A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in Bruce Willis' John McClane franchise, is 90 minutes of wall-to-wall action. To fans of the genre, that might sound like bliss. Yet even with Willis back in the saddle, director John Moore and writer Skip Woods have found a way to suck every ounce of soul out of McClane's everyman escapades. Willis is 57 years old, but Moore's car chases, shootouts, and explosion-dodging sequences are slow and stagnant enough to be fit for a McClane in his 90s. Adding to the misery is a incomprehensible narrative where nothing happens. Even when menacing Russians are prepping nuclear bombs, nothing is happening. It may have been a Good Day to Die Hard, but the latest sequel is the definition of a soft ball.
This time around, John McClane is on the hunt for his son Jack (Jai Courtney), who is in deep doo doo after connecting himself to the murder of a crony working for corrupt government official Chagarin. Turns out, Jack is actually a CIA agent, with a mission to protect the incarcerated whistleblower Komarov, who currently sits at the top of Chagarin's hit list. Hoping to lift his son out of trouble, McClane shows up at the exact wrong time, witnessing a gang of henchmen blowing up a courthouse to kidnap Komarov and Jack. Everyone escapes and from there on; it's set piece after set piece until McClane shoots his way to the grand finale.
The one thing A Good Day to Die Hard gets right is the casting of Courtney as the son of McClane. He's just gruff enough, just charming enough, and just adept enough at rolling around with a shotgun blowing away enemies. He can spar with Willis, who has really become the quipping, overworked cop he plays in the movies. The two could make a watchable pair, if they were actually given action to perform.
Many complained 2007's Live Free or Die Hard lost the spirit of Die Hard when it opened up the world and turned McClane into a superhero capable of battling a fighter jet. A Good Day to Die Hard has you begging for anything geographically coherent. The film attempts to contain the action once again, but not by finding a single location or pushing its leading man to his limits. Instead, Moore takes his camera straight up the noses of actors, shaky cam and aggressive editing making up for the complete lack of energy or ingenuity in the set pieces.
A highway truck chase — which comprises nearly a third of the movie's run time — is lifeless and lost in its barrage of crashing cars. Willis feels distant from it all, even when he's in the driver's seat. When McClane's unleashing hell to the faceless baddie — and really, if there's anything a Die Hard movie needs, it's a solid, maniacally laughing villain — he barely moves an inch. Thanks to the magic of cutting, Willis never exerts energy while decimating large crowds of people. Attempts to inject Die Hard with thrills flop — no exploding helicopter barreling down the side of a building, composed with flashy slow-motion and noticeable green screen, can top the sight of Willis going mano a mano with a killer twice his size. A Good Day to Die Hard even teases a good ol' fashioned fight, but never pays it off.
By the eighth time John McClane reminds us that he's on vacation (this movie's version of "I'm too old for this s**t!"), the brain will have bid A Good Day to Die Hard a good day. The film is insipid in the worst way, throwing stunts at the screen when Willis and Courtney seem ripe with action hero potential. Willis has hinted that a sixth Die Hard movie is already in the works — the good news is, the series can only go up from here. Right?
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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