A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
DIRECTED BY John Moore
STARS Bruce Wilis, Jai Courtney
It's been exactly a quarter-century since Bruce Willis became a movie star with the action classic Die Hard, but while 2013 finds the actor headlining the fifth film in the never-say-die series, it's clear that A Good Day to Die Hard does his image — and his iconic character — no favors. John McClane, once an exciting screen presence, is now simply an old grouch who's as dull and predictable as a presidential candidate in debate mode. The movie poster might as well read, "John McClane IS John McCain," given that this dud isn't likely to raise anyone's pulse.
The first Die Hard entry set outside the U.S., this finds McClane heading to Russia to check on his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney), who isn't the druggie burnout he expected to find but rather a covert agent for the CIA. Jack's mission is to extract a political prisoner (the fine German actor Sebastian Koch, almost unrecognizable under a scruffy beard), which becomes a mission impossible once Pappy McClane arrives on the scene and screws everything up. But no worries: Big Daddy has plenty of time to make amends, as he proceeds to blow away Russkies, save his son's skin and rack up an obscene amount of collateral damage.
The father-son/secret agent angle has already been recently used by Willis himself in last year's The Cold Light of Day, a movie this one resembles in its dogged devotion to dimness. The story even pays a visit to Chernobyl, where the McClane boys take a bath in radioactive water, make bonding cracks about John's (ergo, Bruce's) baldness and bump into the tourists from last year's horror flick Chernobyl Diaries. Just kidding on that last one; instead, they bump into scores of villains, one of whom suffers (spoiler, but who really gives a damn?) death-by-whirling-helicopter-blade. A unique cinematic demise? Not really: A character suffered the exact same fate in 1991's execrable The Last Boy Scout, a film which — oh, yeah — also starred Bruce Willis.
John McClane's signature catchphrase "Yippee ki-yay" is uttered, though he's more prone this time around to channeling City Slickers' Billy Crystal by shouting, "I'm on vacation!" — a line that isn't especially witty (or accurate) the first time he says it and certainly has worn out its welcome by the time he amends it to "I'm on fucking vacation!" Unbelievably, this great character has made a complete transformation from a likable, sympathetic Everyman in 1988 to an arrogant, insufferable jerk in 2013. All traces of personality have disappeared, leaving only a plastic action figure merely going through the motions. Whereas McClane employed ingenuity in at least the first two Die Hard films, his MO here is to mainly aim and shoot. He even gets to be the Ugly American, yelling at an understandably irate driver (whose car has been hit by McClane), "Do I look like I speak your fucking language?" before punching him. The role has been so thoroughly siphoned of individuality and personality than if there's another sequel, Willis doesn't even have to play McClane: The producers can nab Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bieber or anybody else their avaricious little hearts desire.