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A Good Day to Die Hard: A Bad Day to be a Die Hard Fan

What the hell is this crap? No, seriously... what the hell is it? A Good Day to Die Hard may carry the Die Hard name and feature Bruce Willis back in the role of superhero cop John McClane, but it's about as far from the spirit of the original Die Hard as you can possibly get. That this utterly disposable, entirely generic piece of action movie mayhem is allowed to advertise itself under the Die Hard banner is a travesty. Really, the title should be Bruce Willis Blows Shit Up in Russia, which is a far more accurate reflection of the film's content, not to mention its sheer contempt for the audience.

Of course, this bottoming out of the Die Hard series was inevitable as it's a franchise that never should have become a franchise in the first place. After all, the appeal (and lasting impact) of John McTiernan's 1988 skyscraper saga was bound up in the way it defied the conventions of standard '80s action movie fare, swapping out 'roided-up musclemen with an ordinary New Jersey cop and valuing clever tactics and sheer dumb luck over bullet-spraying firefights and concussive explosions. That McClane was able to single-handedly (and bare-footedly) defeat Hans Gruber and his terror squad was a feat that was never meant to be repeated, because every time he achieved a similar victory, he would stop being just an ordinary guy and become your typical action movie superhero. And sure enough, that's what's happened over the course of the subsequent four sequels, culminating in this movie, where all of McClane's idiosyncrasies and fallibilities have been erased and he stalks through the movie like an older, balder version of a Terminator robot. (The only Die Hard sequel that I'd argue actually should have been made is Die Hard With a Vengeance and not just because it brought back McTiernan and the Gruber family. It also smartly uses the "Simon Says" conceit to keep McClane off-balance for much of the movie, turning him into a fish out of water in his own city.)

Since every Die Hard movie is obligated to involve one of the McClane's family members, A Good Day to Die Hard pairs him up with his now-grown son, John Jr. (Jai Courtney), a CIA agent working a deep cover operation in Russia that involves him getting arrested in order to cozy up to a dangerous political prisoner, Komarov (Sebastian Koch), that he's been tasked with spiriting out of the country along with some top-level secrets. Since he's not a member of the Agency, John Sr. doesn't know about the "deep cover" part, but he does catch wind of his kid's arrest, so he heads off to Moscow to try and sort the situation out. Moseying up to the courthouse just as an enormous explosion tears through the place, freeing Junior and Komarov, McClane manages to screw up the CIA's well-choreographed escape plan, leaving him, his son and their high-valued target alone and outnumbered in Russia's capital city as a gang of local thugs with their own plans for Komarov's secrets closes in. It's just like he's back in that L.A. high-rise, except that it totally isn't, since this time he's armed with an arsenal of enormous guns, a Quantico-trained sidekick and absolutely no need for stealth.

Look, I was no fan of the last Die Hard movie, Live Free and Die Hard, but at least it had a semi-interesting premise in the way it pitted McClane against a gaggle of computer hackers. A Good Day to Die Hard can't even be bothered to come up with a novel hook; it's just amped-up action noise, gracelessly directed by hack extraordinaire, John Moore, helmer of such bargain-bin DVDs as Max Payne and that awful Omen remake. Although set in Russia, the movie was clearly not filmed there, so there's not even any local color to lend it some much-needed personality. And lord knows Willis could obviously care less about entertaining the audience; coming off two great roles in last year's Moonrise Kingdom and Looper, the star is back to his old smirky ways here -- it's the kind of lazy, phoned-in performance that makes you dislike him almost as strongly as Kevin Smith does. (If Smith ever gets around to watching A Good Day to Die Hard, I can already picture him Tweeting a defiant, "See? I was right!") In case you couldn't already tell how much fun he wasn't having making this movie, he makes it plain in the scene where he delivers McClane's signature line, "Yippee ki-yay..." well, you know. When the big moment finally arrives, he spits it out the words with such outright disdain, it's like he's verbally punching the audience in the face. It's okay, Bruce... after viewers get a peek at this installment, you'll most likely never have to play John McClane again. You've made sure of that.

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