Fifth Die Hard flash but not a patch on original

22:15, Feb 28 2013
die hard poster

A quarter of a century ago I had one of my most memorable nights at the movies ever.

I was 19 and about to fly off to the US for a season working on a skifield in Colorado. As a treat for my last night at home in Wellington, my family held an evening in my honour.

I got to choose a movie and restaurant and, being a young man with impeccable taste, I picked soon-to-become celebrity chef Peter Gordon's legendary first venture, The Sugar Club, and the film that made Bruce Willis a movie star, Die Hard.

Both Gordon and Willis delivered.

The food was fantastic and the movie was brilliant.

And while getting to choose what we saw and where we ate was fun, the most memorable part of the night was the way my opera-loving, contemporary-art buying, chardonnay-drinking folks loved Die Hard.


Hearing them laughing and cheering Willis' John McClane on as he battled terrorists was one of the great surprises of my youth.

Die Hard was the movie that reinvented action films. It was what Nirvana later became to rock music.

It took the Stallone/Schwarzenegger model and spear-tackled it on to its head.

Finally cinema had an action hero who wasn't indestructible. He got hurt, he got scared, hell, he even cried.

He also had some great lines and the charm to deliver them in a way that made audiences love both them and him.

Die Hard was huge hit and not surprisingly spawned numerous sequels.

Die Hard 2 was good but the subsequent films got sillier and sillier until now we find McClane in Russia teaming up with his estranged CIA agent son Jack to take down baddies with nuclear madness on their minds.

In a recent interview Willis wondered out loud why the film was called A Good Day to Die Hard (M).

According to the star the name didn't make sense, which is probably true but for commercial reasons it's a much better name than Die Hard 5.

The only people who go to movies with the number 5 in their title are fans of The Fast and the Furious.

Directed by Irishman John Moore, A Good Day to Die Hard is occasionally spectacular, often noisy, largely nonsensical, and generally a bit flat.

Gone are the humour, vulnerability and humanity that made McClane such a hit 25 years ago and in their place are an orgy of computer-generated special effects, a plot that feels second-hand and utterly forgettable writing.

The film's pluses include its atmospheric Russian setting and the fact that when it comes to seeing stuff getting trashed, you get your money's worth. German actor Sebastian Koch, from The Lives of Others, is good as a political prisoner but more forgettable is Australian actor Jai Courtney, who recently played a villain in Jack Reacher, as Jack McClane.

Willis, now 57, has the good sense to keep his shirt on but gets little to do in terms of developing McClane which is sad seeing as the thing that made Die Hard great all those years ago was its commitment to character.

BOTTOM LINE: Rent the original. ★★★ (out of five)

Also screening: Hitchcock (M) Pretty good. 3.5 stars