“A Good Day to Die Hard” was released on Valentine’s Day in 2013 and received many less-than-favorable reviews from critics. Audiences had more mixed feelings about how the film fared, both as a standalone piece and as part of the iconic “Die Hard” action franchise. Many fans seemed to appreciate a new installment in the action series. Long-time fans seemed to feel that the film did not cover much new ground and that the franchise may have lost some of its bite over the years.
A Return to the Past
The plot’s return to the use of clichés that were commonplace in the ’80s and ’90s failed to resonate with many long-time “Die Hard” fans. The movie relies on traditional Russian villains that many moviegoers seemed to feel were out of place in a post-Cold War setting. The plot itself revolves around a nuclear-armed Russia seeking more uranium for its bombs. This is strange given that the film is set in the heart of Russia, notably the region around Chernobyl, in the 21st century. During a time when the Russians are selling off excess munitions and are restricted from selling any of their nuclear weapons by treaties, it makes little sense to informed fans that they would seek to construct new bombs.
The Many One-Liners
Bruce Willis’s John McClane is perhaps best known for his iconic one-liners. However, the new film’s few attempts at delivering humor or showing the power of the character through one-line jabs failed to please many viewers. Many of these seemed intentionally censored. Gone were the “yippee ki-yay” expletives of the past. Instead, these one-liners were replaced with watered down or bowdlerized versions clearly aimed at a younger audience. Younger fans and those unfamiliar with the series seemed to miss the one-liners less and focused more on the film’s action, but long-time “Die Hard” aficionados definitely noticed the difference. John’s son, Jack, attempts to get in on the one-liner action, and his delivery of quips seems much more believable for audience members who are willing to accept that the lines come from a child attempting not to curse around or offend a parent. The choice to bowdlerize lines in a movie that’s sure to draw those with fond memories of the series seems to indicate that the film is looking more towards future generations than back at its core audience.
More Blasts from the Past
“A Good Day to Die Hard” features plenty of the explosions and action you’d expect from an ’80s action movie, and many fans cite the action as one of the film’s highlights. The action sequences deliver all of the punch expected, helping cover some of the faults originating from the stereotypical plot and weak one-liners. Brilliant explosions more suited to a Michael Bay production than a more realistic John Moore piece actually excited many members of the audience. “Die Hard” movies of the past commonly relied on one or two big explosions and much more dramatic action that filled the tense moments in between. The new film includes more explosions and action to fill the moments in between the sparse dialogue and minor plot development points. The fact that McClane still hasn’t learned how to deal with children, other adults, or anyone else he encounters on any social or emotional level may still resonate with some fans of the original series. Others may find it off-putting, given the amount of character development and revelation that occurred in the first few films of the series.
The Best of the Rest
As a whole, the acting in the movie was spot-on. Many younger fans who have not seen the first two or three films in the franchise were taken in by the explosions and chase scenes that hearkened back to an earlier day. Audience members also enjoyed John McClane’s emotional struggles and his apparent inability to deal with the world around him in the 21st century. The cinematography is clearly drawn directly from modern film schools, which served director Moore well in “Max Payne” and “Flight of the Phoenix” but may seem jarring to old-school fans.
Overall, audiences’ impressions of the film were mixed. Reviews penned by moviegoers praise a few elements of the movie while giving an overall mediocre rating. Many cited the lack of development of the main characters and the use of outdated Cold War tropes as being the worst elements of the film. However, the over-the-top ’80s-style action and ramped-up use of chases and explosions found some fans among both the older and younger viewers.