03rd Jun2013

‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, Cole Hauser | Written by Skip Woods | Directed by John Moore

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Since the first Die Hard in 1988, John McClane has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the skills and attitude to always be the last man standing – and as cinemagoers we’ve loved him for it. However now John McClane faces his greatest challenge ever, this time on an international stage, with A Good Day to Die Hard. The fifth film in the franchise sees John McClane stumble on his estranged son Jack’s daring prison rescue of a Russian scientist bent on testifying against the countries corrupt leader. When the escape attempt goes awry, father and son McClane must work together to keep each other alive and keep the world safe for democracy.

When news broke that A Good Day to Die Hard was seeking an R rating in the US many rejoiced, after all the previous entry in the series scored a PG-13 and many complained that the theatrical cut was too watered down. However the rejoicing turned to consternation here in the UK when Twentieth Century Fox re-cut this fifth film for a 12A rating here in Blighty. News was that some of the bloodletting and the majority of the swearing had been removed for the UK cut – and some of my fellow movie bloggers were up in arms. How dare the studio aim for a huge opening for the film by allowing the biggest audience to see the film. “So typical of Hollywood”, they cried!

Me? Well I was still excited to see Bruce Willis kick more ass as John McClane, even if he did need a little help from Jai Courtney as John Jr.and now, in this “Extended Harder Cut” we finally get to see the film in all it’s uncut glory! And expecting nothing more than an action-packed explosion-fest, with plenty of gunfights and quips thrown in for good measure, that’s exactly what I got. A Good Day to Die Hard features the same John McClane we’ve always rooted for, if a little older but still none the wiser; the same level of violence we’ve come to expect from the series; and the same mix of laughs and action the has punctuated the franchise since 1988.

Taking working-class hero John McClane international adds a whole new “Bond” angle to the Die Hard franchise, especially given McClane Jr.’s CIA role, and A Good Day to Die Hard certainly felt like a new direction for the series – more international espionage than “man in the wrong place at the wrong time.” And whilst some have decried the change as a betrayal of the ethos of the Die Hard series, I say it’s the logical next-step for the franchise that has got bigger and bigger in scale with each film. The first took place in a building, the third in a city and the fourth across the US. So it’s makes perfect sense that McCalne and co. would go global for this film. The question is where do they go from here in the already announced SIXTH movie?

Former TV star Jai Courtney (Spartacus: War of the Damned) is an adequate foil for Bruce Willis at the films beginning, finally holding his own against the superstar come the final showdown in Chernobyl – the duos character arc is at least believeable if some of the action isn’t. Whilst Sebastian Koch makes for an “interesting” character – yes his character’s story arc is a little predictable but its nevertheless a great performance from Koch. Meanwhile the action is gloriously OTT, thanks to a spurious use of CGI and some great set pieces – the final scenes featuring the McClane’s going head-to-head with a helicopter really do need to be seen to be believed.

If you love a good action movie like me, then you’ll enjoy this latest entry in the long-running franchise. A Good Day to Die Hard is released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 10th.

**** 4/5

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