When I described Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head as cartoonish, I hadn’t seen A Good Day to Die Hard. This fifth go-round for the Bruce Willis action series makes the Stallone picture seem positively Shakespearean! To be fair to action junkies I should say that if you like watching things blow up, you won’t be bored. But the almost non-stop mayhem in this film—including car and truck chases, huge explosions, bullet-ridden battles, and people hurling through plate-glass windows—comes with a catch. It doesn’t look real.
I wouldn’t presume to guess how many of these spectacular scenes were executed with stunt people and how many were created with computer graphics. All I know is that the results are so wildly improbable that it’s difficult to make any emotional investment in them. When you can’t believe that your hero is actually in peril, or you get to the point where you know that he’ll survive every catastrophe, no matter how huge, the fun drains away.
The storyline is thin and contrived. It seems that maverick New York City cop John McClane (Willis) not only has a daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but a grown son, a detail apparently withheld from the previous four movies. He’s estranged from his father, but when Dad hears that his kid is in trouble in Russia, he flies there to see what he can do…little dreaming that the beefy son (Australian actor Jai Courtney) is working for the CIA. What’s more, he’s on a sensitive mission to protect a controversial figure (Sebastian Koch) who’s holding a file full of volatile information. This is mostly an excuse for father and son to bond as they get beat up and chase “scumbags” together.
Director John Moore and his team stage the action scenes well enough, but this movie doesn’t know when to quit, and Skip Woods’ screenplay doesn’t leaven the proceedings with wisecracks worthy of Willis’ patented delivery.
Willis is enjoyable to watch, as usual, but he doesn’t have much to work with. (I’m old enough to remember that when he was cast in the original Die Hard, twenty-five years ago, people chortled at the idea of a light-comedy actor invading Schwarzenegger territory. Looks like Willis has had the last laugh.) His McClane character is an evergreen, but without a decent script he can do little except spin his wheels. A Good Day to Die Hard should have and could have been a lot better.