Considering the number of times John McClane has saved the day, one would think that he’d be a national treasure. Foiling hostage situations and terrorism plots for a quarter century, he’s an unstoppable force whose resumé suggests more prestigious work than average police duties. At this point, a leading role in Seal Team Six’s raid of the bin Laden compound seems more likely than putting around NYPD grounds, yet on the force he remains. Back for his fifth adventure, it’s not these questions of plausibility and merit that dog A Good Day to Die Hard. (At the very latest, realism departed the conversation when McClane took out a helicopter with a car in Live Free or Die Hard.) No, what does in John Moore’s film is a hurried approach that takes the action franchise’s humor and heroism and renders them useless.
Having mended ties with daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his previous adventure, sudden family man McClane now turns his attention to estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney), whom he suspects of criminal activity. Tracking Jack to Moscow with embarrassing ease, the film commits to a similarly rushed style that’s rich in explosions and gunplay, yet absent of substance. With no hook and no attempt to slow down to establish any investment outside of an assumed loyalty to McClane’s legacy, what’s left is a loud and dreary thrill-less ride that muddies what had been an impressive track record.
On paper and most definitely in its trailers, A Good Day to Die Hard appears prime for old school action fun. As Jack’s CIA agent status is revealed, the prospect of father-son McClanes teaming up to protect a Russian dissident (Sebastian Koch) seems as good a premise as any. But under Moore’s direction, ambitious set pieces like a highway car chase that by all means should rival the vehicular stunts from the Bourne series are downright grating. Despite the requisite variety of angles and ridiculous stunt driving, the slapdash arrangement of these images lacks any sense of energy. Add in McClane shouting random nonsense before his latest mission has had a chance to gel, and there’s no joy to be had whatsoever.
As the film rambles on, the same lackadaisical style holds steady. Between laughable attempts at bonding between the McClane men, writer Skip Woods wastes a perfectly good Chernobyl subplot, squeezes in a villain (Radivoje Bukvic) who wields a carrot like he’s Bugs Bunny, and offers up an awful homage to Hans Gruber’s fall in the original film. After 90 minutes of excitement-free noise, the mere suggestion that A Good Day to Die Hard is on par with such an iconic moment is offensive, yet so it goes for a franchise grasping for a link to its roots. Complicit with a John McClane that barely resembles the charismatic cop of yesteryear, the homage is but one of many distortions that signal the unfortunate end of one of cinema’s great sagas. Here’s hoping it truly is the end.
Rated R for violence and language.
A Good Day to Die Hard is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.