Arriving as as fourth sequel, 25 years after the original, and with an incongruous Valentine’s Day release date, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is here, to show us that 57-year-old Bruce Willis can still kick ass.
‘A Good Day’ actually owes more to the “Taken” films than to the “Die Hard” series, as it features a pushing-60 hero traveling to a European capital to rescue one of his children, and subsequently taking on that city’s entire underworld in a series of explosive setpieces. It’s fun, but ultimately inconsequential, and doesn’t feel especially like a “Die Hard” movie.
Since the movie doesn’t especially care about its own plot, I don’t either, but for description’s sake, it concerns a couple of warring Russian oligarchs, one a political prisoner and the other a hardliner politician (think Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Putin.)
Willis’ John McClane gets word that his estranged son (Jai Courtney) is in custody in Moscow, so he makes the trip to rescue him. We first see Willis in the back of a cab, and I was disappointed that the cabbie didn’t ask Willis to tell him what it feels like to keel a man.
From there the film is just a series of explosive action setpieces, some of which are staged with some skill; I especially enjoyed an early chase scene in which Willis makes a monster truck rally out of a Moscow traffic jam. There’s also an extended sequence set in Chernobyl, which sort of strains any remaining measure of credibility.
John Moore (“Behind Enemy Lines”) is the director this time, and while there’s a bit too much of shaky cam in some of the action scenes, things are staged with a decent amount of creativity. The film is also respectably short- the listed running time is 107 minutes, but I’d guess about 15 minutes of that is the closing credits.
The 57-year-old Willis isn’t at the point yet where he’s too old to still appear in action films; I suppose making an occasional “Expendables” movie with his even older, worse-looking friends helps him maintain his youthful glow. Courtney is pretty nondescript as the son, although he looks so jacked that I’m surprised he wasn’t named in the Biogenesis investigation. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in two short scenes as Willis’ daughter, continuing her career-long streak of being serially underused.
The previous film in the series, “Live Free or Die Hard,” was famously taken from an unrelated script that was retrofitted into the “Die Hard” universe. I’m not sure if that happened here, but I wouldn’t be surprised- aside from a few catchphrases and obvious homages to the earlier movies, ‘Good Day’ often feels less like a “Die Hard” sequel than just a random, Moscow-set Bruce Willis action movie.