Despite the bad reviews, I figured I should probably see A Good Day to Die Hard since I've seen all of the other Die Hard movies and liked at least one of them. Okay, maybe two of them. However, I went in with low expectations. This is the series in which the protagonist survives the explosion of a boat by jumping into the water next to the boat. Because, you know, being in the water totally protects you from explosions in the water. So, not only do we have that, but this one, the 5th (and I'd totally lost track, at this point, that this was the 5th one), was actually getting pretty horrible reviews.
It seems I did not lower my expectations far enough. Good Day fails at pretty much every level of story telling and movie making. Well, except for the explosions. It has plenty of those, which, in the Michael Bay theory of movie making, is all you need to make a good movie. I have to suppose John Moore and Skip Woods (the director and writer, respectively) are Bay disciples.
The first real mistake the movie makes is having the movie open with McClane's son instead of with McClane himself. It's Die Hard; we're here to see John McClane, not junior. To make it worse, they just throw the audience into the middle of a situation for which there is no context. This is one of the reasons I hate that whole "start in the middle of the action" "rule." They definitely did that with this movie. However, not knowing anything about the characters or the situation, there is no way real way to know whom we should be caring about, so we don't really care about anyone. Of course, this all ends, as we come to find out, with John Jr. (Jack) in a Russian prison. And, as my wife said, "What? I didn't even know he had a son."
[As a total aside, the plot arc includes the exposition for a reason. When you skip that part so that you can "start in the middle of the action," you skip the part where the audience gains empathy for the protagonist and comes to care for him or her. Without an exposition, you do not have a complete story, and that's just bad writing.]
The issue here is that there is an expectation that we will care about Jack because John cares about Jack. Except we don't have any context, really, for John caring about Jack since he's barely mentioned or seen in the other movies. Conveniently enough, John has suddenly chosen this moment to care about Jack, whom he has not spoken to in years, and has had one of his old cop buddies track Jack down for him just at the time that Jack is arrested and thrown into a Russian prison. Of course, there is no good reason why McClane's cop friend should be able to find out that undercover CIA agent Jack McClane has been thrown into a top Russian prison. Especially within what seems to be hours of it happening. Not that McClane even knows that his son is CIA.
Being John McClane, he just jumps on a plane to Russia with some vague expectation that he will be able to connect with his son when he gets there. His son that is in a top, possibly top secret, Russian prison. And, of course, without planning it, he happens to arrive on the day that his son is going to appear in Russian court as a witness against the guy that Jack is supposed to be saving. And, also of course, he stumbles into the middle of a prison break/abduction of the guy that Jack is supposed to be saving (and also testifying against).
This is where we expect, I guess, John McClane to become "yippee-ki-yay" John instead of old, tired John that we find at the beginning of the movie. But we don't get that. No, what we get is John chasing his son around during the middle of a fire fight trying to talk to him about how sorry he is that he wasn't there for him when he was a kid. I think it was supposed to be funny. I think. But it didn't even rise to the level of ludicrous as John meanders through the bullets and explosions and, eventually, when his son takes off in a vehicle without him, steals a truck to follow his son while yelling, "I'm not through talking to you!"
And through all of this we have been given no real reason as to why this guy Jack needs to save is so important other than that the CIA want him and that some muckety-muck Russian wants him dead. Or abducted. And the guy's daughter is involved, except we're not supposed to know that, but as soon as the dude tells McClane that he has a daughter, I knew it was his daughter that was the woman in the group trying to capture and/or kill the dude. And also of course no one turns out to be on the sides they're presented to be on except McClane, the sadist bad guy, and the dead people.
Possibly the worst bit, which is saying a lot considering how terribly the movie began, is when Jack overhears John telling the Russian dude about how bad a parent he was and how bad he feels about it and how all he wants to do is make everything right with Jack. But, since, Jack hears John saying this, we are spared any action or work on the part of John to repair his relationship with his son, because his son, now, understands that his dad worked all the time because of how much he loved Jack. And, then, of course, they bond over killing the bad guys and everything is okay.
I'm not making it out to be as bad as it really is. It was bad enough that, before the hour mark, my wife decided that she was through with the movie. I'm not actually sure why I finished watching it other than the fact that I have a hard time stopping something once I've started it no matter how bad it is. That this movie was bad wasn't even the worst part about it. It just felt completely inauthentic. McClane's actions didn't feel authentic (Who, really, just jumps in a plane and flies to Russia with the vague plan of getting in to see someone in a Russian prison? John was a cop; he, theoretically, knows how this stuff works and it's beyond far-fetched that he, even being John McClane, would just hop in a plane without contacting the State Department or something). The fact that Jack refers to his father as "McClane" didn't feel authentic (Seriously? "Damn you, McClane" is the best they could come up with for Jack to say? I buy him calling his father "John" but the whole "McClane was a stretch the rubber band couldn't take). The whole conflict of the movie involving Russia and nukes didn't feel authentic. It's not the 80s anymore.
So, yeah, give me more of escaping explosions by jumping into the water next to the boat that's exploding. At least that was just a brief moment of stupidity unlike the stupidity that was this movie from beginning to end. And that doesn't even cover how dumb the title is, because, if you're going to use the phrase "a good day to die," you need to actually have it be relevant to the movie, but no... no relation at all. Just a cool title. But, then, a cool title doesn't make a cool movie.