It’s important to go into a movie like this with the right mindset. That is to say, the plot is all kinds of stupid, but the action is still pretty cool. It’s the comfort zone most Bruce Willis movies tend to fall into these days. Taking them too seriously will only make his movies more of an endurance test than something you’re supposed to take as a moment to relax. Revel in the stupidity and have fun with it because these movies are like coloring books. You have to fill in the space where story is supposed to be otherwise you’re left with an outline. It feels like it should be something more.
John McClane is tired. Tired because he realizes that his entire life is one big action movie. He’s reluctant to get into trouble, but when trouble comes he knows he can do whatever he wants and walk away unscathed. When his son gets in deep with the wrong people in Russia, McClane updates his passport and goes on a little vacation to see if he can get his son out. How will he do that? Well, it will inevitably come down to crashing cars, shooting guns, and killing bad guys.
Going in with the idea that McClane understands he’s an action hero makes this movie so much easier to sit through. After all, if it turned out this was just a cynical attempt to draw the last few remaining dollars out of a horse long since beaten to death, the experience might be a little dreary. I mean, what could he have expected to be able to do for his son by going to Russia, except wait for the plot to start up and jump in? No, McClane’s just been going through the motions so many times that he’s run out of wittier one liners than “I’m on vacation!” Having endured glass in his feet, déjà vu, and a wicked hangover, he’s just trying to speed up the process of getting to the end by picking up bigger guns with more ammo than the handful of bullets he usually carries. Knowing that he’s survived rooftop explosions, airplane explosions, cargo ship explosions, and jet explosions he’s ready to jump out of windows and crash cars into bigger cars because something will always be there to break his fall, instead of his spine.
The only reason this works is because of how well the action was put together. For all the contrivances, inconsistencies, and questions you’ll have about the plot (for example; is Jai Courtney an actor or a mannequin?), Bruce Willis shooting a gun is what this movie wanted to sell and in that regard, if alone, it comes through. Sure the camera gets a little shaky at times, but when the big stuff happens it stabilizes enough that you get a very clear picture of what’s happening. That’s all you ever really want out of a movie like this. It isn’t like “Taken 2” where there’s only so much filler you can put between “un-taking” yourself and fighting the bad guys. There’s always something happening to McClane and it’s all just vaguely interesting enough that you can fill in the rest with whatever you want yourself. In that way (a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” way) it’s a fun little excursion. Any other way, you may as well be watching TV during a blackout.
A Good Day to Die Hard premieres tonight, March 1st on HBO.