Some things never get old–and Bruce Willis as John McClane is one of them. For the fifth time, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD brings the relentless NYPD hero back — this time in geri-action– but the formula still works. Once again, it’s John McClane against a world of bad guys; we know who’s going to win and can’t wait to see him do it. Once again, this ultra cool, no nonsense regular guy armed only with his instincts and whatever semi-automatic weapons he picks up along the way, gets himself into and out of some mighty big scrapes. Once again, concern for a relative motivates McClane – but this time a little family therapy is in the offing as he sets out to bring his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) back from Russia with love. Dr. Phil would be proud.
The film opens with McClane headed to Moscow, his daughter cautioning him “not to make an even bigger mess of things.” Cue the chaos. Within minutes, multi-vehicular mayhem ensues– none of it pretty. Under John Moore’s direction, cars, trucks, jeeps, vans, utility vehicles, and helicopters– crash, spin, dangle, somersault, fly and explode, piling up helter-skelter like toys on a giant set. The CIA, KGB, and nuclear weapons are involved. John and Jack are often at the helm of various vehicles-turned-projectiles: hurtling through space, crashing through windows and innocent bystanders, emerging unscathed but for the occasional bolt through the abdomen– which McClane removes with his teeth! (Actually, he just uses his bare hands. But wouldn’t that be cool?)
Though layers of bad guys pile up faster than you can say “nyet,” the action never reaches the nail-biting crescendo and sheer lunacy of previous DIE HARD films. Perhaps it’s because the Russians seem like escapees from the cold war cartoon world of Rocky and Bullwinkle and aren’t “bad-enov.” Perhaps it’s because McClane has company on this one– his muscular son –which dilutes the “one man” against all odds formula. But Jai Courtney is merely a “chip” off the old block; it’s the block that has weight.
It’s Willis who keeps us coming back for more — the way he casually calls random Russians “Nijinsky,” or takes a call from home in the middle of driving a truck off a bridge, or coaches a Russian cabby on Sinatra lyrics, or being just plain peeved that mowing down armies of evil enemies is getting in the way of quality time with his kid.
Yup– in between mountains of mass destruction– “healing”also ensues. John and Jack mumble the “L” word– it actually brought a tear to my eye. The rest of the movie is devoted to major father-son bonding over bodies and bullets. This may not be the best of the franchise, but it’s still a beautiful thing. “Yippee -ki-yay Mother Russia!” I’m ready for number six.