A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
John McClane is a family man. When he purged that New York tower block of eastern European terrorists in 1988, he wasn’t doing it out of patriotic or professional duty – he was doing it for his wife who was trapped in the building.
A Good Day to Die Hard reestablishes the familial theme by introducing John McClane Junior. In Russia. Inevitably, a crazily contrived set of circumstances brings NYPD beat cop McClane senior to the streets of Moscow to look out for his estranged son. Starting with the title, everything about the film feels lazily conceived. The plot is shabbily glued together with an adhesive made from Russian stereotypes. At one point the story requires the father-son duo to be armed. Not to worry – McClane Jr knows a club where loads of Chechens hangout and reckons they’ll have guns stashed in their cars. And they do!
The story builds up to a tediously long, painfully loud action sequence in Chernobyl nuclear plant. At one point (for about the 15th time) the McClanes find themselves jumping off a building, this time without a conveniently placed canvas awning to break their fall. So they instead land in… a swimming pool. In a nuclear plant? The transformation of Chernobyl power station to Chernobyl leisure centre is in keeping with the all-pervasive absurdity of the affair.
Whatever John McClane has been doing since the first Die Hard film, he certainly hasn’t been studying for an extramural masters in moral philosophy. “Let’s go and kill scumbags,” he suggests, “scumbags” being a synonym for Russians. The number of random vehicles crunched and squashed in one twenty minute car chase is disturbing. It seems that one of the pulls of setting the movie in Russia is that they could get away with higher civilian death tolls.
It feels like screenwriter Skip Waters stumbled across the script while clearing out his loft for the first time in two decades. Or that he based the entire movie on a “things I know about Russia” spider diagram from 1989. Xenophobic renderings of Russian baddies and implausible plots centring on enriched uranium should have ended in the 90s. The same goes for the Die Hard franchise.