Die Hard 5, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

It grieves my heart to write these words.

They should have stopped at four.

If you want John McLane to have a successor to pass the baton to, young, plucky, a chip off the old block; if you want the narrative complication to be that this kid is filled with resentment, not wanting to call the absentee cop dad Dad, or use his surname, but to end up embracing both after appreciating such a dad when the going gets tough; if you want all that, for Chrissakes, can someone please tell me how Die Hard 4.0 failed to tick all those boxes?

And did it impressively to boot. I’m going to stand up proudly and say I loved Die Hard 4.0. It had wit, charm and suspense as well as the basic requirement of awesomely, implausibly overblown action sequences. It had Young McResentful. It had a sexed-up modern plot, and Justin Long provided plenty of wit, balanced by sage old McLane.

Die Hard 4.0’sLucy McLane seemed more than capable of taking up the mantle. But being just a woman, it’s no surprise they put her in the backseat for this one so the guys could shoot their way home to her. Putting a woman in number five and making the most of that groundwork would be far too imaginative and risky for this play-it-safe movie.

A Good Day to Die Hard had no suspense, no charm, and the witty rejoinders were cringe-worthy. It wasn’t particularly funny the first time McLane said “I’m on vacation” (a la Clerks’ “I wasn’t even supposed to be here today, man” catchphrase). And the rest of the jokes were similarly tired. McLane’s not a complex guy, sure, but he’s not a dumbass, as calling all his ethnic antagonists things like “Papa Giuseppe” and “Nijinsky” makes him sound. You only need one or two wise-guy one-liners in a Die Hard movie, and this script turned his entire repertoire into no-effort one-liners.

I heard one reviewer say Bruce Willis “phoned it in” for this movie and didn’t give director John Moore more than two takes for anything. Whether or not this is true, I doubt the woodenness of this performance was all Willis’ fault. Two thousand takes can’t turn a hackneyed script into a good one.

And as for the plot: half the movie is a car chase, there’s a short interlude then the climax moves to Chernobyl, of all places. Years ago I saw, online, a joke “Tom Clancy Novel plot generator” where you plug in keywords and it turns them into a spy novel plot for you. This was just like that. Watching, I didn’t care a jot about the finer details or outcome of this Russian intrigue (or lack thereof) and so it’s unsurprising that the spectacle of the car chase is about as good as it gets. It’s satisfying to see hundreds of cars get crunched, but that’s about it.

Look, it’s not terrible. It’s an OK movie and entertaining enough for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t bother to pay for a ticket, however; I’d wait for the DVD if I were you, and perhaps sink a couple of beers during, to soften the pain of this all-too-familiar situation: the wrecking of an iconic series with a brainless one-too-many-sequel.

I didn’t expect anything more: but quietly, just quietly… I hoped for something more.

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