I was rather horrified by the opening sequence of this fifth and latest Die Hard film, where my loyalty to Bruce Willis’s heroic character was just about undone. For some reason, probably a misguided attempt to spice up the formula, John McClane goes around ruining everything for the entire opening of the film. Needless to say, I was upset by this apparent disregard for the image of the stoic hero by newcomers to the franchise, writer Skip Woods and director John Moore.
Sure, things don’t always go smoothly for the world’s bravest cop, but he doesn’t generally go rampaging through civilian vehicles causing millions of dollars in damage just to say hi to his son. Yes that’s right, his son – who apparently exists, and has a major part in the film – played decently by Aussie Jai Courtney. It turns out this son, Jack, works for the CIA, or at least did until he became a burnable asset thanks to his meddling dad.
I am pleased to say that after the initial shock, and once McClane is made aware of what’s going on, the movie straightens back onto the tried and true Die Hard path, where Bruce Willis gets to do what he does best. For those who are unsure, that means being a badarse. There is a little character development thrown in – the romantic attachment underlying the first film has been transposed to his kid this time around. The aging McClane realises he regrets being the slack father that his kid resents. However, you can bet they’ll patch up their relationship along the way, amidst flying bullets and falling helicopters. And there is plenty of that.
The action, of course, is really what the Die Hard franchise is about, and complete with some rather ridiculous stunts and locations – a trip to Chernobyl in civvies anyone? – we are served plenty. It is presented in varying shades of blue and yellow and nothing much else, which gets a little old, with the usual fast-paced camera work by action cinematographer Jonathan Sela.
The bad guys are, surprise surprise, Russian and are interesting enough to have shoot-outs with, but not enough to be memorable. There is a dastardly plot twist which you may or may not see coming, and that stokes the flames just enough to keep the weak story going. While it has the conventional struggles and dire situations, it isn’t psychologically stimulating and lacks thriller elements that the original had. The casting fits, except that Courtney bears no resemblance to Willis, but no one is memorable. Although it should be said that Russian actor Yuliya Snigir is stunning and commands some level of respect. She was apparently once a professional chess player.
In the end, the film turned out better than I thought it was going to be, during my initial panic attack after the borderline blasphemous opening. It is a perfectly good reason to get on the couch and shovel popcorn, but it marks a further departure for the franchise and just doesn’t stack up against the glory of the original instalment. I don’t think anyone expected it would, but then you have to ask the question, what’s the point?
Screencaps by Screencaps.us