John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Russia after learning that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is in prison awaiting trial.
Alright, let me stop right here and say that none of that first sentence — that John finds out about Jack’s imprisonment, how Jack gets himself in trouble — makes any kind of sense as the story unfolds. Not only the premise but pretty much every bit of backstory is completely absurd. As the plot unwinds, it’s helpful to remember that it’s not so much that the movie goes in a nonsensical direction, it’s that not a bit of it ever made sense to begin with.
And so, after Jack arrives at the courthouse, ready to testify against Komarov (Sebastian Koch) — don’t worry about why or what he did, neither of us needs to waste time in our lives trying to suss it out — there is an explosion, and a small army attacks the courthouse, looking for Komarov. Jack grabs Komarov and lights out. But John, seeing Jack and Komarov getting away, tries to stop Jack, telling his son that it will be worse for him if he runs. That doesn’t stop Jack, though, so John follows him, shooting the bad guys (or, at least, I’m pretty sure they’re bad guys) who are also following Jack and Komarov.
He might not know what’s going on, but John McClane is always going to try to run a truck into another truck, particularly if that second truck includes guys firing heavy weaponry.
Eventually, we learn that Jack’s “escape” is not what it appears, and soon John is forced to help him and Komarov get away from, er, people who are chasing them.
Why? Well, as Jack explains at one point, these are bad guys. And then he says “terrorists, WMDs, nukes.” That’s not an exact quote but something like that, just a list of bad things. He could have said “grease stains, root canals, IRS audits” for all that it mattered to the plot. I don’t know that just saying the words “terrorists, WMDs, nukes” is really enough set in motion a such a massive, violent outing. (Feel free to make your own Iraq war joke here.) But that’s basically all we get.
Oh, well, that and explosions. Lots of explosions. Explosions that explode into more explosions. And you’ll also find some helicopter-related violence, guys jumping through windows (a lot of windows; whoever sells prop glass had a very good year) and so much shooting that it’s really only the moments when there isn’t shooting that stick out.
And all of this is why people go see a Die Hard movie. You aren’t going for the plot or the fantastic acting, which is why Timothy Olyphant’s evil hacker and the car-into-helicopter all worked so well in Live Free Or Die Hard. Why this movie isn’t anywhere near as good as that is that the story and the performances can’t be so egregiously terrible as to pull you away from marveling at all the action movie delights. Willis’ face is stuck in permanent smirk, and Courtney is barely an animate object. And while I am perfectly fine with the retro rewind use of Russia as the source of villainy (not to mention the use of Chernobyl as a major plot point), there is something a little too on-the-nose about the bad guy who points out that it’s not 1986 anymore.
A Good Day to Die Hard is an eardrum-shatteringly loud movie that should have shaved the special effects just a hair to buy itself an at least coherent plot. C
Rated R for violence and language. Directed by John Moore with a screenplay by Skip Woods (from original characters by Roderick Thorp), A Good Day to Die Hard is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.