Going soft

“What choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

“What choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Rated 1.0

Bruce Willis returns as trouble magnet John McClane and looks lost, tired and miserable in A Good Day to Die Hard, a real party pooper installment in an otherwise fun franchise. One gets the sense watching this disaster that Willis realized he was in a dud, and spiritually clocked out well before the shoot was over.

Willis seems to have a lot of power over all Die Hard proceedings, and being that he’s the star, most of the blame falls on his shoulders. The fact that they gave directing chores to the hack John Moore (the horrifically stinky Owen Wilson yawner Behind Enemy Lines) would be the first big mistake. Allowing screenwriter Skip Wood (The A-Team, Hitman, Swordfish) to write it could also be chalked up as a big gaffe. I mean, come on now, doesn’t that creative combo just cry future suckage?

They are obviously running out of scenarios for McClane in the United States, so this one sends him to Russia, where his estranged son Jack (the dullard Jai Courtney) has gotten himself into an espionage jam. McClane knows this because one of his cop friends hands him one of those files with all of the info in it, because L.A. cops have all sorts of intelligence in Russia. They are the TMZ of Mother Russia!

So John hops a plane, gets stuck in traffic, and immediately finds himself in an explosive car chase, where he just happens to run into his son and join him in wrecking vehicles. They have a little spat, Jack refuses to call him dad, and John picks up a gun, smirks, and becomes part of the mission. A stupid, convoluted, drab mission you won’t give two craps about.

All of the things that are expected in the Die Hard series are now gone. There’s no distinguishable bad guy going up against John, the film completely lacks a sense of humor, and it looks drab. All of the other Die Hard films had that peppy action movie look and feel. This one is shot to look like a poor man’s Saving Private Ryan, and Saving Private Ryan was actually funnier than this movie.

Why pick Russia as the locale? Perhaps they were looking for some sort of throwback vibe to the ’80s. Well, Russia has lost its luster as a place for bad guys. And you just know somebody is going to say, “You Americans all think you are so smart!” (Someone does.) You can also guess that the action will eventually wind up in Chernobyl. (It does.) I was surprised Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago didn’t pop into frame and challenge McClane to a fistfight.

Anybody who whined that the previous chapter Live Free or Die Hard, which came out SEVEN YEARS AGO (You could’ve almost gotten two bachelor degrees since the last Die Hard!) will discover that film, which I happened to like a lot, was a party compared to this one. It had a great villain (Timothy Olyphant), it had comic relief (Justin Long, Kevin Smith and Willis in a good mood) and it had the mighty beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who makes a drab cameo in this one).

This Die Hard is gray, somber and lifeless. Willis is shot to look worn-out and gaunt. I know for a fact he can look sprightly in movies today because he looked healthy and badass in the G.I. Joe sequel trailer that preceded the movie. And, sorry, I don’t give a rat’s ass about McClane’s relationship with his son.

A Good Day to Die Hard fared much better than buddies Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent efforts. Willis has publicly stated that there will be a Die Hard 6. For the love of God, if there is another movie, make sure those participating in it remember that it’s supposed to be ridiculous and laughter is OK.

Get this franchise the hell out of Russia, and no more drama with family members. That includes pets!