A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
97 min., rated R.
Dated by 25 years, "Die Hard" is still a first-rate action yarn that found a perfect fit for Bruce Willis' physicality and quippy sense of humor. It also coined the catchphrase "Yippee ki-yay!" The next two '90s-released sequels ("Die Hard 2" and "Die Hard: With a Vengeance") were entertaining and grew less exceptional, but even 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard" was a lot of fun to watch. Regardless of anyone actually holding their breath for a fifth "Die Hard" movie, desperately titled "A Good Day to Die Hard," it's here anyway, and now would be a good day to let this franchise die. An early teaser might have promised an unadulterated, go-for-broke blast of John McClane's Greatest Hits with Beethoven's symphonic "Ode to Joy" blaring and the return of an R-rating, but even for mindless escapism, the final product is much less fun and without any of the former joy. It's like the "Jaws: The Revenge" of the "Die Hard" series.
Ignoring the law of diminishing returns, Willis mails in his star-making role of grizzled New York cop John McClane, who finds himself in more trouble. Or, more trouble finds him. What sets the plot in motion is John's estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), a CIA operative, being based in Moscow and arrested for murder, so John must "vacation" to Russia's capital. At the start, his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who was kidnapped one movie ago, tells him to behave, but little does she know that Daddy already has four movies under his belt. Before John even reaches the courthouse for Jack's trial, chaos ensues and the son has broken out, with political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) in tow. Livid over his father's sudden appearance during his "undercover" mission, McClane Jr. seeks a "file" (isn't it always a "file"?) and must take Yuri to safety. Naturally, this can't happen before father and son join forces to take down some Uranium-seeking bad guys and destroy the streets.
More man-made havoc climaxes in the radioactive Chernobyl (for reasons not worth explaining), and don't even ask how John and Jack get there in what seems to be only a couple of hours. In what is perhaps a homage to the slow-motion demise of Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, there is the satisfying use of a helicopter blade for the evil brains behind the evil operation. Otherwise, any "Die Hard" fan is better off re-watching the original or any of the superior sequels. While the long-running Bond series got better with age, the exciting adventures of John McClane have officially tapered off with this junky, dumbed-down dud. Its grave marker is all ready for burial.
Grade: C -