O McClane, Mclane! Wherefore art thou John McClane?
Lacking the tone, the mood, and the feel of the Die Hard pictures before it (including the inferior 4th entry), A Good Day to Die Hard massively disappoints...even with its R-rating. Returning star, Bruce Willis, arrives for the party but the fun – after witnessing the early warning signs in the inanely edited first car chase – decidedly makes an early exit. This is the fifth outing for the aging McClane but the “I’m on vacation” banter makes it feel like it’s the 8th or 9th film in a franchise that is way past its prime.
And you thought Die Harder was over the top? Please. Wait until you see McClane arrive in Russia…and make his way to …(drumroll, please)… Chernobyl. That’s right, the only thing movie-going Americans know about Russia seems to stem from the Chernobyl disaster. We aren’t that stupid, Hollywood. To say this film is radioactive is an understatement. Anyone expecting the return of McClane should stay away for fear of contamination. Can’t anyone write a good script for McClane?
Screenwriter Skip Woods (Hitman, Wolverine), brings McClane (Willis) to Russia to “save” his not-so deep undercover CIA son (who he believes is “troubled”), Jack (Jai Courtney), from prison and the mess he’s gotten himself into. There’s a bit of double crossing going on involving government whistleblower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) and political henchman Alik (Radivoje Bukvi?) and all of it rests upon the final set piece of Chernobyl. You won’t be able to make sense of anything else.
The opening titles are in homage to Die Hard and the finale has a moment that will probably please fans of a falling Alan Rickman but, without the strong establishing scenes that gave the other pictures - including Live Free which benefited from its co-star Justin Long - a bit more characterization and heft, A Good Day to Die Hard strands Willis in heavy Russian traffic without an escape route. I won’t suggest Willis is coasting here but there’s seriously nothing for him to do except spit out “I’m on vacation” repeatedly (as if he were a mere cartoon) and bloodlessly mow down baddies with machine guns. Is that enough? Not when he has to mend fences with his son, explain why the hell he's in Russia, and save the day. His old man routine, trying to play catch up with his son, is cliché ridden and their back-and-forth quips never work.
Woods tries to be witty with the whole fish out of water routine. Picture it, an action star from 1988 stuck in Russia in 2013; his temper hasn’t improved and he doesn’t speak the language. Explosive situation, right?! Yes, it should be and while it works for a couple of beats (the Sinatra moment in the cab being the best), this line of attack still doesn't work. Something is off. The obvious banter tries to carry the picture as McClane and son get to know each other – while jumping, shooting, driving, diving, and causing vehicular mayhem – and it sadly just belly flops in a paltry mess.
Director Moore (Swordfish, Max Payne) doesn’t seem to comprehend the mythology of the series and tries to shove in a bit of hand-held nonsense that makes the action scenes incomprehensible in the beginning and then – after the late-in-the-game homage to Die Hard – uses and reuses slow motion to extend the film’s 97 minutes (yes, the shortest and weakest Die Hard). McClane doesn’t need trendy gimmicks, though. You know that. I know that. Moore doesn't and tries to Matrix McClane (on a Wal-Mart budget by the looks of it) in an action scene that reeks of The Last Boy Scout. The frenetic car crashes and chase sequences are bizarrely edited together and, for the most part, Moore’s direction just panders to action beats rather than pronounce itself as the return of John McClane.
Yippee ki yay, money grubbers.
MPAA Rating: R for for violence and language.
Runtime: 97 mins.
Director: John Moore
Writer: Skip Woods
Cast: Bruce Willis; Jai Courtney; Sebastian Koch; Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Genre: Action |Thriller
Tagline: Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia
Memorable Movie Quote: "Me and my boy here, we're gonna put a whuppin' on ya!"
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: www.diehardmovie.com
Release Date: February 14, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Iconoclastic, take-no-prisoners cop John McClane, for the first time, finds himself on foreign soil after traveling to Moscow to help his wayward son Jack--unaware that Jack is really a highly-trained CIA operative out to stop a nuclear weapons heist. With the Russian underworld in pursuit, and battling a countdown to war, the two McClanes discover that their opposing methods make them unstoppable heroes.