Bruce Willis reprises his iconic role as police detective John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard, set against the backdrop of deadly corruption and political vendetta in Russia. McClane arrives in Moscow to track down his estranged son, Jack, (Jai Courtney), and is stunned to discover he’s working undercover to protect a government whistleblower, Komarov. With their own necks on the line, the McClanes are forced to overcome their differences in order to get Komarov to safety and thwart a potentially disastrous crime in the most desolate place on Earth – Chernobyl. Keeping audiences on the edge of their seats for 25 years, this latest chapter of the popular action franchise delivers the thrills and the ultimate father-son action duo as A Good Day to Die Hard makes its debut on the Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Twenty-five years ago Die Hard came out of nowhere to revolutionize action films and made a box office star out of Bruce Willis. It also launched the careers of director John McTiernan and Alan Rickman into the big time and both went on to much success. Die Hard itself worked so well that it became a genre of its own with a ton of copy cat films which were pitched as “Die Hard on a boat” or some other interchangeable configuration. Die Hard also spawned its own additional installments that played off the same theme itself, with Die Hard 2 basically being “Die Hard on a plane” and the third one expanded the action throughout the city of New York. The first three movies all remained true to the character of John McClane even though the action and the stakes grew higher and higher with each film. By the time the franchise returned twelve years later with Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is essentially the same but seemed to be imbued with superpowers and the action was escalated to the point of being completely ridiculous.
Now, five years later, A Good Day to Die Hard has arrived and this time John McClane (Bruce Willis) wreaks destruction in Russia as he’s traveled there to help his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who seems to be in trouble. Things aren’t exactly what they seem however, as Jack has gotten himself arrested so he could be placed near a government whistle-blower named Yuri Komarov. Komarov is being held mostly on the whim of the Russian Defence Minister Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) who wants a secret file from him. As both Komorov and Jack are brought to the courthouse, John McClane is there and he is witness to the explosion that rips open the courthouse and his son’s escape with Komorov.
John McClane (Bruce Willis), who has not been in touch with his son for years, learns of Jack’s whereabouts and circumstances and decides to go to Russia to help him out. When John arrives and approaches the courthouse that happens to currently hold Jack and Komarov on trial, an explosion orchestrated by Chagarin and his henchmen occurs in the courthouse, and Jack breaks free with Komarov. Seeing his son, John confronts him, but their dispute is cut short when the henchmen, led by Alik (Radivoje Bukvić), chase them on the streets of Moscow, but John, Jack, and Komarov manage to escape. John tries to stop his son from fleeing but Jack drives off quickly as they are being chased by Chagarin’s henchman Alik (Radivoje Bukvić) and his men.
Unwilling to see his son come to harm or free from justice, John steals an armored vehicle and joins the chase which makes up one of the best car chases I’ve seen for awhile. John manages to intercept Alik and his men which allows his son and Kamarov escape to a CIA safehouse. Waiting for them there is Jack’s partner Collins (Cole Hauser) who makes a deal with Kamarov to take him and his daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir) to America in exchange for the same secret file that Chagarin is after. As we all know, nothing comes easy for John McClane and their escape is blocked by Alik and Chagarin’s men who have tracked them to the safe house. Now with Jack’s cover blown and no support available, he has to turn to the one man he wants nothing to do with – his father John McClane.
Let me just say right off the bat that I love the Die Hard franchise. The first one is without a doubt the best one but I also enjoyed aspects all of the other movies too. Even Live Free or Die Hard (which I consider to be the least “Die Hardesque” of all of them) still had some good moments in it. This latest installment has plot twists like Die Hard 2and the over the top action from Live Free or Die Hard, although not quite to the same extremes. The action in A Good Day to Die Hard is fun to see but it could have been any action movie, which is my main complaint over the last three Die Hard movies. John McClane is such an iconic character that he can be added to any scenario which is a both a good and bad thing. On the one hand it’s great because it’s always good to see Willis return as the wisecracking McClane, but at the same time, it seems like the studio is well aware of his popularity and don’t make much of an effort to come up with a compelling plot for him to appear in.
Part of the problem is the idea that so much could happen to one man (a fact that is discussed in this movie), but I really wish they would just accept that fact and promptly ignore it just like the audience has. We are there to see McClane kick butt and make some jokes while stopping some bad guy’s nefarious plans. If the studio focused on that, there’s no reason that there couldn’t be a Die Hard 10: Still Hard. In any case, I still enjoy these movies and Willis is always fun to watch as McClane and Jai Courtney is fine as the son despite the script working against him by making his character sullen and angry at his father unnecessarily. Considering that out of five Die Hard movies, John McClane risked his life to save a family member four out of five times, I really don’t think he’s as bad as a father as this movie makes him out to be. I seem to recall him even bringing a giant teddy bear with him for his kids in the first movie. If you can get past that and the fact that this movie is more of a generic action movie than a Die Hard movie, then you will most likely enjoy this action packed movie on those terms.
This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks fantastic as it offers a very sharp and detailed transfer. While the colors are muted, it’s done intentionally as a creative decision as director John Moore and his team have opted for a steel blue look that permeates the entire movie. Think of how Terminator 2 looked and you will have a good idea of what I’m talking about. The black levels are deep and solid which is good because this is a very dark movie and I’m very relieved that this transfer is sharp enough that you can still make out details within the darkness. There’s a lot of detail in display as you can clearly see the blood, sweat, and grime that go with being the heroic John McClane.
A Good Day to Die Hard’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio mix is also excellent which will please fans who want to hear the Die Hard movies the way they expect. Dialogue is crystal clear even during the action packed scenes and gunfire of which there’s is a ton of. Marco Beltrami’s score also sounds great and I enjoyed the many callbacks to the original Die Hard score by Michael Kamen. I liked this score a lot more than Beltrami’s previous score for Live Free or Die Hard, but I still wish Michael Kamen was still alive to continue to score this franchise. The rear speakers provide constant surround activity that keeps the viewer immersed in the movie. The directionality is accurate and fun to enjoy as the sound effects and action swirl around you. This is a great mix overall!
I reviewed the digital copy of the film and that only came with some deleted scenes so I was really looking forward to this disc and it was worth it as the extras here were worth waiting for. All of the extras are in high definition.
- Audio Commentary – Director John Moore and first assistant director Mark Cotone talk about the challenges of making the movie in general and in Moscow, Budapest and more. The commentary can only be heard on the extended cut and not on the theatrical cut.
- Deleted Scenes – There are seven deleted scenes of varying length that add a little bit more to the movie. The following scenes are included: “Jack scopes out the courthouse”, “Collins gets approval to move”, “John McClane original introduction”, “Russian girls on the plane”, “Safe house intrusion”, “Gun store”, and “Fight with Anton.” Out of these seven, the only ones that I thought should have been kept in the film were the “Gun store” and the “Fight with Anton” scenes as they could have added more Die Hard-esque humor to the movie that could have used it.
- Making It Hard To Die – This is the extra I’ve been waiting for as it’s an hour long look behind the scenes showing just how the movie was made. This documentary covers just about every aspect of the movie from the stunts to color grading and special effects which gives a nice overview of the whole process. This covers more of the production than the acting so there’s not a lot of involvement from the actors. Instead, we hear from just about every crewmember down to the caterer. While it’s nice that this approach gives some exposure to the unseen workers that never get noticed, I would have preferred more from the actors since a lot of the comments from the crew didn’t amount to much. Still this is a must see for fans of the movie or for anyone that would like a better idea of how this movie was made.
- Anatomy of a Car Chase – Think of this as the second part to the previous documentar only this time it’s all devoted to just one part of the film – the car chase in Moscow. At almost thirty minutes long, this really goes into detail on the planning and execution of the car chase. We see how the cars were made, hear from the stunt team and actors, and we get to see the biggest green screen set ever made. This is very cool especially since they did the stunts using real cars and trucks.
- Two of a Kind – A short look at the father-son relationship in the movie with comments from Jai Courtney and Bruce Willis.
- Back in Action – A short featurette about John McClane’s return with comments from Bruce Willis and others. We finally get more than 30 seconds of comments from Willis.
- The New Face of Evil – We get to hear some crewmembers and the actors talk about their villainous roles in the film.
- Pre-Vis – We get to see the CG animatics for three sequences which includes one that was cut from the film.
- VFX Sequences – A look at some of the visual effects plates for different points in the film.
- Storyboards – Here are some storyboards for five sequences that show the planning of the shots.
- Concept Art Gallery – Artwork for the filming locations.
- Theatrical Trailers
- Ultraviolet HD Copy
- Digital Copy
While this entry of the franchise doesn’t measure up to the previous installments (especially the first three), I still enjoyed it and appreciated it for what it was. Nothing can compare to the brilliance of the first Die Hard but I thought this still had some good moments. Plus, I’m always happy to see Bruce Willis return as McClane so I enjoyed the movie but honestly it is more of an action movie than a Die Hard movie. Let’s hope that when they make the sixth one (and it sounds like they will), that the studio brings back John McTiernan to direct it assuming he’s free by that point.
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