Bruce Willis is still ‘Die’-ing
At times “A Good Day to Die Hard” has more nostalgia than an “I Love the ’80s” marathon on VH1.
There are villains with Boris Badenov accents sneering about how they hate America and how Ronald Reagan no longer is around.
There’s John McClane, on a trip for one thing, who finds himself in a fight with lives in the balance. There’s McClane’s trademark “Yippie-ki-yay ” line, and thanks to a return to the original’s R rating, there’s no explosion to obscure that last word of his catchphrase.
The climax has a moment that winks at the finale of the original – and adds a gory exclamation point to it.
But as nostalgic as “A Good Day ” is for the original “Die Hard,” it also borrows from another ’80s classic – “Field of Dreams.” The difference this time is, instead of a father and son bonding by having a catch, a father and son bury old wounds with a game of, “Let’s kill these mutha “
How much one enjoys this “Die Hard” will depend upon how much nostalgia exists for that ’80s brand of action film (and the recent box office returns for new movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone indicates that might be a shallow well).
But the “Die Hard” franchise always was a different sort of animal from the other action films of the era, even as others tried to copy its success. Bruce Willis’ way with a line of dialogue always was more important than the force of his punch or the size of his gun. In the fifth “Die Hard,” his gun is pretty big, but he still can toss off a one-liner with a tough, world-weary tone.
McClane learns his estranged son has been arrested for murder in Moscow, so he goes to Russia to try to help out. Instead, his son Jack’s arrest was part of a plot to help extract a Russian political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has secrets that the CIA wants. John’s son isn’t a bum; he’s a CIA agent. But he’s carrying a grudge because McClane spent more time keeping New York safe than being a dad.
So father and son have to work out their issues in between car chases, gun battles and other derring-do.
Yeah, the father-son stuff doesn’t really work, but director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods don’t dwell on it. Instead, they deliver elaborate action set pieces, none more impressive than a marathon chase sequence on a busy Moscow thoroughfare where the McClanes and Komarov try to elude a crew of Russians driving a tank-like battering ram. The sequence has several wow moments, even if it goes on a little too long.
A shoot out where the McClanes put a stained glass ceiling to good use also is well-staged, and the over-the-top finale at an infamous Russian site has a few stylish flourishes and a lot of ridiculousness.
If “A Good Day … ” was the first “Die Hard” movie, it probably wouldn’t have spawned a five-film franchise. But it has enough to please old fans, even if it won’t make them shout joyfully, “Yippie-ki-yay …”