By Jessica Delfanti | February 14, 2013
Director: John Moore
Writer: Skip Woods
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic
As we watch many of our beloved action stars aging, it is easy to feel nostalgia for a time of inflated blockbusters with bodybuilding royalty. Fortunately, icons like Bruce Willis aren’t hanging up their Barettas anytime soon. This Valentine’s Day, reawaken your love for John McClane with A Good Day To Die Hard.
The newest installment in the Die Hard franchise pairs McClane (Willis) with his son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack, we discover, is embroiled in an espionage scheme gone awry, and is in desperate need of his estranged father’s particular skills. Cue begrudging grunts of appreciation, father-son bonding one liners, and jokes about Willis’ age. The film is not surprisingly centralized on the passing of the torch from the gruff but wryly amused McClane to his would-be “professional” spy son; the actual plot, which involves–also not surprisingly–Russian bad guys and Cold War era uranium drama, is secondary.
There is an awkward self consciousness to the film that, at times, breaks the fourth wall. Willis’ McClane is funny but wooden, per usual, but there is a sense that Willis himself is shining through as he offers smiles of sardonic appreciation when Jack calls McClane “Grandpa” or refers to him as “old school.” With films like The Expendables, the “action stars” of old have been successfully updating their image with good humor and grunting grace, but it’s clear that the industry has something else in mind: more and more, we’re seeing franchises replacing their icons with up and coming youthful heroes.
Unfortunately, this transition encased in an awkward father-son relationship can only be as convincing as the performance. While Willis is charismatic as ever, the attempt to create a foil with his would-be James Bond spy son fails with the casting of Courtney, who is white bread to the bone and has a dull rugby player affect. He does not seem capable of carrying a franchise, much less capable of matching up against Willis.
Setting aside the awkward torch passing dynamic, A Good Day to Die Hard is everything you would expect: guns, biceps, explosions, and America-hating foreigners. The strength of the film is McClane’s brazen American arrogance, which, never tempered by American hubris, permits him to run around without a plan and walk out with scrapes and bruises and his American pride. Jam packed with absurdly awesome (and sometimes horribly and hilariously executed) effects and stunts, bad guys with murkily evil motivations, and baldly bad one liners, the film is like an extra large popcorn: delicious, indulgent, with absolutely no substance.
Those looking to pass on Valentine’s Day activities should find Willis a suitable alternative, with an explosion, a gunshot, and a wink for every red rose and chocolate kiss. Love free, or Die Hard.