Make us your home page

Review: 'A Good Day to Die Hard' shows no life left in franchise

Bruce Willis as John McClane, left, and Jai Courtney as his son Jack.

20th Century Fox

Bruce Willis as John McClane, left, and Jai Courtney as his son Jack.

By now the Die Hard formula is so familiar that we can guess the mayhem before it happens. You see a hotel ballroom with fancy chandeliers and know it's going to rain glass soon. Scaffolding is constructed outside a tall building only to break free falls. And after each preposterous close call Bruce Willis mumbles something he said before.

The fifth edition of the franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard, is the brawniest and most brainless of the bunch. It is set in Russia for no particular reasons except tax breaks and the chance to invoke a 20th century relic besides Willis, that being Chernobyl. Thankfully for fans slow catching on, Russians ditch the subtitles and speak English to each other when the plot requires explaining stuff.

One Russian bad guy actually and unintentionally sums up the movie and its makers: "You guys, so arrogant. It's not 1986, you know." Or even 1988, when Die Hard was a fresh take on action flicks.

That doesn't prevent Willis as Det. John McClane from waging Lukewarm War on Russian terrorists who keep switching sides to pad the 97-minute running time. What is McClane doing in Moscow, you ask? Oh, just catching up with the son he had in the first Die Hard by the mother who hasn't shown up since the second, after reconciling with the daughter in the fourth.

Jack (Jai Courtney, kind of a Tom Hardy Lite) is sitting in jail after murdering a Russian mobster who, like the secret file everyone is looking for, doesn't matter in the long run. I'd call them MacGuffins but that would lend too much credit to screenwriter Skip Woods for thinking things through. Jack's crime gets him close to another vague mobster, Komarov (Sebastian Koch), with whom he escapes in a ludicrously long armored car chase.

John drops into the middle of the chase, surprising Jack and messing up his mission as a CIA operative. Dad never knew his estranged son was "the 007 of Plainfield, N.J." As a cliched rebellious son Jack resents the intrusion but there's nothing like a few gun battles to pull a family together again. An hour of explosive commotion passes before the truth about Komarov and his own willful daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir) is revealed but don't worry, it'll change again.

All we really care about is how much collateral damage John and Jack can cause, and how high the body count will rise. Let's just say that the Blues Brothers would admire the vehicular destruction, Col. Kilgore from Apocalypse Now would understand the helicopter overkill, and every mortician in Moscow appreciates the business. A Good Day to Die Hard is one small step for detente, and a giant leap into bull hockey.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Follow him on Twitter @StevePersall.


A Good Day to Die Hard

Director: John Moore

Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sergei Kolesnikov, Cole Hauser

Screenplay: Skip Woods, based on characters created by Roderick Thorp

Rating: R; strong violence and


Running time: 97 min.

Grade: C-

Review: 'A Good Day to Die Hard' shows no life left in franchise 02/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 8:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours