I think the best thing you can say about A Good Day to Die Hard is that it’s the fourth best Die Hard movie. Die Hard is another class, with Die Hard 2 coming in a distant second. Die Hard with a Vengance has its problems but is still enjoyable. Then there’s this one, followed by Live Free or Die Hard. I looked back and found my review of the fourth, and noticed I gave it a higher rating than I did this one, but I’ll chalk that up to more lenient tastes in my younger days.
John McClane (Bruce Willis in case you didn’t know) gets news of the arrest of his son (he has a son!) in Russia of all places. Of course, McClane makes the trip to Moscow - and you were wondering how trouble always seems to find him. This makes four of five Die Hard movies where one of John’s relatives are in danger - his wife Holly in the first two, he calls Holly in the third but she isn’t in any danger, Lucy his daughter in the fourth, and now his estranged son, John. McClane gets one look at his son on a perp walk before the courthouse is bombed at the behest of high-ranking Russian politician Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) in an attempt to shut up political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). This is good news for Jack (Jai Courtney) because it turns out he is no common criminal. He’s part of a CIA operation to free Komarov. His crime was meant to get him in the courthouse with Komarov and then apparently wait for a terrorist attack that he and CIA had no knowledge of. He grabs Yuri and all is going well until his father runs out in front of his getaway vehicle. The momentary pause in the escape leads to the Chagarin’s men catching up to them. A destructive chase with no regard for human or automobile life ensues on the streets of Moscow. Lead henchman Alik (Radivoje Bukvic) chases Jack in what is called a Ural Typhoon, a monstrous armored vehicle, while John harries them in a carjacked Mercedes SUV. Somehow John is able to disrupt the bad guys and survive a terrible crash in classic McClane fashion.
They get to a safe house. The safe house is attacked and Jack’s partner (Cole Hauser) is killed. Yuri will only go with them if they get his daughter. He meets his daughter, Irina (Yuliya Snigir), but she’s with the bad guys. Alik is going to kill the McClanes (he hates Americans), but they escape. Alik and Irina come back in one of those hellish looking Russian helicopters with the double bubble glass in the front. Jack and John jump out - actually, through - a window, fall through a scaffolding, down a construction garbage shoot, all the while avoiding rounds from the helicopter before they crash to the ground.
They walk away. I would love to see a full body CT scan of this man some day.
It turns out Chagarin wants a file from Komarov that implicates the former in the Chernobyl disaster. Think of this plot twist from a Russian perspective. Now reverse it. Having a plot centered around Chernobyl in an American film is like a Russian filmmaker having a plot twist centered around Area 51 or 9/11. It’s like they took the one thing everyone knows about Russia just to be safe.
A key with Die Hard movies is the villain. Who we are rooting against is a little confusing in this fifth installment. It starts off as Chagarin and Alik, with Irina joining them later, only to have it turn out that Komarov and his daughter were playing the Russians and Americans the whole time. Chagarin is a departure from the classic Die Hard villain in that he’s a high ranking bad guy, but he barely appears. Alik is the “anger beneath a veneer of nonchalance” variety of villain. His personality is more like Karl (Alexander Godunov, from the first) or Mathias Targo (Nick Wyman, from the third) in that he’s more flappable and prone to be vicious. Komarov is more of the type of villain we’re used to. Like Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) or Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) before him, Komarov is a sophisticated European villain who turns out to be a thief rather than a political terrorist. The problem is he doesn’t get much screen time as the villain, and barely has time to match wits with McClane.
The action is all over the city of Moscow and then out into Chernobyl. It’s a departure from the first two, which were boxed into one setting (an office building, an airport), but it’s what the last three have become, each sprawling out into a different city (New York, DC, and now Moscow).
Like all Die Hard movies the action doesn’t disappoint. And like most action franchises it increases in magnitude. The physical violence is intense, though I only counted one of the brutal hand to hand fight scenes that Die Hard fans have grown accustomed to.
McClane is obviously the draw in these films as the every day cop up against a sophisticated villain with a well-oiled operation. These situations find him and he grudgingly accepts his lumps while trying to save the day. McClane breaks into this schtick too early in this go round. Right from the start he’s cracking wise almost as if he expects it. Maybe after four movies he does expect it. It does change the character though. In previous movies his humor was dark and self deprecating. It’s employed as a coping mechanism because McClane is in over his head in a situation he didn’t sign up for. In this movie McClane seems to relish it.