If “A Good Day to Die Hard” didn’t have the words “Die Hard” in its title, nobody would pay it the slightest bit of attention. It would be just another brainless action film, the kind that’s somehow chaotic and tedious simultaneously, the kind where things explode without cause and where indestructible heroes leap through upper-story plate-glass windows without regard for what, if anything, is below them to break their fall. Whichever studio owned it probably wouldn’t bother screening it for critics before it opened, the reviews it did get would be brief and dismissive, and it would disappear. You would maybe catch part of it on HBO a year from now and think, “Huh, Bruce Willis is really slumming a lot lately.”
Yet because it bears the “Die Hard” label, we are somehow obligated to take it seriously? Because it is the fifth entry in a very popular 25-year-old franchise, we’re supposed to pretend it is a real blockbuster produced by a legitimate Hollywood enterprise, and not the rickety, watered-down folderol it is? No sir! I refuse. I will give “A Good Day to Die Hard” what it is due: a sloppy, hastily written review of a movie nobody will (or should, anyway) remember three weeks from now.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) goes to Moscow to retrieve his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who’s been arrested for murder. John and Jack have been estranged for a few years, which I guess is how John McClane the supercop failed to know that his only son was working for the CIA. While bickering tiresomely about their failings as a family unit, the McClanes work to extract a Russian guy named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has an Important File, but they are Double-Crossed, and there’s a bad guy who eats a carrot like Bugs Bunny, and Komarov’s hot daughter (Yuliya Snigir) is there, and the whole thing ends at Chernobyl — yes, that Chernobyl, the one that’s 600 miles from Moscow yet can apparently be reached by car in a few hours.
Director John Moore (“Max Payne”) and his stunt crew do achieve a few impressive wrecks in the overlong car chase that occupies much of the movie’s first act, but Moore shoots everything in shaky-cam confuse-o-vision, with no sense of geography, let alone suspense or tension.
The writer is Skip Woods, and I’d assume that what’s on the screen bore little resemblance to what he actually wrote — this is the kind of movie that was surely micromanaged by studio pinheads — were it not for the fact that his previous credits, “The A-Team,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Hitman,” and “Swordfish,” were all fairly bad, too. Here the banter between the McClanes is snarky but not funny (“You’re a world-class screw-up, John!” his son yells), they have convenient and coincidental access to every weapon and tool they could possibly need, and John answers a phone call from his daughter while he’s in the middle of a car chase.
It’s dumb. It’s dumb, it’s uninteresting, it’s pointless, and it has nothing in common with previous “Die Hard” movies except the main character and his catchphrase. It’s an embarrassing, calculated effort to wring money out of audiences who have been tricked into believing the old magic has been recaptured. Well, it hasn’t. Don’t let the title fool you. This should have starred Steven Seagal and gone straight to DVD.
D (1 hr., 37 min.; )