By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Guess it was a bad day to try hard. So this fifth installment doesn’t.
A Good Day to Die Hard, the fourth sequel in the popular action-thriller adventures, is easily the series’ low point.
Where there’s a Willis, there’s a way of entertaining action fans with a Die Hard outing. But the dropoff in quality from the last outing to this one will be pretty obvious, even to forgiving fans.
Die Hard (1988), dubbed the greatest action flick of all time by Entertainment Weekly, kicked off the franchise, which includes the impressive followup, Die Hard 2 (1990), the disappointing threequel, Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), and then the return-to-form-rousing Live Free or Die Hard (2007).
In this fifth at-bat, A Good Day to Die Hard (originally to be titled “Die Hard 24/7”), Bruce Willis returns in his iconic and ironic role as resourceful, heroic, working-class NYPD detective John McClane.
But this time he travels to Moscow, where he insists that he’s on vacation, and where his estranged son Jack, played by Jai Courtney, has been arrested.
Fish-out-of-water McClane quickly discovers that his son’s arrest is merely part of a wider terrorist plot, and he finds himself involved in a CIA operation to free a political prisoner who is in possession of a file they badly want.
And Jack, it turns out, is a highly-trained CIA operative -– who knew? — working to prevent a planned nuclear-weapons heist by villains intent on building weapons of mass destruction.
So, father and son team up to thwart the efforts of what seems like half the Russian underworld.
Director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix, The Omen, Max Payne) takes a page from the Michael Bay playbook and reduces the level of verisimilitude to nonexistent, abandoning the art of storytelling as if it doesn’t even matter when there are stunts and CGI to display, addressing the mayhem as his stock-in-trade, crashing vehicles as if staging a Demolition Derby, ignoring those irritating little laws of physics, never slowing down long enough to allow anybody to do anything that might be described as acting, and orchestrating the barely-even-cartoonish action as if the McClanes were literally indestructible, walking away unscathed from situations that would kill or maim lesser mortals.
The original screenplay by Skip Woods, nonsensical and threadbare as it traffics in off-the-charts implausibility, is the first in the series not to be adapted from another source. Big mistake.
As for Willis, who has now been trasmogrified from an everyman cop to an unkillable superhero and with nothing to play but his character’s relentless smugness, he waltzes through, looking thoroughly and understandably bored out of his mind, and he seems to realize with every fiber of his being just how far the mighty have fallen.
Interestingly, A Good Day to Die Hard has, by about a half-hour, a much shorter running time than any of its four predecessors. But that will prove very scant consolation to anyone who recalls the earlier episodes.
So we’ll yippee-ki-yay 1 star out of 4 for A Good Day to Die Hard, a brainless shoot-em-up that idiotically celebrates automatic weaponry as it buries a once-impressive movie series.