It’s one thing for a movie to be bad – we expect that from Michael Bay and Brett Ratner – but it is an entirely different issue when a movie defecates on the memory of a classic film without the slightest sense of guilt. Die Hard is one of the greatest movies ever made and arguably the greatest action movie ever made. John McClane was the reluctant, sardonic hero audiences needed after a decade of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing their muscles at every turn while dispatching faceless bad guys. McClane didn’t want to save anyone; he just wanted to reconnect with his wife, probably to spite her more than anything.
Two decades and three sequels later, the Die Hard franchise has as much life in it as Hans Gruber at the end of the first film. This weekend, A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth installment, is being thrust upon moviegoers, many of whom have probably never seen the original or if they have it has only been a highly edited version on TNT or USA which stripped the movie of its most humorous bits. After Live Free or Die Hard, which was the film equivalent of a being attacked by ten monkeys hopped up on meth, I was shocked that any studio would want to make another McClane adventure. But, the depth of Hollywood’s depravity knows no limit.
Since John McClane (Bruce Willis) has destroyed Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., it only makes sense his next tour of destruction would take place in Russia. This would have been timely around the release of the first film in 1988, but in 2013, it’s just bland. John wants to find his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), whom he fears has fallen into a life of crime or drugs. One of John’s police buddies (McClane is still a cop?!) is able to locate Jack: he’s in prison awaiting trial for killing a man in a club. John hops on a plane to Moscow, hoping he can use his smile and winning personality to help him get by in a city he’s never visited.
The joke is on Dad, though, because Jack isn’t living a criminal lifestyle. He’s in the CIA on a secret mission to thwart a terrorist plot! What is most disturbing is that some low-level NYC cop is able to track down a CIA agent so easily. Is Jack McClane using his real name as his cover? Don’t think too hard about it because I assure you screenwriter Skip Woods didn’t.
Anyway, Jack is trying to save a political prisoner named Kamarov (Sebastian Koch) from being killed by his enemy’s henchmen, led by the extremely garrulous Alik (Radivoje Bukvic). John screws up Jack’s plan and must help him smuggle Kamarov out of Moscow. First, though, they must help him get a key so he can get the file the CIA so desperately needs from him. This involves a crosstown chase that involves destroying nearly every car in Moscow and executing a series of maneuvers that I just can’t fathom working given the laws of physics by which we are constrained.
A Good Day to Die Hard attempts a third act reversal so ridiculous and poorly thought out that it plays as if, at the eleventh hour, the studio demanded a twist ending regardless of whether the first two-thirds of the plot supports it or not. Director John Moore must have subsisted on Red Bull and caffeine pills throughout the production, evidenced by the breakneck speed of the movie that rarely stops for a breath for fear of allowing the audience to think, “Wait. None of this makes sense.” To his credit, Moore is quite inventive when it comes to smashing things: cars, helicopters, buildings. If it exists, it’s going to get destroyed.
Willis doesn’t even bother trying to recreate the original John McClane, the one who was always about two seconds away from saying, “Fuck it,” and walking out the front door of the Nakatomi Building. Like everything else in A Good Day to Die Hard, Willis is loud, pointless and boring as hell.