A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
Author: JoAnne Hyde
February 13, 2013

SYNOPSIS: John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Russia in this fifth installment of the Die Hard film series. Skip Woods (The A-Team) provides the script, with Max Payne's John Moore directing.

Sometimes more is not better.

Sometimes it’s good to know when to take you ball and go home.

Such is the case with the fifth installment of the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of Bruce Willis’s portrayals of super-cop John McClane. But this one is so far off target that I hardly recognized the character. My guess is that the powers that be are considering furthering the franchise using McClane’s son, Jack, played by Jai Courtney as the new torch-bearer for “killing scum bags” (McClane’s words, not mine). My second guess is that based on the preview audience’s response to the film, they will not.

Film #1, Die Hard, was an A+. Number 2, Die Harder was an A-. It was downhill from there. I’d rate #3 and #4 as B and B-, respectively, not bad films, but definitely not up to the first two. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis continued to age, and even though he’s playing an older character in the current film, it’s difficult to convince the audience that he’s not slowed down by pain, blood loss, and penetrating shards of broken glass. He looks tired. Plus, the script deprives him of his usual wisecracks, giving him only the lame “I’m on vacation” as a response to everything. Equally impervious to the aforementioned inconveniences, son Jack (Jai Courtney) is an undercover CIA agent, not a cop. Metal pole sticking in your gut? Just pull it out and go on! In other words, the travails the father and son survive are just a little too unbelievable. We want to buy it, but the scriptwriters and director have to at least give us a chance to believe the fantasy.

The film begins when John McClane – still on the police – force, learns that his son, whom he hasn’t had contact with for several years, is about to stand trial in Russia. Without so much as a “where’s my passport?”, he’s off to Russia to - well, it’s not really clear what’s on his mind. Once he arrives (Budapest stands in for Moscow), he finds himself doing what his son calls “busting in and making s**t up as you go.” Jack is trying to protect a sketchy man named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from a sketchier man Chagarin (Sergei Kolesikov), and get Komarov out of the country. What these two have been up to is vague, but it has something to do with Chernobyl, and it’s bad for the U.S. Chagarin seems determined to have Komarov killed and have all the power (?) to himself. The courtroom is stormed by unidentified individuals, and in the ensuing chaos, Komarov and Jack escape and head for a safe house that probably isn’t safe. John tries to help out by joining in a frenetic car chase. Actually, the chase scene is pretty spectacular – a virtual field day for stunt drivers. It may be the best thing in the film.

The review continues after the jump!

Of course, there are double crosses and triple crosses, and finally Jack and John decide to try to get Komarov out of Russia. He won’t go, however, without his daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir), an enigmatic figure who may not be what she seems to be. The double crosses, lies, betrayals and what-not often seem unnecessarily confusing. The ‘who’s-working-for- whom’ thing gets a bit tedious after a while.

Besides an auto-pilot performance by Bruce Willis, what the film lacks is a coherent script and a compelling villain. Two old Russians? Really? They look like your grandfather! AND, it includes what may be the most ridiculous plot device ever! I won’t reveal it here, but consider yourself warned!

Totally wasted with only about 30 seconds of screen time, Mary Elizabeth Winstead does her darnedest to give some life to John’s sympathetic daughter, Lucy. I kept thinking that the film would have been much better if she had somehow found her way to Moscow and become the “daughter in peril.” I could have believed John and Jack teaming up to save her much more readily than their attempt to save the world from the weapons-grade uranium the bad guys are after. By the way, I’m sure that real victims of radiation poisoning would love to get their hands on the spray that the villains use to neutralize the toxic atmosphere within Chernobyl. The new guy, Australian Jai Courtney, a veteran of the cable television series Spartacus: War of the Damned, looks good in tight t-shirts and does a dead-on American accent. It’s not his fault that his character is a cliché. The little father/son estrangement sub-plot never really rings true.

Whether or not you decide to spend 2 of your hours at A Good Day to Die Hard most likely depends on how badly you want to see the car/truck/armored vehicle chase through the crazy traffic of Budapest…err…Moscow. - J.A. Hyde

GRADE: D

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