- Rated R
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ost action franchises don’t typically make it beyond three films, and many that do only get worse with each installment. But that’s not the case with the “Die Hard” series, which proved that it still had some life left in it with 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard” and had yet to deliver anything resembling a bad sequel. Unfortunately, that’s about to change with “A Good Day to Die Hard,” because not only is it hands down the weakest entry in the series, but it’s so incredibly generic in just about every way that the only thing that makes it feel like a “Die Hard” movie at all is the inclusion of John McClane, and even he seems like a watered-down version of the character we know and love.
Though the “Die Hard” films have never been particularly rich in story, the fifth installment is almost embarrassingly simple. When John McClane (Bruce Willis) discovers that his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested in Russia, he hops on the next plane to find out what kind of trouble he’s gotten himself into. After witnessing Jack escape police custody with another prisoner, John confronts him in the middle of the street, unknowingly thwarting his son’s secret mission in the process. It turns out that Jack isn't the screw-up John thought he was, but rather a CIA operative working undercover to protect a government whistleblower (Sebastian Koch) with evidence against the country’s defense minister, and when his small window for extraction closes, Jack must rely on John’s help to finish the mission.
After bringing back John McClane’s daughter (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who makes a small cameo here) in the last film, it made sense to incorporate his son Jack into the story this time around. But while that dynamic may have sounded great on paper, it doesn’t work as well in execution. Willis is pretty much on auto-pilot the entire time, while Courtney is hampered by a thinly written character that makes him out to be a big grouch when he’s only just trying to do his job. A lot of that falls on Skip Woods’ awful script, and between the clichéd plot and recycling of jokes (Willis makes a crack about being on vacation at least five times), “A Good Day to Die Hard” feels like a direct-to-video action film that’s replaced key characters with members of the McClane family.
That in itself is pretty damning stuff, but director John Moore takes it one step further by sucking almost all the fun out of the experience. Though he clearly takes pride in the sheer ridiculousness of the violent set pieces (making the jet fighter sequence from the last installment look sensible by comparison), and the film’s 97-minute runtime is packed with wall-to-wall action, it’s mostly just a bunch of noise, and not terribly exciting to watch either. Even the villains aren’t very memorable, which is uncharacteristic for the series, and although McClane’s trademark one-liner has been reinstated thanks to the R rating, it’s the only really cool moment that Willis is given. “Live Free or Die Hard” may have shown that the series' protagonist could survive in the digital world, but Moore's follow-up is so shockingly dull that the studio would have been better off ending it there.