A Good Day to Die Hard | Movie review
But a bad day for fans of this seminal action franchise.
Remember when John McClane could be fazed? In 1988, when a young Bruce Willis headlined his first Die Hard movie, the character was recognizably human: an NYC detective out of his jurisdiction, an ordinary joe facing extraordinary circumstances. He felt fear and pain, rationed his one-liners as diligently as his bullets and—except for one firehose-abetted leap to safety—never defied the laws of physics. Twenty-five years and four sequels later, McClane seems less man than demigod, growing more indestructible with each inelegantly titled new installment. In the original, Willis made us feel every shard of glass he stepped on. In A Good Day to Die Hard, the wisecracking lawman shrugs off a vertical plummet through several skylights. “You’re old-school,” cracks his estranged, blandly belligerent son (Jai Courtney), when he should be marveling at dad’s Benjamin Button–like conquest of the aging process.
This series lowlight qualifies as a throwback to the Reagan era only through its cartoonish Cold War caricatures, including a carrot-chomping Russian heavy who ironically observes that “it’s not 1986.” The plot, somehow both needlessly complicated and completely negligible, sends McClane to Moscow to bail out his brooding offspring, an undercover spy who’s gotten mixed up with the engineers of—wait for it—the Chernobyl meltdown. On paper, all of this sounds like a transparent bid to make our pushing-60 hero a fish out of water again. Yet beyond one bantering exchange with a cabbie—behold the strained wit of Hitman screenwriter Skip Woods—the film could take place in just about any city. Director John Moore, the anonymous hack at the helm, stages car chases and gun fights with messy imprecision. (In terms of visual coherence, he makes Len Wiseman look like John McTiernan.) Willis, meanwhile, has never seemed less invested in the role that made his career. They might as well pull a Terminator Salvation and digitally insert his likeness into the inevitable sixth chapter. As McClane is basically a machine at this point, why not trust one to play him?