'A Good Day to Die Hard': We're too old for this
05:00 AM, Feb 13, 2013
The best thing about A Good Day to Die Hard is its title.
A violent tale of macho father-son bonding, this fifth Die Hard installment ( * 1/2 stars out of four; rated R; opening Thursday nationwide) is obnoxious, over the top and often dull. Opening this bullet-riddled snoozefest on Valentine’s Day seems particularly wrong-headed.
The filmmakers make a feeble attempt to acknowledge that Bruce Willis is rather long in the tooth to pull off his old Die Hard stunts. (The franchise originated 25 years ago.) But, in wannabe Expendables fashion, it sends up his tough-guy image. Unlike The Expendables and its sequel, the humor here isn’t cheeky fun. The jokes are repetitive and mostly unfunny.
Willis reprises his iconic role as police detective John McClane. When he hears that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is in prison in Russia, John goes looking for him. Dodging bullets and chasing bad guys who race around in tricked-out Hummers, John repeats “I’m on vacation” in what seems a desperate ploy to coin a lasting catchphrase. “Make my day” it’s not.
What John finds out is that his son Jack is a CIA operative working undercover to protect government whistleblower Komarov (Sebastian Koch). When he learns this, he calls Jack “the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey.”
The film’s first hour is more exciting than the second, especially a prolonged car chase through the congested streets of Moscow.
The second half is spent with father and son traipsing around the abandoned Chernobyl power plant, the site of one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. But even though gunfire and explosions abound, neither John nor Jack seem unduly worried about errant radioactivity.
The Russian baddies try to be clever, but their attempts at wit are just as poor as Willis and son’s.
“You know what I hate about Americans,” asks evil Russian henchman Alik (Rasha Bukvic). “Everything. Especially cowboys.”
Is that supposed to make our American blood boil, or elicit an appreciative guffaw?
Jack is anything but glad for a family reunion. It’s no wonder, since his father spouts clichés like “I’m not done talking to you” in the midst of life-threatening mayhem.
Jack does things by the book, while John is a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. Another key difference is their attitude toward cultural adaptation. Jack has learned to speak excellent Russian, while John punches a guy on a Moscow street for speaking to him in Russian. “Do you think I understand a word you’re saying?” he yells at the man.
An American at his ugliest, John inexplicably masters the complex Moscow highways almost upon arrival, participating in a high-speed chase in a city he’s never visited, forcing a paramilitary team off the road in creative ways. Disbelief must not only be suspended, but chucked at the door.
When cars are in hot pursuit of one another, the story is at least exciting. But once the action shifts to Chernobyl, where Komarov and an accomplice have hatched a plan to steal millions of dollars worth of plutonium, the story grows murky.
All we really need to know is that father and son re-establish their bonds via massive rounds of ammo, bloodshed and destruction.
At least this latest Die Hard wasn’t pegged to Father’s Day.