‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ attempts to follow its standard ‘Die Hard’ formula: a skilled underdog must overcome massively overwhelming odds to defeat the bad guys. This time, though, the movie adds a multiplicative factor, as both McClain Senior (Bruce Willis) and Junior (Jai Courtney) must overcome their personal issues with one another before the you-know-what-kicking can fully succeed.
After not hearing from his son for years, John McClain (Willis) finds out that his namesake is being held for murder in Russia. He hops a plane in an attempt to track his missing son down, and the non-stop action (that is surprisingly yawn-worthy) commences. After an exploding courthouse and multiple monotonous car chases, John finds out that Jack (Courtney) is really an undercover CIA operative tracking the whereabouts of a super-secret file that, purportedly, will bring down a gazillionaire Russian arms dealer. Over and over, we see that the McClain duo are emotionally distant from each other (seemingly stemming from Jack feeling his father was not present for him as a child because McClain Senior was, instead, repeatedly 'Yippee-Ki-Yaying' in the other ‘Die Hard’ adventures). And, yet, the boys are able to begin multitasking. They work through their trust issues while being assaulted by the Russian ruffians, nearly getting shot, having multiple vehicle turnover accidents, walking through fires, falling off buildings, and so on. This resilient duo rarely shows more than a bit of blood from their superhuman feats that defy the laws of physics, and their adventure culminates with a full-scale fight at...wait for it... Chernobyl, where weapons-grade radioactive materials have been stored for years by the film’s heavies.
This movie is the fifth installment in the Bruce Willis ‘Die Hard’ canon, which began, amazingly, 25-years ago with a ‘Moonlighting’-era Willis successfully transitioning from lovable television rogue to big screen macho action hero. The original ‘Die Hard’ was able to maintain a good deal of Willis’ natural charm. That charm, coupled with big-screen money and an awesome villain seething with great dramatic talent (‘Harry Potter’s’ Alan Rickman) made the original ‘Die Hard’ very watchable and suspenseful--even two-and-a-half decades later. Yet, Die-Hard-Willis 5.0 is not as watchable. He looks a bit-long-in-the-tooth, and regularly reminds the audience that he is the 'senior' McClain and that he is Jack’s 'pop.' Although the same ‘I-may-be-old-but-can-fight-with-full-ferocity’ approach has been successfully used in more tongue-in-cheek action movies in recent years ('The Expendables,' 'The Last Stand'), the old versus young set-up doesn’t quite jive here in an enjoyable manner. Jack Junior can certainly fight and look the part of the muscle-bound son, but we never feel very engaged or invested in him. Further, the bad guys are one-dimensional and boring, the fight and chase scenes all seem like budget versions of ones we’ve all seen before, and Willis’ petty references and smarm wear thin without any other actors engaged in his attempts at verbal sparring.
Unfortunately, this new version has little to invigorate it. ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is probably just that: a good day for the franchise to end.
‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is rated R for violence and language. It opens today across San Antonio and around the country.
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