Despite fiery explosions, gunfire and over-the-top set pieces, crammed into a tragically short 97 minutes, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is hardly a “Die Hard” movie.
Perhaps it’s a superspy adventure. Or a superhero epic where the capeless New York cop, John McClane (Bruce Willis), is impervious to bullets, chopping helicopter blades and the biting sarcasm of the evil villain.
The fifth installment of the action series doesn’t have the clever plotting of the original “Die Hard,” nor does it have the “average Joe” vulnerability of its hero or the wickedly smart antagonist of the first movie. Somehow, since the original classic exploded on screens in 1988, the series has morphed into something that doesn’t resemble what made “Die Hard” such a great blockbuster.
Instead, as the series gets longer and our hero gets older, the action only gets louder and the hair-raising situations become more unbelievable. John McClane should just consider early retirement. After all, how many bad days can happen to the same cop?
This time, McClane learns that his estranged son, Jake (“Spartacus: Blood and Sand’s” Jai Courtney), is a CIA operative trying to get a Russian dissident and nuclear scientist out of the country. When McClane arrives in Moscow, he accidentally foils his son’s mission and gets involved in a plot involving weapons-grade uranium and a band of gun-toting Russian terrorists.
Meanwhile, father and son team up to fight the bad guys while trying to patch things up in their relationship. That leads to awkward scenes where they bicker about McClane’s parenting skills while gunning down dozens of men. This family dynamic was much done better in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
You also will feel cheated by the short running time. The movie moves through only a few settings before it suddenly concludes with an outrageous battle royale with an Army helicopter. The paper-thin story lacks the smart tactics for which McClane was known and the equally sharp and elegant villain made famous by Alan Rickman in the first “Die Hard.”
A few of the action scenes in this new installment are spectacular, especially in the first half. The movie’s best scene, a gripping truck chase through a busy Moscow, will leave you breathless and wondering if it was real or special effects, and most of the shooting scenes are well choreographed by director John Moore.
But if you’re a fan of the original “Die Hard,” this is something entirely different. Perhaps the only things that die hard in these movies are good ideas.
A Good Day to Die Hard
John McClane returns in this fifth adventure that lacks the smarts and villainy of the first movie.
Where • Theaters everywhere
When • Opened Thursday, Feb. 14
Rating • R for violence and language
Running time • 97 minutes