to poor use. Koch’s character, Komarov, is quite possibly the only character in the piece to get a shred of depth, while Yuliya Snigir manages to hold her own as a femme fatale who can keep step with the bad boys.

In the director’s chair sits John Moore (Max Payne, Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix) who, like Woods, is known to be a craftsman of B-movie fare. Keeping things “current,” Moore chose to shoot (no pun) much of the film in frustratingly tight close-ups of his actors’ faces, and employs handheld cameras for many of the scenes and action sequences throughout. For action fans: this means you are in for an abundance of hard-to-follow, “shaky cam” antics.

There are also some laughably bad slow-motion CGI-heavy moments employed to make the McClanes seem capable of feats that belong in a superhero movie rather than a gritty action flick. By the time Willis utters his trademark catch phrase, the movie’s action has jumped the shark, strangled it, and surfed it back to shore. That’s not to say the carnage is not impressive on the most basic visceral level – but aside from a few cool moments, A Good Day to Die Hard is more loud and obnoxious than entertaining.

Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in A Good Day to Die Hard A Good Day to Die Hard Review

As if that all weren’t bad enough, Moore and Woods borrow a hefty amount of visual and narrative cues from the other films in the franchise (see if you can spot them all). The idea, I suspect, was to pay homage – but, reflected in a film of such low-caliber (pun), it comes off as nothing more than parody. In short: Die Hard 5 manages to make some of the best things about Die Hard 1 – 4 look silly.

In terms of recommendation, there’s little to say. The words “Die Hard” in the title guarantee that an audience is going to show up, regardless of critical assessment. The franchise name and leading man are the only things elevating this silly, forgettable action romp, and this is one of those cases where fans may eventually come around to pretending that Die Hard 5 never happened. No harm in that.


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A Good Day to Die Hard is now playing in theaters. It is 97 minutes long and is Rated-R for violence and language and brief sexual suggestion.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

Follow Kofi Outlaw on Twitter @ppnkof
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  1. Just watched the original Die Hard last weekend, so not much point in seeing this now after watching that piece of perfection. That said, this has got to be better than Die Hard 2. I’ll check it out on BR/RedBox. Also what’s with all the Live Free or Die Hard hate? It does have over 80% on RT and I’d say it’s second best in the series easily. It’s ridiculous but it’s definitely entertaining, just wish it was R rated. Compared to other old man action movies it’s got to be the best one (DH4>Rambo, Indy 4, Expendables…)

    • I agree 5 was pretty mediocre. The action was great but everytime it slowed down and the characters started talking, it sucked. The movie was a mess. (ex: that dude that gets shot in the arm, recieves no medical attention, then later has the strength and motion in that same arm to huck a cell phone clear across a room)

      but yeah the original is a masterpiece, die hard 4 is a whole lot of fun, and it actually felt less nerfed than 5 to me. cuz everybody complains that 4 was nerfed and pg-13 and stuff. it felt more gritty to me than 5, just saying..

      haven’t seen 2, seen part of 3 on tv

      • I just realize you didn’t opinionate on 5 at all… haha now I look like a moron. I guess I just assumed what your opinion was based on mine haha

      • my bad… you didn’t opinionate on 5. haha my mistake.

  2. I really liked this one. Lets face it, nothing can be better than the original. I really have no complaints. I went in expecting it to be a lot less and loved it. Bruce Willis still has it going for him. Unlike Stallone and Arnold… Expendables was bad, Last Stand was bad, Bullet to the Head… *sighs* terrible.

  3. I don’t know what movie you watched Kofi, but I thought it was great. It definitely was not the worse Die Hard movie, Die Hard 2 holds that honor. Granted, if you watch this movie without having seen the previous movies, you won’t like it. However, if you are a die hard Die Hard fan, you will enjoy it immensely.

  4. I can’t disagree more. This film was excellent, and recaptures the spirit of the original Die Hard. Especially after the wit-less, CGI fiasco that was Live Free or Die Hard, the 5th installment delivers with good, credible action and a Bruce Willis who actually sounds like he is the real John McClane and not just playing himself–he didn’t even have a New York accent in the previous movie. All in all it was fast-paced, gritty, and realistic, save for the very ending which was impressively over-the-top in a good way, finely choreographed and with excellent cinematography. Much wittier than Die Hard II & IV, but of course I & III still take the cake in the well-written department. MczClane Jr. was a pleasant surprise as far as acting and character. I was fearing that the new actor would be a pathetic, watered-down cliche, possibly stealing the show (in a bad way), but he truly stood up to the role and had an excellent dynamic with the venerable hero, and didn’t get in the way of the real hero being the star of the film. A worthy conclusion to the series, with all the elements, and it vindicates the franchise name after the previous sorry excuse for a movie. A Good Day to Die Hard: a fun, fun, wonderful action-filled extravaganza!

  5. I didn’t see a Die Hard movie last night.
    I saw a generic action movie that had Die Hard in the credits.
    Nothing more.

  6. OMG. How come there are folks saying DH2 was the worst in the series? Has their been a virus that has affected the IQs of everybody so that they think DH4 and DH3 rank higher than DH2? What sequel tips its stetson to the original and practically winks at the audience (”How can the same 5hit happen to the same guy twice?!”)?

    DH3? Boring; running around playing playground games and busting the occasional cap, plus a British thesp’s atrocious German accent. DH4? A betrayal of the action film genre; J Mc doesn’t even get to say the ”Yippee…” properly because its drowned out to retain the rating for accompanied brats. And don’t get me started on the sub-Super Man riding the F35 after falling out of the truck; super freeze-dried BS.

    DH4 marked the end of J Mc as the archetypal regular Joe and elevated him to bullet-proof, indestructible, fourth generation superoheroic hero in the vein of Chuck Norris and Stallone, Segal, and Arnie of the 80s; DH5 merely reinforces this confidence trick but without any of the guile and subtlety.

    • I agree with you but only when it comes to your surprise at people thinking the 4th was the best because honestly, that movie was terrible.

      Honestly, I’d put them in this order:

      DH5 (despite not seeing it yet)
      DH4 (at the bottom where it deserves to be)

    • I cannot for the life of me figure out why people hate Die Hard 2! It’s just completely mental. It was the only one of the sequels that actually lived up to the first. From 3 onwards it’s never the same again…

      • Exactly!!! The second movie was actually quite good, if not better in some ways than the first. After the second movie, it’s not worth watching at all. I think it’s the younger millennials just not being of sound mind that is to blame.

  7. i saw it last nite. hopefully thats the last movie in the franchise. i thought they would try to continue with Jack, but no. Jack cant hold a whole movie w/o dad.


  9. Well, good news for this movie.

    It knocked Wreck-It Ralph off the number 1 spot.

  10. DH5 was just plain bad. Some moments hold up, you think, ‘yea, theres John McClane’. But the rest feels like nothing like Die Hard.
    Its possibly the worst, between it and 4. I loved the 1st and 3rd films, even though Vengeance was a leap away from traditional Die Hard, i liked the story. I also liked 2, its not as bad as people suggest, at least John isnt a super-hero by then, and he’s still effing off in every other sentence.
    I still long for a new film that returns to the core of my favourite action franchise, a believable plot, with a vulnerable, badass, REAL, John McClane. Maybe Die Hard 6, but nothing like 4 or 5.

    • Thank You! Die Hard 2 is not at all the worst.

  11. Die hard 5 was stupid and not as good as the first 4. If they make a 6th die hard they should get holly, Samuel l Jackson and a Gruber.

  12. the got make die hard 6 a lot better than 5. die hard 5 didn’t have a good villain and john mcclane was a sidekick, instead while the hero was his son which he had absolutely no chemistry with?! come on! they got to do better than that. word to the wise, 20th century fox, get better writers and a director who understands the die hard franchise. get john mctiernan, Sylvester Stallone, renny harlin, Shane black, Richard donner,