The last time we saw little John McClane Jr., he was watching his dad save the Nakatomi Plaza way back in 1988. Now he’s all grown up and living as an undercover CIA operative in Moscow. When he’s taken into custody during an attempt to oust the requisite bad guy, his dad (Bruce Willis) takes it on himself to come to the rescue.
It would be easy to expect that A Good Day to Die Hard is just “Die Hard in Russia”, but frankly the 5th entry in the franchise has more in common with big-bang-boom movies like The Expendables than the tightly-wound original John McTiernan film that essentially created a whole new genre.
There are plenty of nods to the original scattered throughout the proceedings here (including, yes, that catch phrase), but for the most part it’s nothing more than one long, really loud and chaotic shootout with about as much finesse as a 300-pound linebacker.
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Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) plays McClane’s estranged son (who now goes by “Jack”), and while he knows his way around assault rifles, handguns, shotguns, and other hand-held killing machines, he has none of his dad’s cool nonchalance. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you might think that screenwriter Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) had originally envisioned Jack as a snotty teenager. Do we really need any more petulant “you were never there for me, dad!” moments in movies?
Willis, though, plays McClane with every bit of the character’s trademark snark, and everything is punctuated by his wry smile and subtle winks. You get the feeling that Willis actually does enjoy playing this character– it’s just a shame that not many other people involved with the film share that admiration. The fact that Willis is the only individual (cast, crew, or otherwise) to be associated with all five movies speaks volumes, and it’s apparent here.
Apparently Director John Moore (Max Payne) never met a car crash, truck explosion, mortar attack, gunshot, fistfight, or thirty-story fall that he didn’t like, and even though Woods had his heart in the right place, ultimately the script just implodes on itself. It so preposterously over-the-top and so full of inexplicable holes (How does the son of a celebrated New York police officer apply and then get accepted into the CIA without his dad knowing? Why does McClane spend so much of the movie grousing that he’s “on vacation”, when we all know he’s not?) that A Good Day to Die Hard ends up missing more than it hits.
Alas, it seems the yippie-ki-yay days of old are now long behind us, and we’ll finally have to admit that it’s time for this franchise to just tip its hat and ride off into the sunset.
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@popcollin is the resident movie critic at Essex Cinemas in Essex, VT, and Cumberland 12 in Plattsburgh, NY.