A Good Day to Die Hard

Febreze for radiation
John Moore
Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Yuliya Snigir, Sebastian Koch
The Setup: 
Fourteenth installment of the 80s action series.

I know from the outside running this site may seem like all glamour. The stars, the glitter, the nights sitting alone in my apartment watching movies, the days on the subway train writing reviews, but folks, I have a job, too. Or at least I did. Then I got laid off, and face long mornings of sending out resumes in every direction, and afternoons of ending up seeing movies like this just to be out of the house. But at least we haven't yet descended to the level of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

We open by introducing Yuri Kamarov, dude held in prison because he knows nuclear secrets, and politician Viktor something-or-other, who wants to keep Kamarov from testifying because it'll blow the lid off of some scandal he's involved in. The music, one of the best elements of the film, blares with James Bond-like swagger as we have a fun and energetic title sequence.

Cut to New York, where we meet Bruce Willis as McClane receiving information that his long-lost son is now a CIA operative in Moscow. He's going to travel there, find him, and engineer a father-son rapprochement. He is driven to the airport by his long-lost daughter, who materialized for the last film, making us wonder exactly how many long-lost kids he has squirreled away around the globe. He lands the morning of the trial, and goes straight to the courthouse, where he knows Jack, his son, will be. Jack, meanwhile, is imprisoned next to Kamarov, and is giving him a number of significant looks, to the extent you might expect him to be edging his foot under the partition to tap Kamarov's. But evil is afoot! Some metrosexual terrorist working for Viktor whatever blows up a bunch of cars, damaging the courthouse, and goes in with a team of snipers to kill Kamarov. Jack, however, has sprung Kamarov, and is spiriting him away in a van, when who should they run into but--Dad!

He stops them long enough to screw up the escape, and when Jack and Kamrov take off, Dad commandeers a large truck to go after them. No getting away from that healing father-son talk with this guy! He sees an even bigger truck full of baddies providing vehicular harassment to Jack, so he inserts himself into the mobile battle. Meanwhile, massive amounts of nearby cars are getting smashed, sending spatters of shattered glass, which will only continue. At a certain point, McClane drives his huge truck over several cars in traffic, crushing them. They happen not to have people in them, but are there in traffic on the roadway, so it seems they are meant to be cars with passengers, only they've been removed to distance from the impression McClane is killing numerous random motorists. Near the end, he is involved in a collision that sends his truck flipping several times over numerous parked cars, from which he emerges without a scratch! But this is just the first of many such miracles in this film.

During a short break, Jack overhears his Dad say that he was never around for his kids growing up, and starts to soften. He never refers to McClane as "Dad," so you can guess one thing that will happen by the end of the film. They aren't allowed to sit long before that place is shot full of bullets. By the way, Komarov is with them the whole time, acting like a scared political prisoner. They escape, then have to go to a hotel to get "the file," which is this film's MacGuffin. They aren't long there before they realize--it's a trap!

And guess what? Komarov's own daughter has joined the bad guys and kidnaps him (now in possession of "the file"). There's a thing here where both Jack and McClane are tied up, and we see Jack cut his own ties, but then McClane is just miraculously loose a second later. They evade several bullets, then jump down a construction chute and fall several floors, bodily breaking through several platforms of wooden boards, and when they go to the ground, twenty floors down, they're FINE!

Then they find out that this whole thing has something to do with Chernobyl. So they steal a car which just HAPPENS to have a bunch of assault weapons in the back, and head out there. Kamarov and team have already arrived and--can you believe it?--Kamarov and daughter are actually IN ON IT together, they just used Jack to spring Dad from jail and evade Viktor what's-his-name. And guess what else? There's no "file," what they really want is a huge cache of weapons-grade plutonium. They go into the vault and--this was a highlight--vanquish the deadly radiation with ANTI-RADIATION SPRAY. Yep, they've got big canisters of Febreze for Radiation, and a bit of spraying leaves the area radiation-free and smelling like mountain wildflowers after a summer rain. I hope I don't have to tell you that no such thing exists in reality.

Jack and McClane just drive right in--pretty much anyone can just drive on in to Chernobyl, apparently, and soon end up, once again, in a big gunfight. All along there has been this hot bald, bearded thug in a suit, looking sexy, but we haven't been able to get a good look at him. The movie handily wins 35 goodwill points by having him suddenly, inexplicably, doff his shirt, and gives us some decent coverage of his tattoo-covered body. Until he dies a few moments later, that is. But A+ for effort. In here I learned that if one is in a room filled with flammable gas, which becomes ignited, one need only crouch behind a pillar to receive total protection. Willis is thrown forty feet through a window and steel support, which gives easily, leaving him essentially unharmed. Soon both he and Jack are leaping into the swimming pool to escape the fiery blast of the exploding helicopter--that is the SWIMMING POOL at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, you know the one--and in here Jack calls McClane "Dad" and the healing has begun. It's so moving.

Well, it was total crap, but that's not to say it wasn't fun. I was amused the entire time, either by it or by laughing at it. Still, even by crap cash-in sequel standards, it was pretty bare bones. You get exactly three big action sequences, and the climax comes before it feels like the movie has even gotten going. Which is to say, it never really gathers much momentum or becomes genuinely involving. And the characters and their interactions are not interesting. And the villain's plan doesn't hold that much that is compelling. It's just an excuse to set action pieces in motion, which it accomplishes. It also occurs over the course of one day, a day in which McClane has been awake for 20 hours before the action even begins, making it quite amazing that he never simply nods off.

The last one, whatever it was called, made a strength of being the fourth sequel that no one asked for by giving the whole thing an attitude of jocularity and winking about itself, casting its over-the-top setpieces as hilariously over the top, and having McClane be our bemused protagonist. Here things have gone so over-the-top as to be merely ridiculous, distancing us from the movie instead of inviting us to get involved in the fun. Really--why are we still talking about this? It's a cash-in sequel that gives you exactly that: a cash-in sequel. It'll amuse you for 90 minutes, and you'll forget you ever saw it before the credits have even finished. I got more amusement from thinking of suggested titles for the next one, such as "Die Harder Than It Was Hitherto Thought Possible" or "Die Harder Than a Hard-Dyin' Dog On a Dirty Low-Down Deuce of a Day."

Should you watch it: 

It's your time, but you can spend your time on better movies.