These days the “Die Hard” films might bring to mind only senseless action, but it wasn’t always that way. Great heroes and perhaps even greater villains were what made the earlier films in the series so enjoyable. “A Good Day to Die Hard” indubitably cares nothing for the old days, trudging forward with explosion after explosion and not much else. Aged John McClane is still the indestructible hero, quick with a quip and even faster with a gun, but he’s forced to share the spotlight once again. This time, however, it’s not with a quirky comic relief sidekick, but rather an equally capable super spy whose every word is spewed through a grimace. The absence of witty back-and-forth banter makes for some rather dull interludes between action sequences, although such pauses are relatively concise considering the film’s unrelenting pace which hurries the duo from one adventure set to another. Some of these scenes are truly impressive (an early car chase decimates in excess of fifty vehicles), but this doesn’t compensate for the shortcomings in humor, character development, and plot.
When hard-boiled New York detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) discovers his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is being held in a Moscow prison, he heads to Russia to straighten things out. Once there, McClane finds Jack orchestrating an intricate CIA operation to extract the imprisoned Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from the country before his enemies can retrieve the sensitive documents in his possession. But not all is as it seems, forcing John to partner with his son to stop the machinations of a madman and save the world once again.
Is it a coincidence that the first two months of 2013 house the latest action movies from the now elderly Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis? It seems there’s nowhere left to put tired action stars – except in repetitive, uninventive, mindless, blow-‘em-up spectacles. And this fifth chapter in the “Die Hard” franchise certainly makes room for nonstop, high-octane explosions, going to great lengths to detail immensely destructive car chases, shootouts, and even multiple helicopter attacks. Entirely too much time and attention is given to the extravagantly violent, nonsensically large-scale stunt sequences (although this is clearly the point); with a swift 97 minute runtime, no story is developed (save for the standard political prisoner targeted by national security measures – and a secret file!) and none of the characters get to participate in anything meaningful. But the salvos of machinegun fire and the massive vehicles detonating against one another sure are grand.
It seems that despite little diligence for main character study, “A Good Day to Die Hard” peculiarly focuses on the details of unambiguously supporting roles. A murderous Russian henchman (Rasha Bukvic) receives an entire scene in which to ponder his questionable career choice (he could have been a dancer!), and an even less involved gunman is clearly shown to be muscular (for some reason he loses his shirt), tattooed, and sporting a shaved head – only to end up dispatched without the fistfight that it would seem he was actualized to institute. McClane is still invincible, but as each movie passes, it becomes less acceptable and less impressive. Impossible escapes from exploding buildings and outrageously brutal pummeling of the human body result in nary a bloodied lip; when injuries are incurred, they’re forgotten about minutes later. The father/son dynamic starts off frustrating and ends unspectacularly, but this major addition to the franchise also takes a backseat to the colossal amounts of citywide devastation. At least the “R” rating allows for McClane’s classic catchphrase to be uttered without convenient distortion.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)