The fifth entry in the "Die Hard" franchise is titled "A Good Day to Die Hard." But really, that could be the title of any "Die Hard" movie. John McClane, the iconic tough-guy cop who doesn't play by the rules, loves killing bad guys. He went through the entirety of the third movie, "Die Hard: With a Vengeance," with a crushing hangover.
And hey, this time McClane (Bruce Willis) gets to do a little sightseeing in between shots. "A Good Day to Die Hard" is the first of the franchise to take place on foreign soil. The cop is looking a little long in the tooth, but he sets out for Russia upon learning his son is being held in a prison there and will be lucky to get off with a life sentence.
When his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) sees him off with the plea "just try not to make an even bigger mess of things," we know he will. He's barely in Moscow an hour when he unwittingly sabotages a CIA mission. Turns out, John Jr. (called Jack and played by Jai Courtney) isn't a bad apple after all.
|'A Good Day to Die Hard'|
|2.5 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch|
|Director: John Moore|
|Rating: R for violence and strong language|
|Running time: 97 minutes|
That mission involves getting a political prisoner, billionaire businessman Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) out of the country. We're told there are "mass protests" over his jailing by a bigwig in the Russian government, but we're never told why. Plot details aren't director John Moore's strong suit, it seems. Neither is character or the waggish dialogue of the previous films -- the things that made them successful in a genre not normally given to critical adoration. Here the focus is entirely on the action, the special effects and the fights. And it does quite well in that regard -- though not well enough to make up for everything else.
One Russian villain looks at John and Jack, shaking his head at what he calls their arrogance. "It's not 1986, you know. Reagan is dead." But it is 1986 inside this movie -- writer Skip Woods couldn't come up with anything more timely about one of the more interesting of American nonallies than a plot involving Chernobyl. Then again, few of the actors playing Russians are actually Russian.
Rather than produce a pointed plot, the movie spends way too much time letting John and his son talk superficially about their difficult relationship. The movie clocks in at just 97 minutes, but not all that much really happens. There's a heck of a lot of slowmo in this movie, including during an unsatisfying hug at the end.
"I had a pretty good day. It was fun running around with you," John tells his son, after they've been shot at, fallen from a building and generally been battered by the baddies. It's always fun to hang with John McClane for a day, at least from the comfort of the cinema. But this trip doesn't merit a "yippee-ki-yay."