A Good Day to Die Hard
My Grade: B-
Frankly, I think this movie is getting needlessly panned by critics and some movie goers. I'm really not sure what they expected compared to how most action movies are these days. The movie is no where near as good as the first or third movies but it's certainly not terrible. I think I might go as far as to saying it's better than LFoDH. (Ranking, best to worst: Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengence, Die Hard 2, A Good Day to Die Hard, Live Free or Die Hard) but the gaps between those various ranks aren't very big.
A Good Day to Die Hard starts with some expository information between a Russian prisoner and a Russian government official (I'm not clear what his position is.) The prisoner is set to go on "trial" shortly where he's expected to go to prison for the rest of his life unless he gives our governmental official the information he wants. The prisoner refuses, citing the usual movie reasons of having nothing to live for outside of the prison.
Meanwhile John "Jack" McClane, Jr. walks into a Russian night club and performs a hit and finds himself quickly arrested. This ends up to be part of a mission he's on for the CIA to capture the Russian prisoner (in hindsight I'm not sure how) as he has information the US Government needs to possibly keep dangerous weapons and materials out of the government official.
Once Jack is arrested John McClane takes a trip to Moscow in order to reunite and be with his estranged son and soon finds himself in the middle of the CIA operation to protect the Russian scientist, recover the information he has and get him back to the states with his daughter. Naturally, as is usually the case with the Die Hard movies, nothing goes to plan for either the heroes or the bad guys nor is everything as it seems.
The movie benefits from not being gimped by a PG-13 rating and not being weighed down too much by comic relief moments and scenes (glances at Justin Long and Kevin Smith.)
The movie gets to the action pretty quickly and only processionally lets up for character scenes, unlike in the previous movie we do get some nice scenes of John "playing cop" and putting the pieces of things together. Even things that seemingly go over the head of his CIA-operative son.
Everything eventually builds up to our climatic scene in the ruins of the town near the melted down Chernobyl reactor.
The movie gets off to a decent start but I think it loses some steam in the middle -particularly during a protracted car-chase scene- but once John and his son begin working together on the mission (at first the younger McClane is hostile towards his father) things pick up, there's some great moments, and the final act battle while with plenty of over-the-top scenes and pieces plays out very well.
If there's one complaint I have about the movie is that it suffers from the "spastic camera" disease that inflicts many Hollywood action movies. The camera is almost constantly in motion as if it was filmed by Michael Bay suffering from advanced Parkinson's while having a seizure. There's some places where it works (there's some nice long-shots of the car-chase scene) but other places... not so much. But it's a fairly minor issue in an otherwise good movie.
I guess to register another complaint I'd say this movie (and the previous one) seemed to forget that John McClane is supposed to be an "every man." Not Rambo or an Arnold Schwarzenegger type. He's not supposed to be a man who can fall from a flaming helicopter, crash through several windows, into a drainage pool and then pretty much shrug it off. Watching the first movies again there's plenty of times John gets hurt and it shows. His action-ability is severely hampered in the first movie after walking through broken glass.
The movies also keeps upping the ante. The first and second movie are pretty trivial instances, where if McClane failed pretty much little of consequence would happen to the world as a whole. If he failed in the third movie, there may have been world-wide economic turmoil but it's hard to say. When we get to the fourth movie potentially the security of the country is at stake and in this one a WWIV situation is entirely possible if McClane fails. It's all a bit much about a movie series that was originally about some "dumb Irish flatfoot from Brooklyn" being the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maybe if we're to do another movie we need to get back to what made this movie series work, and redefined action movies. Stick John McClane in a building with limited help, limited resources and not much more than his wits. John McClane talking on a CB complaining about the taste of Twinkies is much truer to the character -for me- than John McClane doing ridiculous driving stunts in a Mercedes SUV during Soviet rush-hour.
All the same, I liked this movie. It was a good fun movie that is better than the previous one but still far from the first.