February 13, 2013


Over the last few days, I’ve looked back at the Die Hard franchise, and tried to explain what makes these films unique.  The obvious answer is John McClane (Bruce Willis).  Willis helped to craft a memorable character who was the wise-cracking, scrappy, desperate hero we can all root for.  But it’s not simply an attitude.  Die Hard is a matter of circumstance and response, and the two best films—Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance—back McClane into a corner and force him to rely on his wits and strength to survive.  He gets the shit kicked out of him, swears constantly, but laughs in the face of near death.  John McClane’s personality lives in A Good Day to Die Hard.  Everything else dies horribly.

In its poor, convoluted excuse for a plot, John McClane heads to Moscow after his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is arrested for an assassination.  It turns out Jack is a CIA Agent who must rescue political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from Defense Minister Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) and his henchmen Alik (Rasha Bukvic) and Irina (Yuliya Snigir).  McClane accidentally gets in the way of Komarov’s extraction, so father and son are forced to take the Russian to get a special file that will expose Chagarin for being a bad guy.  The story gets much dumber from there.


For all of its many faults, Live Free or Die Hard at least admires John McClane, and wants to do right by him as best it can.  Screenwriter Skip Woods and director John Moore could not care less.  Everything feels mercenary and lazy to an insulting extent.  We don’t even know what McClane plans to do when he gets to Moscow since Jack is already under arrest and being brought to trial.  McClane doesn’t know either, but thankfully Alik arranges a bombing that springs Komarov (and unintentionally Jack) from the courthouse.  If Alik was the one who freed the pair, then how can the CIA team be ready for extraction, and how can the CIA team give up when McClane accidentally delays Jack from reaching the extraction point?

The film has nothing but disdain for its audience because it seems to believe that if you simply have Bruce Willis bringing the attitude of John McClane, and throw in some crappy action scenes, then you don’t need to give a crap about anything else.  Moore puts so much attention into an extended car chase that he doesn’t seem to realize that even though McClane gets into two wrecks, he emerges without a scratch.  Die Hard movies are all about the scratches and the blood.  More importantly, Woods and Moore have McClane behave recklessly by endangering the lives of Russian citizens as he chases after Jack.


Even if the protagonist wasn’t John McClane, he’d still be an irresponsible dick who we wouldn’t want as a hero.  We could maybe feel some kind of compassion for his motives if the conflict with Jack didn’t feel paper-thin, but all of Jack’s resentment comes off as whiny.  McClane felt his son was a delinquent, and Jack felt his father was too much of a hard-ass.  Gosh, I wonder if surviving a few shootouts will help them bond?  There’s more of a connection between Zeus and McClane in Die Hard with a Vengeance, and they start out as total strangers.

Like the father-son relationship, A Good Day to Die Hard fails at just about everything it tries to do.  The action scenes have a poor sense of geography and lack tension, although Moore does know how to make stuff blow up real good.  The pacing is atrocious, the digital effects look cheap, and the movie doesn’t even have a clear villain with understandable motives.  It may be difficult to nail the essence of a Die Hard movie, but how can you screw up the bad guy?  Alik has some quirks in search of a character, and some twists down the road are even more maddening since Woods clearly has no idea what the fuck he’s doing.  I expect no more from the writer of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Hitman.  This is a movie where Jack needs a gun at one point, doesn’t have a gun anywhere near him, and then basically pulls a gun out of the ether because that’s what the story demands.  If someone can tell me where that gun came from, it wouldn’t matter because then Moore fucked up by not showing us where it was in relation to Jack.


I almost feel bad asking for more when there’s this level of incompetence, but the movie absolutely wastes its setting.  At the beginning of the movie when a friend tells McClane “It’s Russia.  They do things differently over there,” it’s an invitation to take our All-American Hero and illustrate him through contrast.  Even though the Cold War is over, taking McClane out of America presents interesting possibilities.  Instead, it simply allows McClane to come to the eurotrash rather than the eurotrash coming to him.  We don’t get a sense of American heroism or values.  We leave Russia with only the vague sense of, “Wow.  Russian politics are weird.”

Of course, you can’t examine McClane in any sense when you don’t understand what makes him great.  Everyone other than Willis seems to have heard of the Die Hard movies and never actually watched them.  To his credit, Willis is actually trying this time around as opposed to his lethargic performance in Live Free.  The actor seems to be having fun, McClane is screaming at his enemies, and being generally rambunctious.  The spirit of McClane is active, but it lacks context.


What I hope I’ve explained in my retrospective is that the context is just as important as the John McClane character if not more so.  We have more than our share of wise-cracking heroes, but it’s the circumstances that bring out the best in McClane.  He’s not a guy who’s out to save the world like he’s supposed to do in Live Free or this movie.  His ability to survive can strain credulity but he never possesses outright invulnerability like he does here.  His motives and his enemies make a modicum of sense.  A Good Day to Die Hard painfully fails to realize that a Die Hard movie is not simply saying, “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.”

Rating: D-

Click on the respective links for my look back at Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Live Free or Die Hard.


Around The Web
  • ap30

    Yep, don’t care. I will still have fun watching it.

  • ap30

    Why do studio’s think going bigger is better? Have they really not learned that’s typically not the best way to go? I wouldn’t mind just seeing McClane straight picking off dudes one by one like in the first Die Hard. Have him infiltrate some f**cking compound for some legitimate reason, then have him merk the f**k out of all the baddies while talking sht and egging them on John McClane style. The money saved on special effects and all that bs goes towards a good writer and director. Boom, you have my money.

  • Rahuldravid

    The Main Difference btwn Older and new DH movies are simple..older ones were so realistic that you never get tired of watching and new ones were jzt visual effect craps..bruce jumpin from the rooftop or from a helicopter is kinda stupid..maybe its time they shld realise that exploding building and cars doesnt make a movie awsm!!!

  • Slice

    What ever happened to the street cop with marital problems walking around barefoot in a dirty shirt and figuring out the bad guys by the type of cigarettes they smoke?

    Die Hard was David Addison in The French Connection set in an LA high-rise. Sequel’s in name only.

    • Steve

      I agree. But if you think about the big action moment in Die Hard – the one that gets shown time and time again, is the shot of McClane jumping from the rooftop explosion. The studio believes, and rightly so, that the majority of people who go to see action movies want more of those moments. Not McClane giving a tearful message to a cop over the phone about his failed marriage. I want more of that. You want more of that. Most people here do. But the general movie audiences? Stupidity rules where they’re concerned.

  • Northern Star

    And with this dud, another once-great franchise hits the skids…

  • Bruce LeeRoy Still A Die Hard Fan!!

    LMAO This is typical critic shit! I’m not sure you remember the taxi from Die Hard 3 but he called in a fake officer down radio call to clear traffic not to mention almost running over people in the park! Sounds like the old Maclane to me! WaaaaaaaaaaH Dragon Kick!!! This was a misleading review Goldberg I give you a D- for Dis some bullshit!Seems like you have been building up to demolish it so I can’t take you full word got check it out 8 bucks in the afternoon is nothing.

    • Anonymessieur

      Better get going, dude, you have 61 other critics (and counting) whose reviews you need to throw a temper tantrum on.


      But, hey, it ain’t all bad news: 9 people agree with you! Kinda. I bet there’s at least 2 “faintly positive” reviews in that nine.

      • Johnson

        wow, you’re overdoing this, annomusiouer (whatever), the previous movies also had bad reviews and did that make them any worse… plese stop licking fatt goldberg’s ass

  • Mavro

    Honestly, as much as I want to enjoy this film, Skip Woods was the one ingredient from the get-go that pretty much ensured the quality of this film.

  • agent_black

    The Die Hard franchise is a useful allegory of why Religion and Politicians and the ’1%’ have hoodwinked us regular folks since the dawn of time and gotten away with the all the money and power leaving the scraps to us.,..

    You take one truly great thing, then with sleight of hand/smoke and mirrors, trick the populous or audience into thinking they are seeing repeated miracles when in fact, it’s a repetitive load of shit. A sack load of shit making a sack load of money for some other dude.

    And we just keep on buying it and the other dude gets a bigger house, care and swimming pool..

    Die Hard was a fucking great movie, 3 was passable but the rest were just utter bollocks. there’s nothing wrong with liking them or enjoying them but as far as content, substance, intelligence and originality… they sucked balls.

  • Teinen

    If people stop going to see these garbage movies by terrible directors maybe they’d stop making them. I blame you, all of you!

  • Anonymessieur

    Better get going, dude, you have 61 other critics (and counting) whose reviews you need to throw a temper tantrum on.


    But, hey, it ain\’t all bad news: 9 people agree with you! Kinda. I bet there\’s at least 2 \"faintly positive\" reviews in that nine.

    • Anonymessieur

      This was in response to that asshat above, not Matt

  • james

    Dont care about the reviews, i freakin loved it! Had a blast watching it.

    • Um, Sure

      Yes, and the money grubbing Suits at the Studios love you for it.

      • Johnson

        the guy had good time, who the fuck are you to judge him, you stuck up snob, stay at home and watch nothing if you’re so smart and allmighty

      • J Wilson

        Johnson, today you are my hero.

  • thaRiddler

    I want to cry.

  • Bert

    If they could’ve just followed the trajectory of DH3 we could’ve had an awesome DH4 or 5. Always imagined McClane as a security guard at this point for a resort or.even a mall, midnight shift. Would’ve called it HARD DAYS NIGHT or something to that extent. Anyway the bad guy would’ve been a commando army general who tries to pull off a heist that involves going under where McClane is working. Explosion happens, cops called the area is shut down. McClane inside the mall/resort recognizes the general from Nam. McClane works using his own wit and ingenuity to stop the hiest. No kids, just pure scrappy little guy placed into a violent situation action type adventure. Geez Fox is that so hard ? This is why Hollywood is bankrupt of ideas.

    • Jim

      Die Hard: Mall Cop? Didn’t we already see this movie with Kevin James and it was a complete turd?

  • Wardrums

    I don’t go to action movies to see realism. Nothing in any of the Die Hard films is realistic. It is over-the-top nonsense at its finest. We go to these movies to escape reality, not to want experience it.

  • MainFragger

    John McClane is so invincible, we’ve even caught G-d scratching his head and trying to figure out how he made it out of the explosions, shots, falls, and everything else he’s survived.. Thats pretty much a part of the franchise now.

    I’ve liked all of the Die Hard films, even though the last one REALLY did test the bounds of suspension of disbelief..

    I want to see this one, but I could tell, even from the commercial, that the baddy in this one is not that charismatic.. Still, I’ll give it a shot..

  • junierizzle

    Man, so bitter. It’s an entertaining action movie. Is it as good as the original? NO. But it isn’t terrible either. You guys are talking about it like it’s Jack and Jill.

    I swear ever since TDKR people just salivate at the thought of a movie to tear apart. No movie is safe.

  • Vance

    As much as he crapped on LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, which I loved, I figured I would probably enjoy this one. Nope. This was really just a mess of a movie. In every DIE HARD flick, there was a glimmer of intelligence and style. This had no soul. No matter how big the stunts were, they were filmed without flair or coherence, and couldn’t make up for the complete lack of story. If you liked THE EXPENDABLES, COMMANDO, or any Steven Seagal movie (besides UNDER SIEGE), you’ll love this.

    • Yahzee

      … “No soul” there, you nailed the problem with this movie. Here’s hoping Die Hard 6 will give the franchise the farewell it deserves. This cannot be the last time we see McClane.

  • Ryan

    I know it still doesn’t make any sense, but the “gun” that Jack used when he’s tied up with John is actually in the knife he uses to cut himself free. There’s a quick shot in the Cole Hauser scene of him loading up a few bullets in to it. Just wanted to clear it up for the reviewer’s sake, even if it doesn’t make any sense at all.

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  • Paul

    What about having Bonnie Bedelia show up at the end to make sure her son is ok and to tie the movies together a little.

  • Paul

    Why did he keep saying he is on vacation. He wasnt he was seeing and or rescuing his son. The dialogue was horrific for a Die Hard movie, could have just been a stand alone action movie starring Bruce Willis.

  • On a Good Day Die Hard

    Worst Movie of 2013.
    Poorly executed.
    Horribly written.
    Terribly directed.
    Boring as hell.
    Gawd Awful action
    Lame ass dialogue
    Stupid location
    Waste of $
    Hire someone who GIVES A DAMN to write the NEXT ONE!
    And PAY for a DECENT Director PLEASE!

  • Justin

    Paul Blart at least had a plot. This was practically improvised.

  • Justin

    Also Bad Cinematography.