The Reel: Latest ‘Die Hard’ film squeaks by, but just barely


Ben Conniff

In what seems like the umpteenth iteration of Bruce Willis’ action legacy, the aged Detective John McClane heads to Russia to bail his long-lost son, Jack (Jai Courtney), out of prison, only to find that Jack is actually a CIA operative working to stop a nuclear arms deal.

Naturally, trouble finds the McClane boys as they team up to finish Jack’s mission.

Now if you’re like me, you’re one of the millions of “die-hards” who love all the previous movies, even if it hurts to admit enjoying the PG-13 Justin Long version. We all know it’s necessary to suspend disbelief when watching these films, especially as star Bruce Willis pushes 60.

Five rodeos in, Willis has still got it, but it’s clear now that the years haven’t been kind to him. It’s not so much “A Good Day to Die Hard” as it is a “good day” to hang up the badge and call it quits. 

At 97 minutes, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the shortest of the series, which is appropriate because it’s also the worst. One should never go into an action blockbuster expecting more meat than potatoes, but the dialogue is awful and the plot is far-fetched, even for “Die Hard.”

McClane walks a fine line that nearly sees his cowboy demeanor slip into caricature. Poor writing from Skip Woods (“Swordfish,” “The A-Team”) is the primary suspect here. 

I also wasn’t a fan of the family chemistry between John (Bruce Willis) and Jack (Jai Courtney, “Jack Reacher”).

It improves as the paper-thin plot drags on, but overall I had more fun watching Willis and Long work together in “Live Free or Die Hard.” There was a stronger father-son dynamic there than in this new film.

The action pieces weren’t dazzling enough to distract me from the questionable authenticity of the stunts or the gawdy CGI. I mean, c’mon, blowing up a room inside of a building full of weapons-grade uranium and NOT having the bad guys vaporized by a giant nuclear mushroom cloud? “Yippee ki-yay” my foot.

Speaking of villains, our baddie this time around (Sebastian Koch) is entirely forgettable. The reason the original films are classics to begin with is because they’ve always had a colorful antagonist. Who could forget Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Plaza or his brother Simon out for revenge in the streets of New York?

Nobody cares about a quiet Russian who may or may not want to start a nuclear war. I never got the impression that he was a hell-bent maniac, and that’s why he doesn’t stack up against the likes of his cinematic predecessors.

In the end, Willis’s performance is still enough to keep “A Good Day to Die Hard” from becoming a complete caricature of the series, but it’s ultimately too tame and too contrived to warrant the time of anyone besides series “die-hards.” Having said this, I think most fans will be disappointed and might even find themselves running back to the open arms of Justin Long and a PG-13 rating.