‘A Good Day to Die Hard’
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Patrick Stewart
Rated: R, for violence and language
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Grade: 1.5 stars
Note: Jeff Marker's weekly movie review column will return next week.
Yeah, Happy Valentine’s Day, Mother Russia.
But is it “A Good Day to Die Hard,” a good time to be had by all as Bruce Willis takes his fifth shot at “shootin’ all the scumbags”?
Loud and tedious, “Die Hard” No. 5 is a shaky-cam/Sensurround blast of bullets and bombs, digital explosions and death defying feats of defying death. Not a decent villain or catchphrase in it, it’s an attempt to CIA-up the New York-cop-takes-on-the-world’s-terrorists franchise. And it doesn’t work.
Director John Moore (“Behind Enemy Lines”) spends an endless opening filled with no-names speaking Russian and laying out an elaborate scheme to nab/ kill or release a rich “political prisoner” (Sebastian Koch). Moore gave his cinematographer a Steadicam and a case of Red Bull, and shot the whole thing with a jittery frame that doesn’t mask how dull the action beats are, and how REALLY dull the chatty father-son bonding scenes in-between the action beats are.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in Moscow to check up on a son (Jai Courtney of “Spartacus”) who’s in jail. Turns out the estranged son is CIA, and he’s on a mission. And dad, who’s “on vacation,” is interfering. Or saving the day, depending on your point of view.
The kid calls the old man by his first name. “John? Whatever happened to ‘Dad’?”
Yeah, whatever happened to him?”
They don’t get along.
“Need a hug?”
“We’re not really a hugging family.”
They crash through an epic Moscow traffic jam — which Moore & Co. shoot and edit into a jumble of crushed cars and feeble wisecracks from the villains — “Boy, dis guy iz really gettink on my nerves.”
They get into fights with helicopters. In the middle of the city. Not that local law enforcement notices.
And it’s all in pursuit of some mysterious “file,” which the prisoner they’re trying to slip out of the country has. Or doesn’t.
Vast arsenals turn up, at their convenience. Unlimited supplies of lead are exchanged with legions of evil minions.
With “Red Dawn” remade, badly, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger stinking up cinemas in the weeks leading up to this, you kind of hoped the last ’80s action star to take his shot could conjure up a little of the old magic.
Willis, sad to say, doesn’t.
For 25 years, it’s generally been “A Good Day to Die Hard.” But these last two films have neutered the franchise and wrecked any hopes that Bruce as McClane might be Bourne again. The guy can still take a licking — still pull those shards of glass out after every death- and physics-defying stunt.
But the character is weary, and the “I’m on vacation” line is played out. McClane needs to trot out “I’m retired” from here on out.