Movie review: Willis takes action overseas in weak 'A Good Day to Die Hard'
Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney unexpectedly join forces in Moscow and beyond in "A Good Day to Die Hard."
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It takes almost 90 minutes, but Bruce Willis gets to utter his signature line in his fifth "Die Hard" movie in 25 years. It's that R-rated phrase that starts with "Yippee-ki-yay" and, well, you know the rest.
You likely know Mr. Willis as John McClane but not his estranged adult son, Jack (Jai Courtney). When a colleague locates Jack overseas, the veteran New York cop asks, "Hospital or worse?"
Worse. Imprisoned in Moscow, awaiting sentencing and lucky to get life. That's enough in "A Good Day to Die Hard" to send McClane to the airport with a farewell plea from his adult daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who appeared in the fourth movie: "Try not to make an even bigger mess of things."
2.5 stars = Averge
Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney.
R for violence and language.
Darned if that doesn't happen when he arrives in Moscow and gets in the middle of an undercover CIA operation involving his irate son and a prisoner, Komarov (Sebastian Koch, "The Lives of Others"), who holds the fate of a malicious politician in his hands.
In no time, father, son, Komarov and others are in one of the wildest, most extensive and destructive car chases put on film -- at one point Mr. Willis' commandeered Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen bumps along the top of a new-car carrier, crushing the virgin vehicles.
No animals were harmed in the making of the film, but plenty of cars, trucks, vans and bridge abutments were, thanks to speeds as high as 150 mph. Although most of the movie was filmed in Budapest, much of that action was shot on Moscow's Garden Ring and everyone and everything -- one of the villains is driving a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle -- seems impervious to injury.
"A Good Day to Die Hard," directed by John Moore, dispenses with any pesky backstory. Little time is spent on why father and son have lost touch. John says something about how his son "can never get out of his own way .... he had a lot of problems," while Jack seems to resent how much time his father spent working.
The movie aspires to be all action all the time, and it is that, building to a climactic confrontation at Chernobyl, or what passes on film for the home of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster. The script makes light of the danger of wandering around without protective clothing but residual radiation or whatever still lurks there is nothing compared to what the McClanes immediately face.
"A Good Day to Die Hard" gives Mr. Willis wisecracks -- some vacation, he keeps muttering -- and a possible successor or sidekick in Mr. Courtney ("Jack Reacher," "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"), but it lacks a villain of the sadistic stature of Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons.
Although opening on Valentine's Day to capitalize on couples looking for an alternative to Nicholas Sparks, it's the weakest of the five "Die Hard" movies.
As it aims for that all-important international audience, McClane's feats take him overseas and it's harder to relate to the action antics, but you have to hand it to Mr. Willis. He will turn 58 in March but still has the moves and box-office draw of a much younger man.
First Published February 14, 2013 12:00 am