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A Good Day to Die Hard

If Bruce Willis is ever married for 25 years, I hope he gives treats his wife better on their silver anniversary than he does John McClane, the character that made him a star. New York cop, blue-collar kind of guy, not afraid to do his best in an emergency situation on unfamiliar turf, McClane was a big hit in 1988’s Die Hard with movie audiences who were eager for a recognizably human hero after a decade of inarticulate, invincible lunks played by Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There’s not much left of that McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth film in the series. (Ironically, it’s the first one that actually began life as a Die Hard script: All of the others were generic action stories retooled for the character.)

This time McClane is in Moscow, where he has come to rescue his son Jack (Jai Courtney) from rotting in a Russian prison. Turns out Jack is really a CIA operative trying to get to Yuri (German star Sebastian Koch, from The Lives of Others) a jailed billionaire who holds evidence of corruption against a high-ranking Russian minister. Showing up at just the wrong moment, McClane lands in the middle of a battle to kidnap Yuri before he can spill the beans.

At 97 minutes, much shorter than previous Die Hards, A Good Day packs in more action than ever but skimps on the characters. The story is generic and minimal, at least until a third act plot twist that comes too late to do more than elbow us awake. The relationship between father and son, who have an undescribed troubled past, is minimal, culminating in a dialogue exchange so bare-boned its sounds like it was penciled in at the last minute.

For most of the film McClane feels like he’s just along for the ride, and when he does act it’s largely to run away from the military hardware the bad guys are training on him and Jack. It’s often hard to tell just what is going on, as director John Moore (Max Payne) seems to care about nothing but filling the screen with explosions and firepower.

If there is going to be a sixth Die Hard, let’s hope they get back to basics: Special effects just take money, but a character the audience cares about is an asset that shouldn’t be wasted like this.

Watch the trailer for A Good Day to Die Hard

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