REVIEW: ‘Die Hard’ sequel doesn’t crash and burn
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:02
I feel like I’ve seen this one before. A grizzled, veteran police officer is a fish out of water in a foreign country. He wastes no time in cracking skulls or commandeering vehicles. Also, he has lots of one-liners and often emphasizes he is not a local.
No, this isn’t the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit “Red Heat,” but out of all fairness to “A Good Day to Die Hard,” it’s never pretentious or boring. By embracing its chintzier plot elements and setting of the over-the-top action pieces, the fun factor can be quite high at times and the Russian villains sound that much more evil with their thick accents.
Special operative Jack McLane, played by Jai Courtney, is working undercover for the CIA in Moscow to apprehend political prisoner Yuri Komarov, played by Sebastian Koch. Yuri is set to testify against the corrupt defense minister Viktor Chagarin, played by Sergei Kolesnikov. A file with incriminating information, which Yuri claims to know the location of, is Jack’s answer to bringing down Chagarin in an operation that has lasted three years.
Meanwhile, NYPD officer John McLane, played by Bruce Willis, catches drift his son is in potential danger when Jack’s file shows up in the office. Sensing something big could be happening, John heads off to Russia to aid his estranged son, oblivious to the fact Jack works for the CIA.
As expected, John’s interference in Jack’s work causes all hell to break loose as the two are tailed by Chagarin’s henchmen, led by the vicious Alik, played by Radivoje Bukvic. Yuri is soon captured and forced to digress the location of the secret file, which turns out to be in Chernobyl. Now the McLanes must put aside their family feud and work together to save Yuri and prevent Chagarin from realizing his dangerous plan.
Director John Moore takes a page from Michael Bay and sets up some pretty spectacular explosions and mayhem. In an early part of the film, Jack is being chased by thugs in a large, armored vehicle that handily demolishes anything in its path. On the crowded streets of Moscow, this makes for an exciting albeit somewhat unbelievable chase. For some added humor, John McLane follows behind the vehicle in a small truck attempting to knock it off course. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film set a new record for the amount of demolished cars in a single scene.
Thankfully, Bruce Willis is as spry and likable as ever. The sheer number of action films he has under his belt certainly gives him the credibility to still do outrageous stunts and spew ridiculous one-liners, and his self-musings are still just as fun as they were back in the original “Die Hard.” I will admit, it got a bit wearisome hearing him emphasizing how he is on vacation all of the time. We already knew that part.
Jai Courtney comes off a bit harder to initially like, though. Next to Willis, he is an essential part of the film, and being able to identify with his character is critical. Here, the film runs into problems.
There isn’t much backstory between the father-son duo in the same way “Live Free or Die Hard” fleshed out McLane’s daughter, Lucy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead reprises her role in a small appearance for this one. While an admittedly nice touch, the film would have noticeably benefitted with not only more from her, but from a stronger script foundation in regards to McLane’s son.
Yes, we see “Die Hard” movies for spectacular action scenes and cool characters, not great scripts and acting. But unfortunately, those latter elements have become less pronounced and sometimes downright ignored in favor of bigger explosions and hammier villains. Heck, even Jeremy Irons in the third entry was a significant step down from Alan Rickman in the first.
Case in point, the villains in this film rarely present a genuine threat to the McLanes because they either talk a bit too much or they flat-out do stupid things. This clearly saps some of the tension that may otherwise be present. When Alik has John and Jack right where he wants them he whacks them a couple of times sure, but then he starts dancing and talking about how good he could have been at it. Bet you couldn’t tell this is meant to give McLane extra time to plot an escape while listening to Alik’s evil monologue, but I digress.
There are no doubt legitimate flaws in “A Good Day to Die Hard,” yet Bruce Willis’ performance and the spectacular action sequences almost made me forget about them until the film ended. Considering the drought of decent action flicks in Hollywood as of late, it’s hard to go wrong here as long you adjust your expectations accordingly.
– Sam McConkie is a senior in the technical and professional writing program at USU. He is a keen writer and has been a dedicated gamer for years. Sam can be reached at email@example.com