I will defend Live Free or Die Hard to my last breath as a fun old-school-hero-against-new-school-odds action movie worthy of the Die Hard title. A Good Day to Die Hard is worth no such effort. This scarcely feels like a Die Hard movie, it's so removed even from its immediate predecessor, and its return to the beloved R-rating is little comfort for a laundry list of missed opportunities.
Honestly, the greatest praise I can offer is simply: Bruce is still the man. He gets all the best shots, the best lines, the best moments, so Die Hard 5 at least remembers the movie is first and foremost his show. But despite flashes of that old enthusiasm that kept even Die Hard 4 interesting, one gets the feeling at the very start of DH5 that Willis may not be too old for this shit, but he's certainly getting a little tired of it. We don't get McClane as a world-weary hero shuffling off for yet another zany adventure, we get an actor who knows he's got better stuff left in him than this.
Not for lack of trying on Jai Courtney's part, Jack McClane is a nearly nothing character. The idea of McClane & Son has great possibilities, but instead it's a rehash of the Lucy subplot from DH4 stretched over 90 minutes; Jack doesn't like his dad, learns to better respect him. Sure, Jack demonstrates a different methodology than his father, but these scenarios only further illustrate how much more Willis is the movie's best asset. The two also come off as non-entities to one another, and the bonding scenes are largely flat and lifeless.
And what of the villains? Well, that's just it, there's hardly anything to say. Of the several new heavies, only one, played by Radivoje Bukvic, is worth mentioning for his droll delivery, his occasional carefree glee and a few fancy dance steps whilst gloating over his capture of the good guys - and he is not even the film's main villain. Which only leaves the caper itself to keep the audience's interest, but this too simply falls on its face. The past exploits of the McClane Family were marked by intricate master plans devised by diabolically intelligent men; the master plan at play here though is dull, simplistic, and unsurprising once a lame third-act twist is engaged. A little robbery, a little backstabbing, and you see most of it coming even before McClane does.
To be fair to the movie, there are highlights in the action department, namely in a positively killer road chase early on involving McClane, Jack, and the Russian baddies, in which many a vehicle is crushed, flipped and toppled in spectacular fashion. What follows are a few nifty scuffles and shoot-em-ups, decorated with some very slick slow-motion shots, culminating in a beautifully fiery crash. That said, while the film does benefit from some decent but overly CGI'd cinematography (if you didn't like the F-35 scene in DH4, you're likely to hate what you see here), it also heavily suffers from Lensflare Syndrome and Perpetual Motion - the first insisting than any light brighter than the average light bulb have a glare stretching across half the screen; the second that the camera always be moving during the action scenes, including some quick and quivering close-ups that sooner induce nausea than any sense of dynamism.
Probably the worst thing DH5 does, believe it or not, is try way too damn hard to actually be a Die Hard movie. Throughout the film are several obvious nods to the original, which includes composer Marco Beltrami lifting a recognizable cue directly from Michael Kamen's score for the climax. Sure, the previous three sequels made reference to the first, but they did so with class compared to DH5's attempts; here, they just make a series devotee groan.
A Good Day to Die Hard is underwritten and overstylized, hardly resembling any of the movies that came before it. The best thing it has going for it are of course Bruce being Bruce, the freeway chase, a handful of well-shot sequences, and some additional eye candy in Yuliya Snigir - whose trailer shot of unzipping her catsuit is longer than the scene in the actual movie - and a fleeting Mary Elizabeth Winstead - returning just long enough to remind the audience how much better Die Hard 4 was.
Taking it on its own, it's a mediocre action diversion at best; taking it as a Die Hard sequel, it's just plain bad. Welcome to the new definitive franchise low.
Mood: Not Impressed
Listening to: Paul McCartney - My Valentine
Reading: Jeff Smith - Bone