Bruce Willis returns as John McClane – AKA the king of wrong place, wrong time – in A Good Day To Die Hard, which introduces two new elements to the aging series: Russia and a heretofore unmentioned son, Jack McClane (played by Jai Courtney). The movie revolves around a Russian billionaire who is wrongfully imprisoned by a political opponent who must be abducted and protected by – who am I kidding, it’s an excuse for Willis to rattle off one-liners, Courtney to be in awe of his old dog dad who still has it and director John Moore to blow up a lot of stuff.
The Die Hard series became a cartoon right around the time John McClane used an ejector seat to escape a sticky situation in Diehard 2: Die Harder, and that’s fine. The first film in the series is and will always be the best, but there are only so many ways to go with the formula of unlikely-hero-gets-thrusted-into-unlikely-situation, kills-everyone. Past films in the series have paired our hero with Samuel L. Jackson, and the surefire combo of Kevin Smith and Justin Long, but with this entry, it’s safe to say that the series has run out of steam.
Willis doesn’t have anything to do here other than say, “I’m on vacation” about 20 times. Courtney is a passable action star, but doesn’t do much to stand out from the pack. Their father/son relationship is treated with the appropriate amount of tough guy bravura. Feelings are mocked, pent-up anger is expressed and there’s a real bonding moment when a piece of rebar is pulled from an open wound.
Moore’s action sequences are ratcheted up to the point of ridiculousness, which again, fits the tone of the new Die Hard movies, but they aren’t exactly effective. An early car chase his a shaky, difficult-to-follow affair. Later on, the McClane boys run for their lives as a Hind D helicopter sprays thousands of bullets into the size of a hotel room. The movie does score a high point in its finale, which starts out ridiculous and the gets crazier from there.
Another point the movie has in its favor is its runtime. At a brisk 97 minutes, the A Good Day To Die Hard gets what passes as its story out of the way in a hurry, but it would have been nice to cram in another action sequence instead of the convoluted plot twist that occupies the third reel. A Good Day To Die Hard has all of the pieces necessary to be a vibrant action series, but they never fully come together. Willis is lifeless, Courtney is boring, the action is difficult-to-follow, which in turn becomes boring, and the plot is nonsensical.
Maybe the franchise needs a new director or directors (Neveldine/Taylor could do something appropriately crazy, as could Jee-woon Kim), or maybe it needs a new script, but as it stands A Good Day To Die Hard is good for a few over-the-top scenes, but not a good movie overall. Proceed with caution.