A Good Day to Die Hard

Mar 4, 2013

Even Willis's smirk can't save this dying franchise.

A Good Day to Die Hard
Grade: D
Director: John Moore (Max Payne)
Screenplay: Skip Woods (The A-Team)
Cast: Bruce Willis (Sin City), Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher)
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 min.
by John DeSando

"Let's go kill some motherfuckers." John McClane to his son.

Ever since I passed Bruce Willis’s island in the Turks and Caicos, 647 miles off the Florida coast, with a house for his family and one for his mother and others for the hangers on, I wanted this generous heart to be successful. Unfortunately my good will wasn’t effective for the Die Hard series, which lives up to its title more often than not.  A Good Day to Die Hard aptly describes this franchise’s moribund present.

As the heroic, stoic detective, John McClane (Bruce Willis) can’t even get a vacation because he needs to retrieve his errant son, Jack (Jai Courtney), from the grasp of some very bad Russians. The action, replete with car crashes and explosions, follows the usual thriller formula, in which father and son have multiple, unbelievable escapes from mayhem, during which they exchange the requisite wise-ass quips such as the one introducing this essay or this one using some of the same language:   “The things we do for our kids. Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker.”

Maybe the best line of the film, but still dying hard: John calls his son the “007 of Plainfield, New Jersey.”

This trivial thriller is saved from a dreaded “F” by Willis’s smirk, a most effective antidote to the plot’s absurdity, as if he were complicit with us in damning this tripe. Willis is not an actor of range, but he is a star, whose future some Hollywood type discovered when Willis was a bartender. Good recruiting but some bad movies.

With its emphasis on the father-son reunion, as in Live Free or Die Hard, where it is father-daughter union, the series may be moving toward a much weightier thematic base—family unity. That theme and his smile might save it all someday, but for now it’s a good day for a movie’s dying hard.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel.
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