It’s supposed to be a parody of itself, right?
That’s the only way to explain the ridiculously over-the-top, repetitively numbing fifth film in the “Die Hard” franchise, the clunkily titled “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
John McClane used to be a cowboy. Now, he’s a cartoon character – specifically, Wile E. Coyote, given how many times he should be seriously injured and/or killed in this movie. He’s shot at, involved in several serious car accidents, crashes through glass windows and ceilings and plummets through floor after floor of high-rise scaffolding. The most he suffers is a scratch here and there, and then he’s ready to pop back up again with a bemused twinkle in his eye and a wry quip.
Part of the charm of this character, which was crucial in defining Bruce Willis’ career, was the regular-guy, Reagan-era resourcefulness he represented; now, he’s weirdly superhuman. But as charismatic as Willis ordinarily is in the role, even he can’t fool us into thinking he’s actually enjoying himself this time. Essentially, this is an opportunity for Willis to show off how great he still looks in a tight T-shirt at age 57; even the obligatory “yippee-ki-yay” line feels phoned in.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” is pointless and joyless, a barrage of noise and chaos, an onslaught of destruction without the slightest mention of consequence. Dozens of people should be dead from one lengthy car chase alone; “Die Hard” keeps on driving. Director John Moore (“Behind Enemy Lines.” “Max Payne”) mistakes shaky-cam and dizzying zooms for artistic finesse in his action sequences. This is a film that has not one but two scenes in which helicopters just sit there, hovering in the sky, firing countless high-powered rounds into buildings.
But the most obnoxious element of all in Skip Woods and Jason Keller’s script may be the hastily wedged-in father-son feel-goodery that occurs in the midst of all this madness. You see, Willis’ unstoppable New York cop has traveled to Moscow to track down his bitter, estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), whom he believes to be in some sort of criminal trouble. It turns out Jack is actually a spy working undercover to protect a government whistleblower named Komarov (Sebastian Koch), and dad has arrived just in time to ruin his mission.
So now the two McClanes must team up to keep Komarov from being kidnapped by generically menacing Russian bad guys; Komarov’s heavily lipsticked daughter, Irina (Yuliya Snigir), is also involved somehow, with wavering alliances. They all want Komarov to lead them to a hidden file – it sounds so Cold War, it may as well have been microfilm – but of course the file is the MacGuffin. It probably isn’t even really a file.
McClane picks up whatever weapon is nearby and solves every problem that comes their way but he also finds time to nag his son for calling him “John” instead of “dad.” Whether this is intended as comic relief in the heat of the moment or genuine sentiment, it clangs and feels too cute. McClane also repeatedly laments “I’m on vacation!” just as things are about to get hairy. We’d all be better off if Willis took a vacation from this character for good.
“A Good Day to Die Hard,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R for violence and language. Running time: 97 minutes. One star out of four.