Sophie Raworth’s in an action film! No, really; the BBC newsreader turns up in A Good Day to Die Hard before Bruce Willis has even had the chance to slip on his flak jacket (though she’s not, sadly, wielding an AK-47). An unexpected turn of events, to be sure, and one which encapsulates this movie’s idiosyncratic melding of the familiar and the eyebrow-raising.
A lot of critics hated A Good Day to Die Hard and, in truth, it’s not hard to see why. In an age of intelligent action movies like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises and the Bourne series, the fifth Die Hard outing comes off as particularly dumb.
Few would deny that it’s silly and over the top, but it’s also a lot of fun, and if you have a soft spot for the kind of brainless 90-minute frag-fests Chuck Norris made in his 80s heyday, you’ll have a ball.
(In fact, I’m convinced that director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods are a pair of genre fans who deliberately played everything in A Good Day to Die Hard for laughs.)
The plot, such as it is, sees John McClane (Willis) travelling to Russia after learning that his never-before-seen son Jack (Jai Courtney) is on trial for assassinating the henchman of a high ranking Russian politician.
McClane doesn’t really have a plan to spring his boy but heads to Moscow anyway, where, luckily enough, someone blows up the courthouse where his son is being tried, wiping out everyone but McClane Jr and a mysterious Russian dissident who knows the location of a file that would end the aforementioned corrupt politician’s career.
Thereafter the chase is on, as John, Jack and their Russian accomplice Yuri race to evade the criminals who’ve been sent to track down the file. After a few twists and turns, which it would be rude of me to spoil, the film’s final showdown plays out in, of all places, Chernobyl.
It’s cheesy and clichéd, but that’s all part of the fun. And while some commentators have called AGDtDH’s plotting ham-fisted, the film actually makes great use of some of the action genre’s sillier tropes.
For instance, there’s a point about two thirds of the way through the film where the McClanes need to acquire both a car and an arsenal of weapons. But far from dwelling on this little inconvenience for too long, screenwriter Woods just sends the pair to the car park of a Moscow nightclub, places a set of car keys in McClane Sr’s hand and sticks a cache of guns in the vehicle’s boot. Bish-bosh; job done.
And, trust me, that’s just one example of this film’s audacious disregard for common sense, which had me laughing out loud time and again.
The action scenes, such as the early 15-minute-long(!) car chase, are so overblown that they inspire both gasps and guffaws. Meanwhile, Willis’s wisecracks rarely fail to raise a grin, and even the much-mocked father and son ‘bonding’ moments which crop up throughout the film are so unbelievably cheesy that they’ll induce giggles in anyone not taking any of this too seriously (and just how seriously are you expected to take a film with a title as bewilderingly nonsensical as A Good Day to Die Hard?)
No, it’s not a patch on the first three entries in the series (though it’s infinitely more fun than the po-faced Die Hard 4.0), but – unlike seemingly everyone else – I had a good day watching the fifth Die Hard film.
Is A Good Day to Die Hard a good movie? Nope. Is it a good bad movie, though? Without a doubt. In summary: John McClane’s back and sillier than ever. Yippee-ki-yay to that!