Directed By John Moore
John McClane: You got a plan?
Jack McClane: Not really. I kinda thought we would just wing it, you know. Running in, guns blazing! Make it up as we go.
Detective John McClane of the NYPD returns in the fifth installment of the Die Hard series. This time, directed by John Moore (of Max Payne fame), we find our protagonist headed to Russia to reunite with his estranged son, Jack McClane. It is no surprise that John finds himself, and his son, in the middle of an international scandal that require his special set of “shoot first, ask questions later” skills.
Over the course of the film, we get a chance to see Bruce WIllis portraying John McClane as an older (even older than in Live Free or Die Hard) and hopefully wiser man trying to connect with a son that he has not seen in seven years. Through every over-the-top way possible, John and Jack try to work out the ever important father-son relationship while, as an audience, we root for the hero and wish ill on all the “bad guys”. In the end, one of the weakest Die Hard films (mostly due to the subpar directing), A Good Day to Die Hard still takes many of the same Die Hard themes that we see in previous films. You have the transcendent hero(es), the self-sacrifice, and the often-seen “good vs evil”. However, the latest offering infuses the franchise with something that has only been hinted at before; legacy.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” -John 5:19
For all his years of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, John McClane is often painted as the tough cop who is “married to the job” and we often see very little of his family — in later films his only connection to his family is a passing mention about his inevitable divorce despite the resolution of the original Die Hard film. This sets up for the tension that we get to witness in A Good Day to Die Hard.
At the beginning of the film John finds out that his estranged son has been located and is now on trial in Russia for some very serious crimes, including murdering a high level official of the current government. When John arrives, he finds his son, and himself in the middle of an over-the-top, Die Hard appropriate predicament. From their first run in behind an exploded courthouse, to the latter moments in the film trying to stop the unforeseen bad guy, the entire story that involves shooting more Russian henchman than can be counted is overshadowed by the reunion and reconciliation of father and son.
John McClane: Need a hug?
Jack McClane: We’re not a hugging family.
John McClane: Damn straight!
It should be no surprise to John McClane that his son (though Jack tried to distance himself in every way he could think) has turned out to be the same person he is – tough, stubborn, and, oddly enough, finding himself in the middle of international terrorism! At every turn, we get back and forth banter between the two. Sometimes it is heart-felt, but mostly it is the type of one-upsmanship dialogue and lack of sentimentality we would expect from the McClane’s.
In the end, eliminating Russian terrorists becomes nothing more than a backdrop to reconciliation and revelation for both of our main characters. John McClane begins to realize that his absence in his son’s life has created the very tensions and character traits he would have hoped to avoid passing to the next generation. John even remarks at one point in a forced sentimental moment that he regrets spending so much time working even though he thought it was what he was supposed to do. It’s only now, later in life that he is starting to realize what is most important to him. The narrative nail-in-the-coffin is John attaching “The things we do for our kids!” to his signature “Yippie kay yay…” phrase right before doing something outrageous to save the day — and his son.
John McClane: Hey, hey? What’s with all this “John” s***? What ever happen to “dad”?
Jack McClane: Good question.
Jack, on the other hand, thinks he wants nothing to do with his father. But, during their unconventional bonding time, Jack starts to see that no matter how far he runs from family, his father has molded him by things he has done and the things he has not. Jack’s realizations, despite the poor dialogue, lead to opening himself to reconciliation.
This explosion laden tale is a prime example of unintentional truth. Despite the writers best efforts to write a turn-off-your-brain action adventure, we can almost completely ignore the weak plot (that seems thrown together simply to cash in on the Die Hard name) and still be engaged in the hope of relationship renewed. The relationship between parent and child is something that we root for because we were created to cherish it, and why so many times in His narratives God uses the parent-child juxtaposition to describe His relationship with us. Much like Jack, no matter how much we fight it, we want our fathers to help us grow, to teach us, and to send us into the world stronger and more equipped than we would have been otherwise.
Jack McClane: Do you go lookin’ for trouble or does it always find you?
John McClane: All these years, I still ask myself the same question.