On the heels of recent action movies featuring old-timers Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, we get another action hero from years' past with Bruce Willis, reprising his role as John McClain in yet another installment in the Die Hard franchise. A Good Day to Die Hard is the fifth Die Hard film and hopefully the last.
But something tells me there will be more to come. When we first met John McClain (Bruce Willis) back in the original Die Hard film (1988), he was a flawed hero who got caught up in a terrorist takeover of a high rise building. We cared for him because he seemed normal enough, an everyman that we could root for. While fighting the bad guys, he was also working on repairing his marriage, since his estranged wife was one of the hostages in the building.
Back then, an action film meant something a bit more, where we were given some other elements of believability to pair with the mind-blowing thrill sequences. John had an interesting relationship with a cop on the ground (Reginald VelJohnson) and even the bad guys had personalities, from the blonde baddie (Alexander Godunov) to the mousey computer hack (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), that accompanied the resident super-villain (Alan Rickman, whose Hans Gruber is one of film's all-time great bad guys).
Flash-forward to 2013, when style is far more important than substance. A Good Day to Die Hard is a copy of a copy of a copy, so loosely resembling the original that you'd have to look hard to find any similarities whatsoever.
The fact that this new film features John McClain shouldn't qualify this as a sequel. The fact that there is a bad guy who falls to his death in slow motion - a la Hans Gruber - shouldn't qualify this as a Die Hard movie. The fact that there are car chases, explosions and fist fights doesn't quite equate this film to entertainment. And the fact that McClain once again utters his famous, "Yippee-Ki-Yi-Ay" line shouldn't prevent you from demanding that someone put a stop to this ongoing assault Hollywood is waging on our pop culture nostalgia. Some things are best left alone. Haven't they ruined this franchise enough already?
Apparently not. As the story goes in this one, John travels to Russia when he discovers that his son (Jai Courtney) - a CIA operative - has gone missing. He interferes with a mission his son is on as an excuse to partner up - father and son - on a parade of carnage across Mother Russia. Even though John went overseas specifically to find his son, the film insults our intelligence by having him continually utter the wise-crack, "I'm on vacation!" Son hates dad, but dad is too cool to care, or maybe Willis just has the confidence to know that this flimsy script will work itself out by the end.
There is a massive car chase to open the film, perhaps one of the most expensive ever to grace the screen. There is impressive action. But there is little else. I loved the original Die Hard, but crap is crap. A Good Day to Die Hard follows a grand stretch of crappy action films that has been dumped in theaters so far this year, from The Last Stand, to Parker, to Bullet to the Head.
This film at least feels familiar, but upon closer examination it is revealed as just another money grab, cashing in the well-known name of the franchise in order to fill theaters. John McClain is no longer a human being, he is Superman. The eternal flaw of Superman has always been how to make us humans care about someone who is impermeable to death. Willis carries the character with such a breezy demeanor that we never question that he is in any danger.
That's a far cry from the realism of the first Die Hard. If that John McClain could have looked into the future to see what would become of his franchise, he may have joined Hans Gruber by flinging himself off the top of the building.
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Cole Hauser
Written by Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Directed by John Moore (Max Payne, The Omen, Behind Enemy Lines)
Opens locally on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time