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"A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD"
(2013) (Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: New York cop John McClane travels to Russia to help his CIA agent son foil a terrorist plot.
PLOT:
New York cop John McClane (BRUCE WILLIS) learns that his wayward son, Jack (JAI COURTNEY), has been arrested for murder in Moscow. Feeling guilty for being an absentee father, he hops on a plane for Russia to help Jack out. He gets to the courthouse just at the time terrorists detonate car bombs and swarm the building with automatic weapons looking to kidnap Komarov (SEBASTIAN KOCH), a political prisoner also on trial.

John soon learns that Jack is a CIA agent assigned to protect Komarov and get him out of the city. McClane, though, unwittingly gets in the way of his exit strategy. Forced on the run, the McClanes run afoul of Yuri (SERGEI KOLESNIKOV), a master criminal who is eager to retrieve a computer file that could incriminate him in the Chernobyl disaster; Alik (RADIVOJE BUKVIC), Yuri's top henchman; and Irina, (YULIYA SNIGIR), Komarov's duplicitous daughter.

Father and son escape death several times and vow to foil a nuclear-weapons heist that could alter the balance of power in the world. To do so, they will have to put aside their differences and work together.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Being a child of the 1980s (er, an adolescent to be completely honest), I have a soft spot in my heart for the "Die Hard" movies and the character of John McClane specifically. The original "Die Hard" in '88 came out in the summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college. So, it hit me right as I had just been able to get into R-rated flicks legally. Great hero, great villain, great dialogue.

To me, the original "Die Hard" is to the subsequent McClane movies what "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was to the subsequent Indiana Jones films. The first in each series is a classic among the best examples of their respective genres. The sequels were good, solid, fun. But each time, a little of the novelty would leave and a LOT of the tension. So it is with "A Good Day to Die Hard." After the PG-13 rated "Live Free or Die Hard" of a few years ago, McClane purists will love that the fifth film is once again rated R and John gets to work the ol' F word into his dialogue again. But what they will continue to miss is a great bad guy, a palpable sense of real danger, and interesting supporting players.

Long gone are great turns by such talents as William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, Robert Davi, Bonnie Bedelia, Hart Bochner, and so forth. Long, LONG gone is Alan Rickman's scene-stealing Hans Gruber. In their place is a standard-issue father-son adventure, laughably huge stunts and pyrotechnics, obvious CGI trickery, and some truly hack direction by journeyman John Moore.

There is not much plot here. It's really a four-act play. And the four acts all have to do with four Russian buildings that John and Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) find themselves in that eventually get blown to pieces or shot up real good. Bruce Willis is indeed back as daredevil New York cop John McClane, who travels to Russia to help his wayward son, Jack, beat a murder rap. What he doesn't know is that Jack is a CIA agent, and his jail sentence is part of an elaborate ruse to free a political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has a secret file detailing illegal weapons trades that date back to the Chernobyl disaster.

A Russian gangster named Yuri (Sergei Kolesnikov) and his top henchman Alik (Radivoje Bukvic) are hot on the McClanes' trail as they try and blast their way out of Moscow. Also factoring in the mix is Komarov's side-switching daughter, Irina (Yuliya Snigir). Part of the weakness of the film is that the main bad guy keeps switching throughout, and it's not revealed until very late who John and Jack have to "Yippie Kai-yay" to save the world.

But I give the film points for its casting and an early vehicle chase through the streets of Moscow (actually Budapest) that sets some kind of record for obliterating vehicles. The action is so gargantuan that the rest of the film never quite recovers. As for the casting, I did like Jai Courtney. He's quite masculine on screen and looks like he could actually be Willis' son in real life. It's a much closer match than the boy-men Hollywood casting agents have gotten to play the sons of Indiana Jones, Captain Kirk, and Rocky Balboa over the years. And Willis even gives Courtney the film's single best action movie moment. It happens late, and you'll know it when you see it.

Still, there is no denying that this is one Hollywood property that has run out of steam. It's not so much a good day to die hard, as it is a good day to retire this franchise. I give it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed February 12, 2013 / Posted February 14, 2013


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