John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard is the Ugly American. He's boorish and obnoxious in a foreign country, Russia, and he causes a lot of damage, and kills scores of innocent Russians, to get what he considers important. Never mind the lives of the people he killed and what they wanted. They were sitting in traffic, on their way to work, and he bounced on their cars with his own, killing them—and he wasn't even sorry, making wisecracks,, in fact, all the while. (Because it is so stupid and ridiculous throughout, I will spoil the entire movie. Keep reading, because the entire movie is shit, pure, 99% shit.)
McClane goes to Russia to help his wayward, estranged son, who is being tried for a shooting in a nightclub. It was an execution attempt ordered by his boss, an imprisoned Russian billionaire who is set to go to trial. Young McClane, called Jack, is being tried with him. Old McClane arrives in the country on the first day of the trial, and then sees a terrorist attack take out the entire court block. His son and the billionaire escape the scene, son sees Dad, and pretty soon all are chased by the terrorists who are revealed to be working for the enemy of the billionaire, a politician who is about to become Russia's new defense minister. They used to be partners, but now the oligarch has information that will sink the politician's position so he must be killed.
The first and best twist of the movie is that Jack, McClane's son, is actually a covert CIA agent and his mission was to protect and get info from the oligarch. In retrospect this is also the stupidest twist in the movie (there are many). We and McClane pere thought the kid was a druggie and violent criminal, but he was just undercover. Why he was undercover to his own family like that, worrying them to death, I have no idea. Piper Perabo in that USA network CIA show tells her sister she works in a museum. This son makes his parents believe he's a failure at life. I guess it was there to get McClane to the airport, but even so: the CIA would have been monitoring him when they put the plan into motion, so that he wouldn't do crazy things like fly to see his son's trial.
But off they go through the streets of Moscow being chased by the bad guys. In a very stupid action set piece. A ludicrous and absurdly long set piece that gives Michael Bay pause. This demolition derby car chase destroys hundreds of cars and no doubt kills hundreds of civilians we do not see. It's endless, and therefore very boring. And the John McClane of old does not give a fuck he's killing people. Remember in Die Hard 2 when he tried to stop that airplane from crashing. That guy does not exist anymore.
In fact, this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers Die Hard. McClane is a racist caricature of the Ugly American, as I said. Russia is his Amazing Race country. The movie is racist towards Russians, because it makes them the bad guys, gives them only that characteristic. The only Russian that has a non-bad guy quality has the single quality of loving and knowing Sinatra songs. So when America is not being hated, it is being loved by the Russian characters. No character thinks non-American thoughts. In fact, the bad guys, while hating America, sure use American expressions a lot, even when they're speaking Russian. It's also racist towards American, portraying them as loud, selfish boobs willing to use countries as their own playgrounds.
The nonsense continues when the plot involves the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. It turns out the accident was caused by the partners-now-turned-enemies, when they were dealing in uranium. The info the oligarch has on the other is buried at the site— radioactive Chernobyl being the natural place to keep all your important papers. So Mr. Clean and his charisma-challenged son have to go there. It's an easy drive, taking only a few hours from Moscow to the Ukraine, and they don't get stopped by any border cops, because apparently there are no borders.
The big twist is that the oligarch Jack was charged with protecting is really the villain and he set off a complicated plan to kill his partner-enemy and sell weapons grade uranium to the highest bidder. The usual Die Hard plot, in other words. McClane even says, "It's always about the money." But at this point, we stopped caring. Actually we never even started.
The film's aesthetic is blue-tinted and desaturated. If you saw the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds movie, Safe House—like that. Grimy. No sunlight. The director's aesthetic is to try to be Paul Greengrass. Rapid fire editing, hand held camera. But no sense of knowing what space he's shooting. The car chase scene, while being too long and murderous, is incoherent. So is the climatic action scene, involving two Die Hard callbacks: How the brothers Gruber died. In between, John and his boy jump twice out of high rise windows without hesitation, for all they know falling to their deaths, but, wouldn't you guess, they are saved by various soft things and have gentle landings. John McClane isn't the vulnerable about-to-be-killed-any-second guy of the previous films; he's a cartoon character who can take any licking and bounce right back without any injury.
But the action isn't the worst of this movie. Remember the father-son plot from Minority Report? This is that but much more awful and annoying. While they jump and shoot and kill and fall, father and son have an ongoing conversation about their differences and why each one was crappy. Given that both are kind of doing well—McClane is a good cop and his boy is a CIA operative—you wonder what the problem was. Oh, right, dad thought his boy was a criminal and the kid thought his dad was a screw-up. But the characters aren't that. So get a highly contrived estrangement story that is told entirely through forced banter. That is made up of terrible one-liners. The McClanes have learned their senses of humor by watching Jay Leno's Tonight Show.
You remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy writes a novel? It gets accepted but it turns out only for a book on how not to write. The screenplay for this movie is like that. It was written by Skip Woods, who has written The A-Team, the remake of The Omen, Max Payne, X-Men Origins Wolverine, Swordfish, and other things. In other words, an experienced Hollywood screenwriter. But you would have no idea. The screenplay for AGDTDH is as if it were written by a person who was writing for the first time. Instead of dialogue revealing character, it is made of pure cliches. The story in a few places, as I've pointed out, makes no sense. It's completely generic, foregoing the unique characteristics that made up the previous films. For you see, the previous films were written to be other movies or were adapted from non Die Hard source material. They were reconfigured to be Die Hard films, and they worked pretty well. A Good Day to Die Hard is the first in the series to be written exclusively to be a Die Hard picture. And it fails utterly.
John McClane isn't the racist Ugly American who cares not a whit for the civilians who die along his adventures. Sure, give him a family and have then join in on the action—that wasn't the problem for me. What the problem was was that this wasn't a Die Hard film. I loved the last one, even though people complained that wasn't a Die Hard film. What they saw as turning him into a superhero is taken the highest power here. But it's all so stupid, nonsensical and a waste of your time and mine. Don't see this film, no matter your love for this hopefully-dead franchise. By the way, Willis, at an older age, does no stunt work. He should have stayed at home.