The fact that A Good Day to Die Hard returns the Die Hard series to its R-rated roots — thereby allowing the use of “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker” — and the fact that it looks like it’s bound to make a decent chunk of money doesn’t change the fact that this latest entry is pretty dire. And I’m being kind. This thing runs 97 minutes. After about 20 of those minutes, I was asking, “Is this almost over?” (I knew it wasn’t, but hope springs eternal and all that.) It’s the sort of film that may please those whose only requirement is that Bruce Willis is on screen, or those who only care if “shit blows up real neat.” Otherwise, this is one tedious mess of a movie (and a noisy one at that). It manages to have only the barest of plots, yet somehow makes even that incoherent and undeveloped. As if that weren’t enough, there’s the casting.
Well, there’s Bruce Willis. After that, the most recognizable faces are Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Cole Hauser (Cole Hauser????). Some beefcake du jour named Jai Courtney — and his large and sinewy muscles — more or less co-stars as Willis’ son, Jack McClane (or John McClane, Jr.). I apparently saw him in Jack Reacher, but he made no lasting impression. And any effect he has here, I will have likely forgotten before this review sees print. (I might remember, however, every time I see his first name that I think his last name should be “Guru Deva.”) That’s more than I can say about the rest of the cast, especially the bad guys who, come to think of it, are pretty much the rest of the cast. Oh, I’ll remember Sebastian Koch — from Black Book and The Lives of Others (both 2006), but not for this. In fairness to these folks, it’s not like the script by Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) gives them anything memorable to do.
Here’s the pitch: John McClane (Willis) learns that son Jack (Jai Guru Deva) is in jail in Russia, so he ambles his way over there — after being warned by his daughter (Winstead) not to make a mess of things — to…well, if the film has any idea what he’s planning, it keeps it to itself. But, it hardly matters. Soon, things are exploding, cars are zooming around, papa McClane ends up in the middle of it, people are shooting at each other, billions of rubles in property damage occur and what passes for one-liners are being spouted. None of it makes much sense — except for the idea that Jack is in the CIA and is trying to rescue political prisoner Komarov (Koch) — and nothing that happens subsequently really straightens out exactly who is doing what to whom and why. The theory seems to be that all that matters is that there are bad guys to be shot by our heroes and bad guys shooting back at our heroes. There are double-crosses and triple-crosses, more property damage, a preposterous climax at Chernobyl, and a peculiar lack of apparent interest in any of this by the Russian government. There’s also a seemingly interminable slow-motion final shot of McClane, son Jack and daughter Lucy walking, bathed in the golden rays of a sunrise (or maybe a sunset). Why? Beats me.
Yes, the film will deliver the catch-phrase (eventually), but the trailer’s promise of a nod to the original film with some big set-piece using the famous “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is unfulfilled. That may be just as well since the direction by John Moore is about what you’d expect from the guy who made Max Payne (2006). His only idea of style here is to film the early scenes with a lot of zoom shots, making the movie look briefly like a 1960s action film. Why? That, too, beats me. Any of the earlier films would be a better choice. Rated R for violence and language.
Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Square, United Artists Beauctcher Cinema 7